Growing vegetables as a gardening hobby is fast gaining popularity around the world. People are more educated on the harmful effects of pesticides and are opting for organic vegetables instead. However, organic produce do not come cheap. Fortunately, there are other options such as growing your own vegetables.
It is a common misconception that you need to have a garden to enjoy vegetable gardening. This is not true as you can always do vertical gardening or container gardening if you are faced with space constraints. In this article, we will discuss about container gardening and how you can grow vegetables in containers, even if you only have a small balcony.
Container Vegetable Gardening Tips
Selecting a Container
One of the main considerations in container vegetable gardening is to ask yourself – what type of vegetables do I want to plant? The type of containers or pots that you use for vegetable gardening is dependent on the type of vegetables that you intend to grow. Bigger plants require bigger, deeper pots to develop a strong and good root system.
Generally, larger containers are recommended for growing vegetables. It is not just the diameter of the container but the depth should be considered too. For vegetable plants to be robust and healthy, deep containers are needed as it provides the space for strong, good root system to develop. It doesn’t matter if the pots and containers are made of terra cotta or plastic. You can even use timber planters for growing vegetables. Just remember that size and depth are more important.
As a general guideline, a 3-5 gallon container will do well for growing vegetables such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, beans and lettuce. For the bigger plants, you will need to get 15 gallons containers.
Positioning Your Container
Growing vegetables indoors is unlike vegetable gardening in an outdoor area. While the plants may enjoy sunlight anywhere in an open space, container vegetable plants’ intake of sunlight is dependent on where you place the containers. Most vegetable plants require 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight daily, especially tomato, beans and peppers.
The location of your containers is crucial to the survival of your vegetable plants. Besides sunlight, you also have to consider if the location is windy. Whenever possible, you should avoid windy areas as strong winds tend to dry up the plants fast. If you cannot avoid the strong winds, you can construct some form of windbreaker around your vegetable plants to shield them.
When positioning your container vegetable plants, ensure that you allocate sufficient room between the containers. This is to facilitate air circulation, which has a direct effect on the health of your plants. In addition, position your containers such that the taller plants do not shade out the shorter ones. This ensures all plants are exposed to a good amount of sunlight.
Garden soil or heavy potting soil is not suitable for growing vegetables in containers. It is advisable to use container mix that can retain moisture better and resist compaction. You may consider making your own compost with manure added. This is probably a better option than buying readily available garden soil from the nursery.
Other pointers to note concerning soil for container vegetable gardening are the vegetable types. For instance, potatoes prefer rich, loamy soil while carrots prefer more free-draining compost that is sandier.
Container plants tend to drink up quite a fair bit of water. Therefore, it is vital that you water your container vegetable plants often to ensure they don’t dry up. Positioning your containers near to water points will make it easier for you to access water for frequent watering.
How do you know if your plant has sufficient water? First, you have to determine if the soil is moist or soaking wet. It should not be soaking wet as that can cause the roots to rot. The finger test is often used to test the moisture level of the soil. Insert your index finger into the soil. If it feels hard and dry, it’s time to water your plants. If the surface, or just below the surface of the soil feels moist, you can hold back watering till the next day.
An alternative test of soil moisture is to use the Soil Moisture Meter. This is a more accurate way to measure moisture level than the finger test.
Container plants – vegetables and non-vegetables alike, require watering more often as they absorb quite a bit of water. Frequent watering tends to dilute the fertilizer faster; hence it is important that you feed your container vegetable plants fertilizers twice as often to ensure sufficient nutrients for your plants.
Growing vegetables in containers is easy with the availability of self-watering planters. You need not worry about over or under watering your plants. With containers, you can easily move your plants around to get maximum sunlight. Container vegetable gardening can be such a joy when you are equipped with the right tools and gardening tips.