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How to Grow Plants in Containers

Many home gardeners choose to grow vegetables in containers for a variety of reasons. You may have limited space to work with and do not have the time to manage a full backyard garden. Growing vegetables in containers requires a some planning to be executed successfully. It is often the best choice for urban dwellings such as apartments, lofts, or dorms. This article is designed to give you an idea of how the urban gardener can grow vegetables in containers.

Choosing a Container Size

Choosing the right size container is an essential first step when planning your garden. You must make sure that the container size is sufficient to accommodate the type of plant you are growing. If your container is too small it could cause stunted growth and a failure to produce fruit. The root system must have plenty of space to absorb nutrients from the soil. Also, it is important to ensure the container will be able to drain properly. Too much water in the soil will inhibit the airflow needed to produce a bountiful vegetable garden.

Small Containers

Small containers are defined as being no larger than 10 inches in diameter and 6 inches in height. Containers in this category can only accommodate plants with a small root system. Vegetables that fall into this category include spinach, green onions, radishes, and most leafy greens.

Mid-Sized Containers

Midsized vegetable containers can be defined as being approx 15 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Containers of this size will accommodate most popular vegetable varieties, but it is still best to grow dwarf varieties whenever possible. Midsized containers will generally not support larger veggies like potatoes, corn, or cucumbers.

Large Containers

Large containers are anything bigger than 15 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Large pots should be able to support any popular vegetables including tomatoes, dwarf corn, tomatoes, cabbage, bell peppers, etc. Buying large pots can be expensive. You can expect to pay up to $200 per pot from high quality suppliers. We encourage gardeners to look around for creative or recycled container options.

Choosing Container Soil

Soil is without question the most important aspect of container gardening for one to consider. To support a successful garden, your soil will need to supply ample primary nutrients, while also allowing for prober drainage. We recommend purchasing a premade container soil mixture from your local plant nursery, rather than trying to mix the soil yourself. These store bought soils will have the necessary primary and secondary nutrients your plants need, which allow for proper drainage and air flow.

Making your Own Container Soil

Container soil must be lighter than the soil you want for a traditional backyard garden. If the soil in a container becomes too compacted, it will restrict airflow and your plants might become waterlogged. If you are a DIY kind of person, we have listed a basic organic formula for making your own soil for your container garden.

Mix the Ingredients Below together in a Wheelbarrow. Apply water to the soil and allow it to sit for several hours. It should be fairly moist before being placed in the containers.

  • 1 Cubit Foot of Peat Moss
  • 1 Cubic Foot of Vermiculite
  • 8 Ounces of Bone Meal Powder
  • 8 Ounces of Lime
  • 1 Ounce of Alfalfa Meal

Watering Container Plants

Plants in containers require frequent watering. The vegetable roots have less water to tap from deep in the soil. In general, you will need to water your containers at least once per day. In some hotter areas, it may be necessary to water the plants twice per day. The top of the soil should be fairly moist a few minutes after watering. If the top appears dry again after 5 minutes, you should apply more water. You might also try applying mulch to the top of the soil the slow down the evaporation rate. Leaves or grass clipping from your yard are a great choice for this. Make sure the water is draining out of the bottom to ensure you are not overwatering the plants. 

Fertilizing Container Plants

The amount of nutrients in container soil is very limited. It is best to apply fertilizer to the soil about halfway through the growing season. This will ensure that your plants are not running out of macronutrients when they need them the most.

And that is how to grow vegetables in containers.

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