Thinking about container gardening? Beyond providing deliciously fresh veggies, container gardens come with a lot of perks compared to in-ground gardening. First and foremost, no weeding. They are rare and unlikely, so you won't spend your summer hunched over your garden bed pulling weeds instead of enjoying what you grow.
Another perk is the ability to add variety in what vegetables you grow and the containers they come in. You can go with interesting pot styles, different colors and shapes, then arrange them in layers to your heart's content. Just keep light and drainage in mind—more on that below.
Containers are also great for smaller spaces like a balcony, window box, small back patio, even indoors on a windowsill that offers enough light. And even if you have a larger yard, a container garden allows you to bring your plants along with you whenever you move.
Take a look at these simple tips to get you started with container gardening.
Decide What to Plant – To successfully grow veggies, look for varieties like compact or dwarf which will thrive in a container such as lettuce, squash, radishes, tomatoes, hot and sweet peppers, peas, potatoes and cucumbers. Skip oversized options like pumpkins or melons. Once you've selected your plants, group them by their sun and watering needs.
Pick Your Containers – Wood, terra cotta, ceramic or maybe DIY. Containers just need to be about 12 inches across, made of food-safe material and provide ample drainage. Typically, the bigger the pot, the better. They can help store enough water to get your plants through hot summer days. Plus the more room they have, the bigger your veggie plants will grow.
Double-Check Drainage – You don't want your plants to sit in saturated, wet soil. This will lead to dreaded root rot and a quick demise. Always use or create DIY containers that have at least one large hole or several small ones. Drill more if needed. Finally, make sure holes are not blocked when placed on hard surfaces. Elevating your planters on feet, risers, a rack or rolling plant stand/caddy should do the trick.
Get Light & Temp Right – Check the plant tag and situate containers according to the sunlight needed. Then plant when the soil will remain warm enough, typically April through May here in Colorado. And if there's one of our infamous, late-spring freezes, be sure to move containers inside to keep your plants warm. Bringing them into your warm home could actually shock and harm them, so a basement, garage or shed should be just fine.
Spring for Soil – No, don't just dig up some dirt from the backyard which can lead to drainage issues, weeds and plant-killing diseases. Invest in high-quality potting soil for both adequate water retention and proper drainage. If the soil doesn’t include fertilizer, purchase your and feed plants regularly throughout the growing season according to the directions.
Aim for Damp Soil – Thriving plants is a balance of moisture and drainage. Plants should be wet but not soaking. Go ahead and poke a finger down into the soil, to your second knuckle. If it feels dry an inch down, water it. During the hot summer months, you may need to water once or twice a day. Over time, you'll start to get a feel for the optimal watering schedule.
To help you out even further, we've put together our list of favorite veggies to grow in containers, along with what type of pot to use, how much sun they require and a few tips for soil care. Click here to download our printable PDF.