Picking a Spot for Your Vegetable Container Garden
Most vegetables grown in a vegetable container garden do best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun a day). Tomatoes, peppers, and other varieties that often get diseases usually stay healthiest in an open spot with plenty of air circulation.
If you live in a cold climate, you can give your vegetable container garden a head start by placing the pots near a south-facing wall.
If you live in a warmer part of the country, be cautious about setting your vegetable container gardens on a cement patio, which may grow too warm for optimum growth. Put larger containers on dollies or carts; you can move them to various locations depending on the conditions at the time.
Happily, most vegetables aren't fussy about what kind of vegetable container garden they grow in. The only basic requirements is that the vegetable container garden is large enough to hold the plant and that it has drainage holes so excess water can escape.
When it comes to size, the bigger the pot is, the better, especially for beginners. The reason for this is that large pots hold more soil -- and thus, hold moisture longer so you don't have to water as much.
Look for vegetable container gardens that are at least 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Large flowerpots, half barrels, plastic-lined bushel baskets, window boxes, planters, and large containers (like 5-gallon buckets) work just fine.
Some vegetables need particularly large pots to grow in a vegetable container garden. Standard-size tomatoes and vining crops, such as cucumbers, will do best for you in containers 20 inches or more across. Peppers like pots at least 16 inches in diameter. In a pinch, most will still grow in a 5-gallon or larger container.
If your vegetable container garden does not have drainage holes, you will need to add several. Use a 1/4-inch drill bit to create holes in the bottom or along the sides near the bottom. Line the bottom of the pot with screen or landscape cloth to prevent soil from spilling out of the holes.
Plants that grow tall or produce vines -- like tomatoes and cucumbers -- will be more productive if grown up a support in a vegetable container garden. A wire cage, inserted into the container at planting time, will do. Use larger, heavier containers for trellised plants to minimize the risk of tipping.
How to Plant Vegetables in Containers
Plant your vegetable container gardens the same time you would plant in the garden. Depending on what types of vegetable you want to grow, you can start seeds in your containers, grow transplants from seeds started indoors, or purchase transplants from a garden center.
Here's a hint: Start vegetable container garden crops such as beans, corn, carrots, radishes, and spinach, from seeds sown directly in the container.
Regardless of whether you are planting seeds or transplants, thoroughly water the container before you plant. Soak the potting mix completely, then allow it to sit for a few hours to drain excess water.
Plant seeds according to the package directions. Because not all seeds will germinate, plant more than you need, then thin the excess later.
Set transplants at the same level they were growing in their pot (except for tomatoes, which you can strip off their lower leaves and plant them deeper in the container).
After planting, water gently but thoroughly to settle the seeds or transplants. Keep the soil in your vegetable container garden from drying out as fast by mulching with straw, compost, leaf mold, or a similar material.
Care Tips for Vegetables in Containers
Watering is the most important thing to watch for in your vegetable container garden. So inspect your vegetables regularly to make sure the potting mix hasn't dried out.
Here's a hint: Make watering your vegetable container garden easier by installing a drip-irrigation system. It can automatically irrigate your vegetables for you.
Starting about a month after planting, feed your vegetables about once a week with a water-soluble fertilizer, following the package directions.
Also keep an eye out for weeds and other pests. While plants in containers usually aren't as susceptible to disease as varieties grown in the ground, you'll still want to watch for problems.
Remove or treat any plants that show signs of disease or insect damage.