Posted by: Patti O'Neal, Jefferson County Extension
Not all of us have the space, the time, the know-how or the confidence to start growing all our own food. But there is an easy, much less overwhelming solution, a way to get started; grow a container garden.
Advantages of Container Food Gardens
- · They reduce the effort of nearly every garden task, apart from watering which requires more diligence.
- · They are mobile and can be placed or moved to take advantage of orientation to light.
- · You avoid most all soil borne diseases
- · Pretty much guaranteed weed free
- · Allow for creative expression with vegetables, herbs and edible flowers
Nearly all vegetables have varieties that are suitable and very successful when grown in containers. You can grow just about any of your favorite vegetable, herbs, small fruits and edible flowers this way. To set you up for success, here are some helpful tips to get you started successfully.
Choosing seeds or Transplants
When starting out, look for varieties with the words “Bush” or “Patio” or “Dwarf” or “Determinate” in the name for the surest way to find a variety best adapted to container culture. After a season or two when you are comfortable with growing this way, opt for anything and experiment with trellising for vining crops.
Light and Orientation
Most all vegetables need 7-8 hours of full sun to give best harvest. But some, like leafy greens will succeed with as little as 4, with some root vegetables succeeding with 6. Balconies, patios, yards with south, east facing exposures are best with west good with added protection in the heat of the day. North facing areas are far less successful but can handle leafy green vegetables and some root crops if unobstructed light. Always worth trying.
Select containers that provide adequate root space, for root crops. The container should hold adequate soil to support the mature size of the plant. It should have adequate drainage. The larger the container the more drainage there should be. Consider the root growth as some plants require much less than others and therefore a shallower container might be right for the job. Refer to CMG Garden Notes https://cmg.extension.colostate.edu/Gardennotes/724.pdf for complete list of container vegetables and the size container adequate for good growth.
Container Mix or Outdoor Container Mix or Potting Soil are clean and contain enough mineral to sustain good growth with a good fertilization program. Do not use garden soil in a container as it contains soil borne diseases and pests which can wreak havoc in a small space. Nor does it drain well. Seed starting mix contains no soil at all and will not sustain the root growth of vegetable plants.
Vegetables need adequate and consistent water. Inconsistent water will encourage both disease and pest problems. Inadequate water will yield stringy, tough and even bitter flavored vegetables. It is particularly critical to monitor watering of vegetables in containers as they have a limited soil mass. The smaller the container the more watering may be required each day in the heat of summer. Larger containers will require less. Watering can be done by hand, or there are excellent drip systems that can be set up for containers. When you water, you should apply enough so that the excess drains out. If using drip dishes, these should be emptied of any excess after15-20 minutes.
basters are helpful to remove excess water if the containers are too large to
tip to empty the drip dishes. Turkey
Vegetables are annuals and thus are heavy feeders. Timed release fertilizer can be added to soil at the root level when planting. Use a soluble fertilizer according to the label directions. But be cautious. Excessive fertilizer (nitrogen) will force green growth at the expense of fruit set. Likewise, over fertilizing herbs causes forced growth at the expense of volatile oils.
Be creative with your plantings. You can mix varieties of the same plant for color and texture or to try new things. Mix herbs and edible flowers with your vegetables to make the container more interesting and serviceable.
Growing your own food is satisfying and rewarding. If you want to try your hand at self-sufficiency but have been hesitant for lack of space or confidence, starting a small Victory garden is the way to go. You can add containers as your confidence builds and try new vegetables or varieties of one you particularly love. Containers are a great way to involve children in first time gardening as well as they are easier to plant, tend and harvest. So, don’t let space or confidence stop you. Claim Victory! Start a Victory Vegetable Container Garden.