If you’d like to start a vegetable garden but are short on space, container gardening is your answer to garden fresh veggies. And it’s easier than you might think with these pro tips designed especially for small spaces and containers.
Whether you live in a tiny apartment or a house with an expansive yard, using containers to grow your vegetables simplifies kitchen gardening.
Most gardens need six hours of direct sun, and that applies to container gardens as well. So find a place on where your containers will get at least a half of day’s sun.
The trick for growing vegetables in containers, Shepherd said, is to use seed from exclusive varieties bred especially for growing in pots.
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5 Pro Tips for Growing Vegetables in a Container Garden
1. Have the right size container
Using Mascotte as an example, she recommends a container at least 18 inches tall and 18-20 inches wide. Almost anything you can imagine — big clay pots, wine barrels, recycled containers of various kinds — will work. What won’t work, she advised, are small pots. That’s because, she says, they won’t have enough room to be productive, and it will be all you can do to keep them moist.
2. Thin seedlings
Shepherd calls this the most common mistake in container vegetable gardening. “What makes our varieties special, besides the fact that they are the right varieties for containers, is that we put directions on the packet about how big a container to use and how much to space the plants,” she said. “In other words, you have to thin them, but we tell you by how much.”
As an example of the importance of thinning seedlings, she uses her compact zucchini Astia, which has light speckled green leaves and bears the zucchinis at the center of the plant, as an example. “I’m going to give you 20-25 seeds. If you planted them all in a pot and they all came up and you let them all grow, you would probably get next to nothing in fruit because all of the plants would compete for space and nutrients.” So, how do you decide which ones to keep and which to discard? Shepherd says to leave the best-looking plants that are already the proper distance apart according to packet directions and discard the rest. As long as they are evenly spaced, it doesn’t matter where they are in the pot, she said.
Watch Youth Programs Coordinator Steve Eigsti demonstrate how to properly thin your crops in this video.
3. Proper feeding
Shepherd contends that even though the information on potting mix containers might say the mix includes fertilizer you’ll still need to add fertilizer after the first six weeks. The plants also need feeding because they are contained in a small volume and the roots can’t reach out and search for nutrients. She suggests using a good all-purpose fertilizer for vegetables and feeding the plants frequently, about every two or three weeks.
4. Potting soil
Quality potting soil is critical, she says, especially if you amend it with organic supplements. Don’t use garden soil in a container, she advises. Shepherd says it will likely become compacted in the summer heat. Commercial potting soil gives consistent drainage and is weed and pest-free.
Pots dry out as days lengthen and temperatures rise. Shepherd’s test to see if pots need watering is to put her index finger into the soil. If the soil is dry below the first joint, she waters immediately.
GardeningKnowHow gives the following pro tips for watering outdoor containers:
1. Use glazed pots to help prevent evaporation or place clay pots in another container.
2. Apply a layer of mulch or rocks to the soil surface to slow moisture loss.
3. Set up a drip irrigation system for watering outdoor potted plants. This allows for slow, even watering that the soil can absorb before it all runs through the pot and out the drainage holes.
4. Apply water in early morning or late evening when temperatures are cooler and direct sun will not cook off the moisture before it can seep down to the roots.
For more resources on Container Gardening, download a printable Guide to Container Gardening from Renee’s Garden >>
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