6 Tips for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers

May 16th, 2013 posted by Amanda Formaro

6 Tips for Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers by Amanda Formaro for FamilyCorner.com Magazine

Growing fresh vegetables and fragrant herbs is a great way to save money at the grocery store and control what pesticides go into your body. Not everyone has a yard with room for a garden, and thousands live in apartments and in urban areas. That doesn’t mean you’re out of luck! You can still grow your own herbs and vegetables in containers on your deck, patio, or balcony and reap a healthy harvest of fresh food for your table.

Here are 6 simple steps to get your container garden started.

1. Transplant instead of seeds – Instead of starting from seed, head to the garden center to pick up transplants. Transplants are seedlings that have already been started and are sold in small pots. They will buy you a considerable amount of time because they are six weeks or older when you put them in the pot, and you’ll begin harvesting much sooner too. When looking for transplants, watch for the Bonnie Plants label with biodegradable pots made from recycled paper and peat moss.

2. Don’t skimp on the potting mix – Look for a premium quality potting mix that holds moisture but drains well. This will give plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, and stability to grow a great harvest. Check the bag labels and look for ingredients such as: aged (composted) bark, perlite, lime or dolomite, and sometimes moisture-holding crystals. Quality potting mix stays fluffy all season long. It does not contain actual dirt that would compact with frequent watering.

3. Choose the correct pot – Be sure to choose a pot large enough to accommodate your plants as they mature. There are plenty of things that can be used as a container including pails, buckets, wire baskets, washtubs, window planters, and even large food cans. Think outside the box by using old wagons, bathtubs, and even kitchen colanders! Here are 15 creative container gardens to get your juices flowing. Larger vegetables, such as tomatoes and eggplant, will need sizeable containers, at least 5 gallons for each plant. If you aren’t sure, remember, bigger is always better. Plants will be healthier and will last longer because the roots will have more room to grow.

Make sure your pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. Believe it or not, color can be a factor as well! Dark colored containers will absorb heat that could possible damage the plant roots. If you must use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color. If you’re unsure as to what type of container to go with (wood, metal, ceramic, plastic, etc) here’s a great guide to choosing your containers.

4. Plants like to eat too – Even if your potting mix came with fertilizer already mixed in, you may need to feed your plants. Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. Add timed-release granules or try a soluble fertilizer for quick results.

5. Provide plenty of sunshine – At least 6-8 hours is best. The sun drives energy for production and for making sugars, acids, and other compounds responsible for the fullest flavor. Make sure pots on a deck or porch get enough sunlight and move them to a sunny spot if shade encroaches. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed.

6. Water on a regular basis – Did you know that vegetables are at least 90% water? To produce well, they may need daily watering, especially in hot weather since you can’t always rely on rain. Water plants at soil level and make sure to water before the sun goes down, leaves will need to dry before nightfall.

What to grow in containers – Are you wondering what type of vegetables and herbs you can grow in containers? Here’s a quick run down:

  • All herbs. Any herb does well in a pot.
  • All greens. Collards, lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard and others are perfect for pots. You can mix them with flowers for an ornamental touch. Lettuces yield a surprising amount. Pick only the outer leaves to keep the harvest going.
  • Eggplant and peppers of all types make pretty summer pots.
  • Tomato varieties like Husky Cherry Red, Patio, Bush Early Girl, Bush Goliath, and Better Bush are especially easy to manage in containers.
  • Squash and zucchini work in large pots such as half barrels.
  • Other vegetables that do well in containers include cucumbers, beans, beets, carrots, onions, potatoes, and radishes.

Plant breeders know that home gardeners want the most bang for their buck. They want a high yield in a small space, so breeders have developed varieties that can grow in a small area, and even flourish in containers. Remember, when looking for the right plants watch for keywords like: bush, compact, patio, baby, dwarf and space saver in their name, they’ll be a good bet. Just because a plant is bred to be small doesn’t mean the fruits will be small or the yield will be less.

For more information on such varieties and on growing veggies and herbs in containers please visit BonniePlants.com

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Amanda Formaro (345 Posts)

Amanda Formaro is a freelance writer, editor, craft designer, and recipe developer. She loves multi-tasking and has been writing and working on the Internet since 1997. You can find her at AmandaFormaro.com. You’ll find her craft projects at CraftsbyAmanda.com and her recipes on AmandasCookin.com.

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Cindy Rowe (7 Posts)

Cindy Rowe is the owner/editor of Crazylou Creations blog. On the blog, you will find a little bit of crazy, and a whole lot of fun! As a FT working mother, she still finds time to create crafts, play around in the kitchen, plan parties and exercise. You'll find all of this and more on her blog!

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