Growing vegetables in containers
August 21, 2003
Victoria County Master Gardener
Want to try your vegetable gardening skills but don't have the space or inclination to attempt a traditional garden? Or, you've tried the traditional garden and now are ready to try something different? Then think about growing vegetables in containers.
Traditionally, we think about containers as being used only to grow either pretty flowering or lush green plants. Although you can grow most any vegetable in a container, some of the very reliable vegetables for the Victoria area fall gardening season are beets, garlic, chives, radishes, leaf lettuce, carrots and Swiss chard. If you have grown other fall vegetables with success in a traditional garden, then, by all means, give them a try in a container.
Use any type of container for this endeavor. Just remember, the container needs to be placed in an area that gets at least six hours of bright sunshine. The size will be determined by what you grow; however, you may use just about anything from the black grower pots from the nursery to fancy flowerpots.
Use a good potting mix; many are available at nurseries and garden centers. Be sure the container has good drainage. A broken piece of pottery, placed over the drain hole, can be used. Be sure the curved side is up so the hole won't be plugged by the potting mix. Rocks usually are not a good idea since they can clog the hole. If you are going to start out on a small scale with only a 1-gallon black nursery pot, you might try placing a paper coffee filter in first. Another way to insure good drainage is to put a layer of pea gravel in the bottom of your container, then a layer of sphagnum moss, topping off with your potting mixture. The weight of the potting mixture will hold your pea gravel in place, except for the hole, and provide excellent drainage for your container. Add your favorite vegetable fertilizer according to directions and plant your seeds or transplants. Place your container on your patio, apartment balcony, or your other sunny spot and watch your homegrown vegetables grow.
Another method of container gardening, if you plan to keep the container in a sunny part of your yard, is to cut the bottom out of a black nursery pot - about 5- or 10-gallon size, and place it on the selected site. Remember the six-hour sunshine rule. It helps if the site is free of grass. If it isn't, place several layers of newspaper or a brown paper bag on the ground first. Next place your container; then fill with your growing mixture and plant the vegetable transplant or seed. As the vegetables grow, they will be able to send their roots through the potting soil and through the paper into the ground. This will give them additional rooting area for even greater results. Place more newspaper on the ground around the container and cover with leaves or compost. This will keep the weed problem away and help the soil retain moisture.
The Victoria County Master Gardeners have assisted at least seven area schools over the past four years with this type of gardening. It has been very successful with literally hundreds of youth planting and then eating vegetables grown in containers. Now you can do it, too.
Either way you choose to do your container gardening, you will need to fertilize periodically and watch the moisture level often. If you have been wanting to try drip irrigation, this would be a good time to try that system. A variety of brands are available at garden centers.
Growing vegetables in containers is easy and enjoyable. You can have your garden as close to you as your patio or deck. Contact your local Texas Cooperative Extension office for a copy of the vegetable direct seeding chart for this area.