Extension Educator, Horticulture
Do you have a yearning for yams? A hankering for jalapenos? Or a craving for carrots? Good news. You don't need a lot of space or your own plot of land to enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs. A pot on the patio or a bucket on the balcony is all you need.
A successful vegetable container garden requires particular attention to the size of the container, type of soil mix, and plant variety. Any container can be used as long as it is free of toxic materials, has adequate drain holes, and is large enough to accommodate the roots of desired plants. Five gallon bird seed or restaurant buckets work well.
Leafy crops such as lettuce grow well in hanging baskets; however, most tomatoes need at least a three-gallon container. I have yet to see a healthy looking tomato plant in those "upsy downsy" things. If you want to use hanging baskets, be sure to select varieties listed below for one-gallon containers. Tomatoes, as with most large vegetable plants, need regular water and nutrition to be happy and small upside down containers are not what any self-respecting tomato would choose.
Be sure to use potting mix or container soil mix rather than garden soil.
When selecting vegetable varieties for containers look for bush, compact or dwarf varieties. For tomatoes select determinate types that stay smaller than indeterminates such as 'Big Boy'.
Here are a few suggested container sizes with their appropriate vegetable varieties:
If space allows, add a few edible flowers such as signet marigolds or pansies. Or grow a theme garden of tasty culinary combinations in large half barrel containers.
Vegetables require at least six hours of sun. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, and spinach tolerate partial shade better than root vegetables such as turnips, radishes, and carrots and fruit-bearing vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers.
Plants grown in containers will need frequent, often daily, watering. Be sure to water thoroughly each time. Fertilize plants at least weekly using water soluble organic or inorganic vegetable fertilizer containing micronutrients. Follow label directions.
Cultivate containers of bountiful vegetables to enrich your taste buds and your budget. Bon Appétit.