November 28, 2014

Growing vegetables in containers

Dennis L. Patton
Millions of Americans plant vegetable gardens. But oftentimes people  hear comments such as, “I don’t have room,” or, “It is just too much work to combat our local soils.” There’s a solution for gardeners who can’t see the forest for the trees — containers.
Container gardens for flowers have long been popular. Containers are terrific problem solvers because gardeners can control most of the growing conditions. For those who can grow a geranium in a container, producing fresh vegetables for the table should be easy.
To grow vegetables in containers
Sun vegetables in containers have only a few basic requirements. Sunlight might be the only possible limiting factor for vegetables. Crops that produce fruit, such as tomatoes and peppers, will need at least six hours of sunlight daily for best growth. Crops such as lettuce and spinach will grow even in shady areas.
Container size
The size of the container is important for success. Small containers in the 1 to 3 gallon range work best for salad crops or single plants of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Three to 10 gallon pots will grow medium size vegetables like green beans, onions and summer squash. Containers larger than 10 gallons will support tomatoes, peppers, and many of the vining crops, such as cucumbers and melons.
The beauty of containers is that gardeners control the soil, fertilizer and water. The contrainers should have adequate drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Containers can range from the highly decorative glazed pots to re-purposed nursery containers.
Good soil is also recommended for success. Containers should be filled with a commercially-available potting mix. This provides the right balance of water holding capacity and aeration for good growth. Avoid using soil or dirt from the garden, as it is heavy and does not drain properly.
Fertilizer container vegetables do require regular fertilization. There are many products available on the market that can be sprinkled into the pot or diluted in water to accomplish a nutrient-rich growing media.
Water
Watering is the one task that does require time and effort. During the hot Kansas City-area  summers, containers may need to be watered daily. Larger containers decrease maintenance time. They are easier to care for, because they do not heat up and dry out as quickly.
Everyone has space and the ability to grow fresh vegetables at home. Vegetable gardening is doable.

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