Saturday, March 24, 2012

Container Gardening - Veggie Version

The back yard is still too wet to work in.
I haven't moved any more soil out of my driveway.
I am still putting off planting my lettuce.  According to the April Sunset magazine, it isn't too late yet in Oregon!

I got to thinking of my collection of containers and how I will use them.  Not all my vegetables will be planted in raised beds.  Lots of people plant vegetables in containers with mixed success.  Just what do vegetables need to produce well in containers? 

Most vegetables are shallow rooted and can productively be grown in containers.  But, just what size containers are recommended?  The most important things to remember for containers, or for any gardening, are good soil and drainage.  Most vegetables can get by just fine with 6" - 8" of soil.   Any deeper and you are wasting a lot of money needlessly filling pots! 
Here are some recommended container sizes for common home garden vegetables:

LETTUCES - any broad and flat container works fine. You can even use small pots, household mixing bowls, dish washing pans (cat litter boxes too!), almost anything works for lettuces.  Just make sure to have drainage.  I put four cinder blocks together to make a lettuce planter filled with potting soil.

PEPPERS - Minimum 2 gallon per plant, or 16" pot.  A 5 gallon container can support two pepper plants.  I am planting mine in cat litter containers. 

CUCUMBERS - 1 plant per 2 gallon container, or 12" minimum.  Plant near a fence, or trellis, or buy a bush variety.  I am putting mine near a chain link fence, in white 5 gallon buckets.  You can also tuck a cucumber in the corner of a raised bed and let it grow out of the box. Some cucumbers can be grown in hanging baskets too!

MELONS - Yes, you can grow these in containers!  For full sized varieties you will need a half barrel.  The vines will climb out, so place the barrel where the plants will have undisturbed growing room. Plant mini varieties, like Baby Boo pumpkins in smaller containers, near a fence or trellis.

TOMATOES - 5 gallon minimum per plant for full size varieties.  You will still need to provide support.  Dwarf tomatoes are fine in 2 gallon planters.   Not all plants producing small tomatoes are dwarf plants, so check the size on the labels.  Dwarf tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets.  

BEANS - You can grow beans in planters, but I wouldn't.  You could plant several bush beans (4-5) in a 12" or larger pot, or pole beans with a tall pole in the middle for them to climb.  2 gallons would be the smallest size to plant.  But, if you are growing for a family you really need more than a few bean plants.

CARROTS - Now these are the ones that want depth!  Just how deep depends on the variety.  Check the seed packet for mature length of the carrot.  I wouldn't try anything less than 12" but again, check your package.   Give them enough depth and a fine soil free from rocks. 

SQUASH and PUMPKINS - I don't grow squash, except pumpkins.  I don't like squash!  Don't bother growing what you don't like.  Sure, zucchini is easy to grow, but if you don't like it, don't waste the space. Squash and pumpkins need large containers like melons.  Half barrels, or 16" diameter containers.  They need a lot of room to spread in a garden, or train them to a trellis. 

SPINACH - 2 plants will be happy in a 2 gallon container.  They are shallow rooted, so you can get a way with just 6" in depth.

CHARD - While it would seem to be basically like growing spinach, chard actually needs a deeper container.  12" minimum, 5 gallons is best.
RADISHES - Another root crop. Like carrots, you need to give radishes depth, 4" - 6" in a gallon container.

CORN - Not a container crop!  Did you know that corn has been bred to produce 2 ears per plant?  You would need to grow quite a few to have enough for even a small family.  Why bother when you can buy it at the markets for .10 - .20 each? 

I read that white containers are better than black.  The belief is that black absorbs the heat of the sun, and the soil will dry out faster.  Most nursery pots are black,so I am not so sure it makes that much difference or they would change to white to save on water.  I will be paying attention this year though, to see for myself. 

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