Herb and vegetable plants can do well in container gardens. (Richbar Nursery Golf and Gardens Facebook photo)

Herb and vegetable plants can do well in container gardens. (Richbar Nursery Golf and Gardens Facebook photo)

Lawn and Garden: Vegetable gardening in containers

Jean Atkinson of Richbar Golf and Gardens offers tips for growing veggies in a small space

Jean Atkinson

Richbar Golf and Gardens

If you don’t have a lot of space but are still interested in growing your own vegetables, read on.

You are only limited to the size of your container, so let’s begin there. Smaller containers dry out quickly and need to be watered more frequently, so don’t set yourself up for failure. Plants such as tomatoes require a lot of water and should not be grown in anything smaller than a five-gallon-size pot. The deeper the better. Plants such as herbs can be grown in a shallower container such as a window box.

You might be recycling containers, which is great, but before you fill them up with soil, make sure there is a drainage hole in the bottom. I know this seems obvious, but sometimes people get so excited about planting and jump ahead to the fun stuff.

Make sure to use a commercial bagged potting soil, as it is sterilized (no weeds) and will provide better drainage than a heavy garden soil. Before planting, you can amend the soil with fertilizer, either organic or synthetic. A very popular new product is fish soil. It is a blend of rendered fish and peat moss. It can be used directly for planting into or rejuvenating tired old soils. No fish odour, and it is certified organic.

Tomatoes can be grown easily in containers but need to be watered and fertilized regularly. Water the container deeply to encourage the roots to grow deep into the soil. Frequent shallow watering only results in a shallow rooted plant that can’t retrieve water efficiently. If tomatoes are stressed by not receiving enough water, this can result in blossom end rot. It is also a sign of calcium deficiency. There is a specialized tomato fertilizer with added calcium, which will help prevent this problem. Bone meal is also a great source of calcium and phosphorous that tomatoes love.

Tomato types include bush varieties, which are ideal for patio containers; however, the tall staking varieties such as Sweet 100 can also be grown in a container. I would recommend you put your stake in at planting time, as it may be difficult later on. A very popular tomato for hanging baskets is Tumbler, and just as its name suggests, it does have a cascading habit. Also popular for hanging baskets are Fanfare cucumbers and the hot pepper, Basket of Fire.

Thinking of making a salad? It will be easy to step out onto your deck and cut some fresh mixed leaf lettuce, herbs and throw in some edible flowers such as violas, which all have been grown so easily in your patio tubs. For some plants that keep on giving and giving well into the fall, try kale and Swiss chard. You can keep cutting the leaves, and new ones will keep growing.

Don’t feel limited by the square footage you have, as you will be surprised how much you can grow in a container.

READ MORE: Getting started if you are new to gardening


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