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Small Space Growing

Posted by Kari Houle - Articles

This past weekend I was finally able to get into my garden to begin the much delayed clean-up process from last year's garden. What should have been done in the fall was time and again delayed this spring usually due to weather or the occasional other weekend commitment. As I was going through cleaning up and organizing various planting containers and dumping out old soil from some of them, fond memories of my days of growing vegetables in containers came to mind.

As much as I adore having a garden to plant in, sometimes the days of growing vegetables in containers has their appeal especially for time management and for the many times when I didn't have the space or a yard I could dig in. There are a lot of benefits to being able to grow vegetables in containers.

  • Containers can be placed closer to your back door making it easier to remember the plants are there and care for them
  • Container gardening can be easier to deal with soil borne diseases as you can start with fresh potting mix each year
  • If you have limited space and no ground to dig up, you can still have fresh vegetables
  • There are options for raised containers that if there are physical limitations restricting one's ability to bend over to work in a garden

That's just to name a few. In the past I have been asked if you can grow full size tomatoes in containers and my answer is yes. I have successfully grown full size tomatoes in containers. Often the biggest restricting factor is not having a large enough pot. A minimum container size for tomatoes is a 5 gallon container. Make sure any container is clean, has drainage holes, and use a good quality soilless mix. Don't use top soil in containers – it's too heavy for use in container gardens. That goes for growing any plants being grown in containers. I've also had success utilizing grow bags which are a heavy fabric like material and are easy to store as they fold flat.

One of the things to be prepared for with growing vegetables in containers is that as they get bigger you will have to water more often which does require you to be attentive to soil moisture levels. I remember the days of it being hot and dry and having to water my containers daily so make sure that you have easy access to a water source.

I've had success with growing a wide variety of vegetables in containers and there are a number of vegetable varieties that are perfect for growing in containers. Peppers, tomatoes, greens, carrots - options abound when it comes to growing vegetables in containers.

For more information about growing vegetables in containers contact me at 217-223-8380 or via email at khoule@illinois.edu and I would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have.



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