Selecting a Container
Virtually any type of vegetable or herb should fair well in a container as long as it has enough room.
As a general rule, select as large a container as possible. Small containers dry out more quickly and need daily watering.
Here are the minimum soil depths for healthy growth. Keep in mind that you can get by with less depth if you use a self-watering planter.
4-5 inches: chives, lettuce, radishes, other salad greens, basil, coriander
6-7 inches: bush beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint, thyme
8-9 inches: pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary
10-12 inches: beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass
The Best Vegetables for Containers
Potatoes, chard, lettuce, cherry and tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, chives, lettuce, radishes, basil, coriander, bush beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint, thyme, pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary, carrot, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, radish, beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass
Plant Combinations / Companion Planting
Plant that can be grown together ( Good Companions):
- Beans, carrots, squash
- Eggplant, beans
- Tomatoes, basil, onions
- Lettuce, herbs
- Spinach, chard, onions
Plant Combinations to Avoid:
- Beans with onions and garlic
- Carrots with dill or fennel
- Tomatoes or squash with potatoes
- Onions with beans and peas
Locating Your Container
Most vegetables require six hours of sunlight per day. Salad greens and herbs can usually get by with less. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and other sun-lovers will appreciate as much sun as they can get. If your yard is short on sun, consider putting your plants on caddies or adding casters. That way they can be moved during the day or even later in the season as the angle of the sun changes.
Wind is another factor to consider. Your plants will be happiest in a protected location where the wind doesn’t batter and dry out their foliage. Use the shelter of a building, erect a temporary windbreak made from portable fencing or fabric. Arrange your pots so larger plants shield smaller plants. Clustering potted plants together also helps to raise humidity levels, keeping plants more productive.
Drainage is key to keep plants from drowning. You want your pot or container to let excess water out of the bottom, so your plants won’t sit in water or soggy soil. Make sure your container has one large hole or several smaller ones. You can usually drill holes if the drainage is insufficient.
Quality potting soil is really important for vegetables. Mix some fertiliser as well.
Vegetables require a consistent supply of water to perform their best. Inconsistent moisture causes lots of problems, such as blossom drop, poor root development, leaf curling, insect problems and rot.
Plants need food to thrive, and their food is fertilizer. If your soil doesn’t have fertilizer already mixed in, you’ll want to add fertilizer
Fertilizer is especially important when you’re growing vegetables in containers. In fact, you just won’t succeed if you don’t use some kind of fertilizer. I recommend mixing a granular organic All-Purpose Fertilizer into the soil when planting, then weekly feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer.
There are several reasons why fertilizer is so important. First is that the growing medium in the container has few, if any nutrients. So, your plants are totally dependent on you for the nutrients they need. Second is that containerized plants get watered a lot, and every time you water, you wash some nutrients out of the soil.
The third reason fertilizers are necessary is that in a container garden, you are packing lots of plants into a very small space. One 2′ x 2′ self-watering planter might contain a tomato plant, two pepper plants, a basil plant and some parsley. That’s a lot of foliage to feed from a few gallons of “soil”.
Tips for Growing in Containers
- Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better. To get the best of both, slip a plastic pot into a slightly larger clay pot.
- Avoid small containers. They often can’t store enough water to get through hot days.
- Add about 1 inch of course gravel in the bottom of the container to improve drainage.
- Vegetables that can be easily transplanted are best suited for containers. Transplants can be purchased from local nurseries or started at home.
- Feed container plants at least twice a month with liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the label.
- An occasional application of fish emulsion or compost will add trace elements to container soil.
- Place containers where they will receive maximum sunlight and good ventilation. Watch for and control insect pests.