Container gardening allows so much flexibility and mobility; it’s perfect for growing in a new space! Check out these vegetable container gardening tips for beginners!
Whether you’re a beginner gardener or a seasoned gardener looking to try container gardening for the first time, it can be overwhelming! I’ll outline some of the tips and techniques I’ve relied on to grow a successful vegetable garden using containers.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this post. Feel free to click straight to the topic in which you’re most interested!
- Why choose container gardening?
- Best soil for vegetable container gardening
- Best containers for vegetable gardening
- Watering systems for container gardening
- Tips for Starting, Growing, and Harvesting your container garden
Why container gardening?
There are so many benefits of container gardening! Here are some of my favorites:
- You can start with as many containers as you want and add when you’re ready.
Instead of spending hours to plan out the perfect garden bed where each plant has what it needs, you can plan and plant as you go! If you keep extra containers on hand, you’re always free to start up a new plant when you walk past something interesting at the nursery.
- Access to the plants is easier than planting into the ground.
Instead of having to get on your knees and bend over for all your planting and weeding, you can bring the containers up to a height suitable for you. You could grab a few free pallets to use as risers for your garden. This will save your back and knees a lot of stress throughout the year!
- Containers allow you to move your plants around as you wish or as they need.
When you garden straight into the ground, you lose that space completely until gardening season is over. If you garden in containers, you can move those containers to a more convenient space during your family reunion. Additionally, if your plants seem to need more or less sun, you can move them to meet their needs.
- Protecting your plants from animals, heat, and soggy conditions is very easy.
When gardening for the first time or in a new space, nature might spring some surprises on you! It’s easier to protect a container garden from pests, easier to shade them when the sun is too overbearing, and easier to keep them well-drained when conditions are too rainy.
- One of the most obvious reasons to grow in containers: A lack of opportunity to grow a larger garden in the ground or raised beds.
If you are living in a rental or have minimal outdoor space, a container garden still allows you to grow! You don’t need to alter the landscape or worry about the quality of the soil around your home.
What soil is best for vegetable container gardening?
Many container gardens begin life with potting soil found at your local garden center. If you go this route, be sure to take notes if the soil comes with a fertilizer premix, water holding attributes.
If you want to build your potting mix, you can consider bringing together equal parts of garden soil, sand, and either peat moss or compost. If you are going to mix in garden soil stay away from clay-based soil–Water management will become more problematic.
If you have access to an old fence row or wooded area, get your dirt from those areas… This dirt will contain microorganisms and your garden will benefit greatly from their presence.
Using garden soil will possibly expose your garden to possible bugs, seeds, and diseases. Heating the soil to 180 degrees for 30 minutes will kill the bugs, seeds, diseases along with the beneficial microbes for soil.
What containers are best for vegetable gardening?
Containers: Size matters–All containers should be at least 12 inches across. This will provide plenty of soil for the roots to grow and for water to be held for the plant. Larger soil masses will also insulate the roots from overheating during those hot days during the growing season.
Almost anything can be used as a container. Just make sure it meets the size requirement, is made of food-safe materials, and meets your standards. Here’s a variety that might work for you:
- Plant Grow Bags – These stand up like pots but can be moved with easy handles & can be folded up for easy storage at the end of the season.
- Potato Grow Bags – These are just like the ones above, but they have a little window so you can check on your root vegetables and harvest easily.
- Raised Metal Garden Bed Planter – This one is great for people who don’t want to have to bend over or who want something that will look great on a patio.
- Self Watering Planter with Trellis on Wheels – For those who forget to water their plants or who may need to move the plants frequently will love this one!
- Wooden Barrel Planter (set of 3) – Wish a cute farmhouse style, these three pots have good drainage, handles for easy moving, and would look perfect as porch décor, too.
- Metal Caddies with Wheels (set of 4) – If you already have containers, just give them a good clean and set them on these caddies so that you can easily move them when you need to!
Drainage: The water has to be right. Plants can’t live without it but can’t live with too much of it. A well-drained container gives the soil and plants the best chance to make the most of your growing season.
If you decide you need to add drainage to your container, drill a ¼” hole along the side of the container near the bottom. This will leave a little water in the bottom of the container for the roots to pick up if they need it but doesn’t keep them swimming in a pool of water.
Watering Systems for Container Gardening
Watering System: A healthy thriving container garden needs to get the water when it needs, and the water needs to get to where it’s needed. Several methods can be used to make sure your container garden gets just the right amount of water when it is needed.
1. Watering by hand is always an option. However, the more you have to water, the less desirable this method becomes.
2. Seeping or soaker hoses are a good option. However, the hoses are susceptible to UV damage and would benefit greatly from being covered with mulch to prevent exposure to UV.
3. Drip Irrigation is the costliest of the methods but it also is the most reliable of the methods listed. Drip Irrigation can be fully automated or built around a gravity feed method using a 5-gallon bucket.
Tips for starting your container garden
Location: Vegetable plants need a minimum of six hours of sunlight per day. The conditions in the Spring are much different than they are in the Summer. A location that checked all the boxes in the Spring might not be where your plants need to be during the high heat of Summer.
Fertilizer: If you are using a garden mix, you should add three tablespoons of lime and 5-10-5 fertilizer per gallon of garden mix. Be sure that they are mixed thoroughly through the garden mix.
Watering Schedule: Follow the watering method you decided upon the planning process, but be ready to modify it. Due to the ever-changing conditions from Spring to Summer to Fall, you will need to regularly check the soil and plant conditions to make sure the schedule doesn’t need to be adjusted to meet the needs throughout the growing season.
Provide support: If a plant is going to need support like a pole or a trellis, it’s best to place that support into the container at the very beginning. Placing it early eliminates the possibility of damaging the roots.
Tips for growing vegetables in your container garden
Location: As the growing season progresses ,you might find that the plants that once were thriving at the location and hours of sun are now showing signs of wilt or stress. If that is the case, you will need to consider moving the containers or providing some man-made shade such as a shade fabric over the plants to shield them for a couple of hours a day.
If the containers are on concrete or asphalt, you might need to consider moving the container or providing a barrier (like cardboard) between the container and the heated surface.
Feeding: Once your plants begin growing, you will need to begin feeding them with a fertilizer that grows the roots and builds strong disease-resistant plants–I use a complete mix fertilizer 5-10-5 every two weeks until the plant begins to set fruit. A container with a 24-inch diameter will only need 4 ounces per feeding.
As the plant begins setting fruit, the nutritional needs of the plant will change and so should the fertilizer mix. A 10-10-10 mixture will serve you well. Feeding should also be every other week; you will need about a pint to finish out the growing season.
Be careful to not place the fertilizer on or too close to the plants… Doing so could harm or even kill the plant. If you are feeding on one plant, place the fertilizer in a circle around the plant (the circle should be about 4 to 6 inches around). If feeding rows, place the fertilizer a couple of inches out from the rows.
Watering Schedule: Follow the watering method and schedule you decided upon in the early days, but don’t forget that your plants focus on putting on foliage during the early days of their life cycle then later shift to putting on fruit.
Water needs will change with the life cycle of the plants. Keeping aware of the ever-changing conditions from Spring to Summer to Fall, you will need to regularly check the soil and plant conditions to make sure the schedule doesn’t need to be adjusted to meet the needs throughout the growing season.
Disease and Pest: Keep an eye out for signs of both disease and pest among your containers. Many diseases can be avoided by pruning leaves that are displaying a yellowing of the leaves or making contact with the ground.
If a plant begins to display a white mold infestation or heavy pest infestation, then you would be well served to move the container away from any containers that might be nearby to reduce the risk of transference to the other containers.
Tips for harvesting your container garden
If you have planted cool-season vegetables in some of your containers, as you begin harvesting these vegetables, begin thinking about a warm-season crop to plant in the container as the cool-season plants end production. Some options are listed below.
- Leaf Lettuce to Cucumbers
- Mustard greens to Pole beans
- Cabbage to late Tomatoes
Feeding: Continue feeding your fertilizer every two weeks, a 10-10-10 mixture. Still make sure it is not too close to the plant to avoid harming it.
Watering Schedule: Double-check the waters to make sure they aren’t emitting water ON the plant; wet foliage is more susceptible to disease. If you are planning to double-crop the container, cut back watering as production ends, this will allow for a quick turnaround on the second crop.
Disease and Pest: Continue to be observant for disease and pest as mentioned earlier.