Container Gardening

vegetables tomatoesAg Biz News Column
Chad Gulley
County Extension Agent –Ag/NR
Smith County


Vegetable Gardening in Containers


Do you want to grow vegetables in your garden however you find that space is limited or insufficient to do so?  Container gardening may be an option for you.  Growing vegetables in containers in a window sill, patio, or a balcony may provide enough space for a productive mini-garden.  Container gardening is also a good way to introduce children to vegetable gardening.

Crop selection is an important consideration for any garden both traditional or container.  Most any vegetable can be grown in containers.  Vegetables like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley are examples of suitable vegetables for container gardening.  Variety selection is important.

When planting vegetables weather can be a factor in the success of the vegetable variety you choose to plant.  Planting guides are available to aid in getting the vegetable variety planted at the appropriate time to achieve good yields.  Freezing weather can cause damage to a number of vegetable varieties.  One advantage with container gardens is if freezing weather is predicted, one can move the containers indoors during these conditions.

Selection of the growing media is another important decision in growing container vegetables.  The growing media must drain well yet hold water for the plant to take it up.  The media must also have nutrients and be able to physically support the desired plant species.  There are a number of soil mixes available or you may mix your own.

Proper watering is essential for a successful container garden.  If we water too much the plant may begin to show disease symptoms or even die.  If we water too little the plants will be weakened and dry up.  Check the soil regularly and water as needed.  If we are getting adequate rainfall, this may be all the water needed for a period of time.

Almost any type of container can be used for growing vegetables.  Some use bushel baskets, drums, gallon cans, tubs, or wooden boxes.  The size of the container will vary according to the crop selected and available space.  Small pots 6 to 10 inches are suitable in size for green onions, parsley or herbs.  For vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, 5 gallon containers work well.  Select containers that fit your situation.  Containers must also drain adequately for successful yields.  Some even add about 1 inch of course gravel to the bottom of the container to aid in drainage.

Fertilization of the vegetable crop is important.  Plants need adequate nutrients to produce well.  Some incorporate the fertilizer material into the soil media as it is mixed together.  Others use slow release fertilizers.  Water soluble fertilizers are also available.  Some prepare a nutrient solution pouring the solution over the soil mix.

Nearly all vegetable plants need full sunlight to grow and produce adequate yields.  Leafy vegetables can tolerate more shady areas.  Fruit bearing vegetables need the most sun of all.  One advantage of container gardening is the container can be moved or placed in the most appropriate place to obtain adequate lighting.

Monitor the plants for disease and insects.  With time and care, we can enjoy the fruits of our labors.  Harvest these vegetables at the peak of maturity.  For taller plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, or beans, caging the plant allows for support as the plant grows upright and puts on fruit.

At the end of the growing season, discard the plant and the soil from the pot.  The container can be reused but it may be necessary to sterilize the container to keep plant diseases at a minimum.  It is recommended to replace the soil each year in a container garden as well.  Properly composted planting media can be reused.

Extension programs serve people of all ages regardless of socioeconomic level, race, color, sex, religion, disability, or national origin.

2 Responses to Container Gardening

  1. Sondra says:

    I was surprised when I read that we should discard the soil every year.Financially, that is huge. If we turn the soil, remove any leftover roots, and add lots of compost, does that change your opinion?

    • smithcountyagriculture says:

      The recommendation from our specialist is to replace the soil. In a traditional garden we crop rotate to prevent issues to our crops such as nematodes, diseases, and other issues by rotating various vegetable crops in our garden. Replacing the soil is recommended to help prevent the spread of disease to new crops the next year. If the soil is properly composted then it could be reused.