Vegetable Container Gardening
Summer is here, and that can only mean one thing – it’s vegetable gardening season! Nothing beats the taste of fresh fruits, vegetables and herbs straight from the garden. But what if you don’t have space for a garden? In fact, what if you live in an apartment or condo, and your only outdoor area is a small balcony or patio?
Don’t worry! Even if you only have a few square feet of outdoor space, you can grow your own vegetables and enjoy that incredible freshness they bring to your dishes. It is possible to grow just about any vegetable in a container. By following the guidelines below, you can not only savor the pleasure of preparing and serving your homegrown vegetables – but you’ll save a little money on produce as well!
Sun or Shade
Although most vegetables prefer full sun, there are some that can tolerate a fair bit of shade. By knowing how much sun your balcony gets you’ll be able to choose the right vegetables for you conditions. Over the course of a day, keep track of how much light your balcony gets. Or if you’re short on time, buy a simple sun calculator at your local garden center. This is a small device you leave on your balcony that will tell you at the end of the day how much light your space gets.
Great vegetables for sun include tomatoes, cucumbers and peas. Some vegetables that tolerate shade are carrots, root vegetables and lettuces. The seed packet or the tags on the seedlings will tell you what amount of sun or shade the plant needs.
The soil in containers dries out faster than the ground, so be sure to give your container vegetables plenty of moisture, without over-watering them. To tell if your plant needs water, stick your finger into the soil about an inch. If the soil feels dry, add water. During the hottest parts of the summer, your containers will probably need watering at least once, if not twice, a day.
Cold and Heat
Cold weather can be deadly for vegetable plants, so be sure not to start your vegetable container garden until nighttime temperatures are consistently above freezing. Also, if you live in a very hot climate or your plants get direct sunlight all day, you may need to provide them with some shade so they don’t fry. Bring them to the inside of your balcony where they will get some shade from the building, or purchase shade cloth at your local garden center. Avoid planting your vegetables in dark containers. They retain heat and can cook your plant’s roots.
Soil and Fertilizer
Use quality potting soil in your vegetable containers. Container grown vegetables need additional nutrients to thrive. You can purchase inexpensive potting soil specifically for container-grown plants at your local garden center or home improvement store.
Container vegetables will also need food to thrive, and their food is fertilizer. If the soil you use doesn’t contain added fertilizer, you should occasionally add granulated fertilizer or liquid fertilizer to your soil. Your plants will thrive and produce much better vegetables.
Vegetables needs proper drainage to succeed, so be sure your container has a drainage hole in the bottom. You can cover the hole with a small square of screen or even a coffee filter to be sure soil doesn’t fall out while still allowing excess water to drain.
Wood, plastic, glazed ceramic or terracotta containers are all excellent choices for your vegetable container garden. They come in an infinite variety of colors, styles and textures so you can choose containers that fit your taste.
By following these simple suggestions, you’ll have a thriving vegetable container garden just in time for summer!