Container gardening: how to grow vegetables easily in containers
Short on space? Renting? Living in an apartment? Answer yes to one of
these questions and container gardening might be for you. But container
gardening doesn't necessarily mean you can only grow flowers. There is
an incredible variety of vegetables you can grow in pots. Interested?
We discovered container gardening when we were still renting at Norman
Park. We didn't want to go through the pain of ripping up a full blown
vegetable patch again. So we decided on growing in polystyrene boxes.
We picked them up from the local green grocer and snazzed them up a bit
with some spray paint. They're ideal because they're light, easy to move
and reasonably deep enough for some root crops. Of course you can really
use just about anything. The conventional - terra cotta (or fake terra
cotta) to the unusual - old wine barrels, 44 gallon drums cut in half,
bath tubs, kid's wading pools, even old boots. You just need to make sure
your container has adequate drainage.
Once you've got your containers its time to fill them up. Use quality
potting mix as its designed for good drainage. Ordinary garden soil will
compact too heavily. So avoid the temptation to use it. Mix in some compost.
This helps improve the organic quality of the potting mix. Unless you're
growing root crops or onions you can also add some old manure and blood
and bone to the container. If you're growing onions, legumes or brassicas
add some lime or dolomite to sweeten the soil. Throw in a smidgeon of
sulphate of potash if you're growing vegies which flower, like tomatoes,
capsicums, chilli, eggplants, pumpkins, cucumbers, zucchinis, melons,
sweet corn (you get the drift!) But for all your containers you should
add perlite and vermiculture (or peatmoss). This should help the mix drain
freely but still retain moisture.
When you're choosing your containers there are a couple of things you
should keep in mind. Use light rather than dark coloured containers in
warm climates (like Queensland) to reduce heat absorption. This will put
less stress on your vegetables. If you want your pots to have an attractive
terra cotta look you should consider plastic fake terra cotta. Its lighter
and the pot won't dry out quickly like real terra cotta. Remember whatever
type of container you choose, water will be used quicker in potting mix
compared to soil. So you'll need to water your containers regularly. During
summer heat waves they'll need watering twice a day.
But watering containers regularly creates a problem. Nutrients in the
enriched potting mix are gradually leached out. So to keep your plants
healthy you should water them weekly with liquid fertiliser. The easiest
way to make some liquid fertilizer is to put a couple of handfuls of old
manure into a bucket and then fill it with water. Let it steep for a week.
Then get out your watering can and fill about 20% of it with the pure
liquid fertiliser. Then dilute it by adding water to fill the remaining
80% of the watering can. If you don't dilute the liquid manure it will
"burn" the roots and you'll do severe damage to your vegetables. One warning
though. The stuff stinks. It really pongs. So be prepared for a disgusting
smell. All of your vegetables, except root crops and the onion tribe,
will benefit from weekly waterings. You can still give the root crops
and onions a bit of a kick though, but don't do it too often.
The next big question, what vegetables can you grow in containers? Almost
all of them. There's only one things that determines what vegies you can
grow in containers. And thats the size of the container. Basically, the
deeper the container, the greater the variety of vegetables you can grow.
Deep containers let you grow a greater variety of root crops like carrots
and parsnips. However, you should still be able to grow baby carrots in
shallower containers. Deep containers also let you drive down big stakes
to support 6 feet tall tomato plants and should also accommodate sweet
corn. You can still get around these problems even with a container depth
of only 20cm (about 8 inches). Its all about choosing the right variety
of vegetable. For example grow low bush cherry tomatoes like Tiny Tim
or tomatoes that don't need a large stake like First Prize (only grows
to 60cm or 2 feet). Have a look through seed catalogues or do a bit of
reading to find the variety best suited to your containers. Here's a list
of vegetables you can easily grow in containers with links to vegetables
I'm currently growing in containers. As you can see there's almost no
23 October, 2008
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