If you enjoy gardening but lack outdoor space, container garden may be just the solution. But even those with ample outdoor space may enjoy the advantages of growing vegetables in pots.
Choosing container gardening over in-ground gardening comes with many perks, including no weeding, less chance of soil-borne plant diseases, and the decreased likelihood that rabbits and other creatures will dine on the fruit of your labor. Using your own two hands to grow food instead of heading to the produce section is also better for the environment and your local community.
For these and many other reasons, vegetable container gardening can be rewarding — but it can also be challenging. In learning the basics, however, you’ll find that it’s not as tricky as you might think.
Here are a few pointers on how to improve your chances for success in vegetable container gardening.
- Seeds vs. seedlings. One of your first decisions will be whether to buy seedlings or start your vegetable plants from seed, says Kerry Michaels, container gardening expert. Two advantages from starting from seed, she says, are the price (they’re inexpensive) and you’ll grow harder-to-find plants. A drawback? Seedlings are delicate and require careful watering. To give your seeds the best start possible, check out these six tips.
- Well-draining soil. Choose a pot with holes in the bottom to allow water to drain properly. Alternatively, you can pile some stones in the bottom of your pot before adding soil, which will allow water to drain through the stones. A quick guide to which container type is best suited to different vegetables can be found here.
- Potting mix. Different plants thrive in different soils. You can either head to the garden center for your potting mix, or make your own. Making a custom mix, says Mother Earth News, can help overcome soil pH barriers that might have been a problem for your plants if you’d planted them in-ground. Acid-loving strawberries or potatoes, for example, might do better in a container if the soil near you is naturally neutral or alkaline.
- Sunlight. Sunny windows can help vegetable plants meet their daily sunlight requirement. However, if you don’t have sunny windows, grow lights can help. Grow lights help maintain optimal light and temperature conditions for plants regardless of outside weather or indoor conditions.
- Best plants to grow. Among the best vegetable plants for container gardening are artichoke, arugula, bok choy, celery, chard, cucumber, eggplant, garlic, lettuce, onion, pepper, snap bean, pea, tomato and most herbs, according to Mother Earth News. The three "easiest" to grow are snap beans, radishes, and cherry tomatoes, according to Treehugger. But whatever you choose, look for compact varieties that will grow best in a confined space.
- Organic vs. conventionally grown. Going the organic route on your vegetable container gardening journey will open the door to a whole new level of benefits, says Michaels. Doing without fertilizers and pesticides has been shown to imbue plants with a higher percentage of vitamins and phytochemicals.