Can you have your own vegetable garden if you live in an apartment with tight spaces? Absolutely! Growing vegetables in containers is the answer for gardening enthusiasts who do not have space for a garden in their home. Think of your balcony, window sill, patio or even a bright, sunny corner in your living room. All these are potential locations for creating your indoor vegetable garden..
Container vegetable gardening is becoming popular not simply because it has made it possible for apartment dwellers to have their own piece of green sanctuary. Even gardeners who have an outdoor garden are also getting into container gardening for the following reasons:
a) Portability makes it easy to arrange the plants
b) Effective control over the spread of diseases across different plants.
c) Ability to personalize your little garden with a variety of containers
d) No need to repair the lawn if the plants don’t work out
These are just some of the reasons that encourage garden owners to get into container gardening. It doesn’t matter if you are having your container vegetable garden indoors or outdoors, there are some golden rules of growing vegetables in containers that will help improve your success rate in vegetable gardening.
Golden Rules for Growing Vegetables in Containers
1. Choosing a container
Before you embark on your shopping spree to purchase gardening supplies, ask yourself – what kind of vegetables do I want to plant? Being clear about what you want to plant will give you a better idea of the type of containers you should be buying. If you are going for big plants, you will need bigger, deeper containers that provide space for the development of strong roots.
Generally, it is recommended to use bigger containers for vegetable gardening. You should take both the diameter and depth of the container into consideration. For vegetable plants to be robust and healthy, deep containers are needed as it has more room for roots to develop a strong foundation. The material which the pots and containers are made of is not as important. Plastic, terra cotta and timber planters are all suitable for growing vegetables. Just note that size and depth are more important.
If you plan to grow vegetables such as peppers, tomatoes, spinach, zucchini, lettuce and cucumbers, a 3-5 gallon container will be sufficient. Larger containers of 15 gallon will be needed for the bigger plants.
2. Location of your container
The availability of sunlight is a main consideration when it comes to positioning your container vegetable plants. Ensure that your vegetable plants get sufficient sunlight if you want to have healthy plants and a good harvest. Majority of vegetable plants, particularly beans, peppers and tomatoes need a good 6 to 8 hours of sunlight daily.
The location of your containers plays an important part to the survival of your vegetable plants. Apart from sunlight, you also have to consider if the location is windy. Strong winds tend to dry up plants; hence you should avoid positioning your container plants at windy areas. If you are unable to avoid the strong winds, you can construct a windbreaker around your vegetable plants to shield them.
Catering ample space between the containers is just as crucial as it provides good air circulation for your plants. When positioning your containers, ensure that the taller plants do not shade out the shorter ones. In this way, all of your plants will have an equal chance of exposure to sunlight.
3. Choosing soil type
Using the right kind of soil will provide your vegetable plants with a good foundation for strong growth. Heavy potting soil or garden soil is not suitable for growing vegetables in containers. A better choice would be container mix that has better moisture retention capability and can resist compaction. You can also consider creating your own compost with manure added. This is probably a better option than buying ready made garden soil from the nursery.
Do take note of the vegetable type as well when you are selecting the soil. Potatoes prefer rich, loamy soil while carrots prefer sandier, more free-draining compost.
Container plants tend to absorb more heat, hence they often take in quite a bit of water. It is crucial that you water your container vegetable plants frequently to prevent them from drying up. Take this into consideration when positioning your containers. Easy access to water points will make it more convenient for frequent watering.
How do you know if your plant has enough water? First and foremost, you have to determine the moisture level of the soil. Your container plants should not have soaking wet soil as it can result in rotting roots. Use the finger test to determine the moisture level of the soil. Dip your index finger into the soil. If the soil feels hard and dry, you got to water your plants. If the surface, or just below the surface of the soil feels moist, you can water your plants the next day.
If you don’t want to use the finger test, get a soil moisture meter to do the job. In fact, this is a more precise approach than the finger test to measure soil moisture level.
5. Adding fertilizers
Since container plants require frequent watering, the fertilizer will get diluted faster too. You should feed your container vegetable plants with fertilizers twice as often. Doing so will ensure your plants of a healthy supply of fertilizers for strong and healthy growth.
Growing vegetables in containers at home allows you to enjoy fresh home-grown vegetables at any time. Nothing beats the satisfaction of being able to savor the fruits of your labor and to share it with your loved ones. Indoor vegetable gardening is such a pleasure when you have the know-how and tips to grow a bountiful harvest.