Easy container vegetable gardening – A guide
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Container gardening is a game changer for anyone who wants to grow their own food, especially if space is a challenge. Gone are the days when living in an apartment, or having a small backyard meant that one couldn’t follow through on their vegetable gardening aspirations. This post will serve as an easy container vegetable gardening guide that you can occasionally reference as the need arises.
Before we get excited, let me answer the most basic questions first….
A guideline for easy container vegetable gardening
Learn as much as possible about growing a garden in pots or containers.
What is container gardening?
Container gardening (also known as pot gardening) is the practice of planting edible and non-edible plants in portable pots and containers, instead of directly on the ground. The concept of planting flowers in pots is familiar to most of us, while planting veggies in such seems complicated and groundbreaking. Come to think of it, it is all the same as long as you give each plant the care that it needs.
Container vegetable gardening is not limited to outdoors only. Under the right conditions, you can have a thriving container garden indoors as well.
Reasons to consider vegetable gardening in containers
- Containers are portable, therefore you can place them at a height that is comfortable for you. The aching back or knees won’t be a reason not to do gardening anymore.
- As I mentioned earlier, container gardening will allow you to grow your food, despite limited space e.g. apartment, or small backyard.
- I find it easier to experiment on certain vegetables when using pots or containers. If I like the outcome, I plant on a bigger container.
- You can move your containers around to the sunny parts of your yard or property.
- Container vegetable gardening does not require much; any container will do. I’ve seen people planting on milk cartoons, old buckets, old car tires etc.
What are the easiest vegetables to grow in pots?
Some vegetables will do well in containers than others – but overall, any vegetables will do well in containers as long as you put some effort. These vegetables will thrive (with less effort) in containers:
- Potatoes – contrary to what we tend to think, potatoes do not need lots of space to thrive. What they need is depth. Use deep containers or pots for an awesome potato harvest.
- Carrots – Make sure to sow carrot seeds 2-3 cm apart, to allow enough room for growth.
- Swiss chard and spinach
- Spring onions
- Herbs – any herb will grow well in containers.
How deep do containers need to be to grow vegetables?
Some vegetables need particularly deep containers to grow in. Root vegetables like carrots and potatoes will require a minimum of 12″-15″ depth (about 30-40 cm deep). Potatoes are at the higher end of that scale, Containers the size of refuse bins, or 5 gallon buckets (20+ liter) are best for the depth required for planting potatoes. The rest of the vegetables will do well in less depth (see the table below):
NB: The container depth is the estimated minimum. Always go for much deeper pots for potatoes, carrots etc – and wider (bigger) pots for vegetables with bigger roots.
Vegetables like peppers require more depth due to their roots tending to run deeper. Print the table above and you will be on your way to an easy container vegetable gardening start.
What Kind of Soil Do You Use in Containers for Vegetables?
The best soil for planters is one that is well drained, allows for air circulation and with a pH that is close to neutral. Potting mixes (made specifically for containers) have all of these.
When buying a potting mix, be specific about the kind that you want e.g. differentiate between vegetables and other plants.
Container gardening vs raised beds
You may be confused as to how container gardening differs from raised garden beds.:
- Container gardening uses portable containers with bottoms, whereas raised beds could simply mean planting on raised soil, or in large frames (wooden, galvanized etc) and do not have bottoms most of the time.
- Because containers have no connection to the ground, they must be filled with potting mix. Raised beds, on the other hand can be filled with all kinds of soil.
- Container gardens dry out faster, and deplete the soil of its nutrients quicker than raised beds do. There is a solution though; water the plants in containers more frequently than you would a raised bed. It also helps tons to have a tray underneath a container to help preserve and re-use the nutrient dense water that drains from the container.
The advantages of raised beds over container gardens are a moot point though if you intend to garden in a small space. Container gardening will be the unquestionable choice.