For years my husband and I lived in apartments, where I could only dream about growing my own fruits and vegetables. But then I learned about container gardens. While I’m still learning how to be a better gardener, my friend Kristen over at Shifting Roots will share her expertise with us so we can continue to grow produce and flowers throughout the fall and winter, too. And with that I’ll let her take it away…
Everyone dreams of having a garden, but not everyone has the time or resources. You don’t need to have a huge plot of land to start a garden, you just need a container and some dirt.
Okay, it’s a little more complicated than that, but we’ll get to it in a minute.
How to Grow a Container Garden
For context, I garden in the almost-tundra-zone-3a (joking. . .not really) that is Saskatchewan. When I researched your growing conditions in zone 7a, I got extremely jealous. The longer growing season, the option to grow two crops, the extra plant varieties. . . the envy. However, if you’re reading this and in zone 3a, check out my post on gardening when you have no clue.
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, on to growing vegetables.
The Best Vegetables for Containers
If you’re new to container gardening, tomatoes, leafy greens like lettuce, swiss chard, kale or spinach, and herbs are a great place to start. These plants do really well in a patio container and will flourish as long as they have enough water and light.
You can grow almost any vegetable in a container, except for maybe larger squash and pumpkins. It’s success is going to depend on the circumference and depth of your container.
Not all containers are created equal. Larger containers mean you can grow more food in that container and can get away with less watering.
Here are the minimum soil depths for healthy growth. However, this does not mean that you plant the seeds this far down! This is the depth that the roots need so that the plant can flourish. Follow the directions on your seed package for best results.
- 4-5 inches: chives, lettuce, radishes, other salad greens, basil, coriander
- 6-7 inches: bush beans, garlic, kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint, thyme
- 8-9 inches: pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary
- 10-12 inches: beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass
Planting depth source: Urban Gardening with Vegetables by Kathy Laliberte
Simple Container Gardening Vegetable Care
You’ve planted the seeds. . . now what?
Make sure your container gets at least 6 hours of sun, although 8 or more is ideal. Water every 2-3 days, and everyday when temperatures are above 24 degrees celsius/75 degrees fahrenheit. I also like to water with Miracle Grow once a week or add slow release fertilizer to my dirt before planting.
Leafy greens and herbs will grow back multiple times if you leave some of the greens when you cut. Translation: don’t pull your lettuce out of the ground until it bolts!!
If you get an unexpected frost warning before your plants are ready to harvest, cover your pots with an old bed sheet to keep them from freezing. If you live in a colder area like I do, you might have to pick your produce early and let it ripen inside.
How Late is Too Late to Plant?
You can can start a container garden up until approximately 50 days before the last killing frost in your area. This isn’t a hard and fast rule, and doesn’t work for all vegetables, but it is a general guide for vegetables like peas, beans, lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, kale, and beets. Be sure to check the days to maturity on your seed packet, and as long as its around 50 or under, the rule should work.
This rule WILL NOT work for tomatoes or pumpkins.
Now that you know the basics, you can give gardening a try. Every year you will become more confident in your growing skills, and before you know it you’ll be the one everyone in your community garden looks to for advice. Head on over to Shifting Roots for more gardening tips, tricks, triumphs, and failures. Also, if your mom loves plants she will love these 5-peony inspired Mother’s Day Gifts. 😉
The Beginner’s Guide to a Simple Container Garden