Container Vegetable Gardening Made Easy for the Busybody

Container vegetable gardening is very popular for small gardens. Everyone can enjoy home grown vegetables due to the versatility of containers. Vegetables adapt well to growing in containers, provided you follow the guidelines.

The difference between knowledge and wisdom:

“Knowledge is to know that a tomato is a fruit,
and wisdom is to know not to put it in a fruit salad!”

Here we will teach you knowledge and wisdom. Important things pertaining to container vegetable gardening are:

Selecting and Placing your Containers

There are many containers to choose from. Different types may include wood, earthenware, asbestos cement, plastics, metal, the list goes on. The container that you choose must be functional and decorative.

It is important that the color of your container fits in with your garden and home style . All your containers for your container vegetable gardening and the rest of your garden design , must match.

Ask yourself a few questions.

Will I need to move the container around? A container with vegetables needs at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. Will the position of the container be permanent? If the container is large, it will most certainly be! Once the soil is in, it will be heavy to move, unless it has wheels underneath.

Does your container have large drainage holes? Far too many plants have been lost from root rot. If the drainage hole is too small, enlarge it or get another container. Drainage holes are most important.

What is the size of your container? For instance; if you want to grow spring onions your container needs to be approximately 180 mm deep. However if you want to plant potatoes, your container must be much deeper! Select your container depth to suit the crop.

The size of the pot also determines the depth of drainage material. Adjust the size of pot shards, and amounts of gravel, coarse sand and potting soil to suit the container. See our container gardening tips page for guidance on planting a container.

Pot shoes are little wooden or clay blocks to insert underneath your container. It encourages good air flow and drainage.

Study the sun light patterns and choose a more or less sheltered spot. Place your container in the right position for further planting.

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Soil for Container Vegetable Gardening

We need to get our soil mixes right before we can plant. Garden soil is not suitable  for containers. Garden soil is the most common reason for failure in container vegetable gardening. Have you discovered what type of soil your vegetables like?

The soil mixture needs to drain well and be porous. It must be able to retain a fair amount of moisture. The soil must be rich in humus  so that the plant roots may grow and absorb valuable nutrients.

Use potting soil, compost, coarse river sand and gravel stones for drainage. I recommend 1 part potting soil mixed with 1 part rich humus. Place this on top of your coarse river sand and gravel. The final soil level should be 20mm below the rim of the container this includes an allowance for compost and mulch.

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General Requirements for Container Vegetable Gardening

Containers dry out quicker than the garden. The soil also heats up much faster. The containers will thus require more water, more frequently. Nutrients in the soil also wash away. Replace the lost nutrients by applying plant food.

A 2cm layer of compost on top of the potting soil (not dug in) provides essential nutrients. Gentle watering will allow the plants to draw the compost in. Don’t forget the mulch right on top!

Several vegetables can be sown directly into the containers. You may also purchase seedlings from your local nursery. Plants in containers are restricted and thy do not reach their full size. They can therefore be planted closer together.

Read the instructions on the seed packet, if you are sowing directly into the container. Spinach, radishes, beets and lettuces are best sown directly into the soil.

Do not over water your container, the plants will die. With seedlings, the first 1 cm of the soil on top must be kept moist. Cover the seedlings with a thin layer of mulch. Use fine, dried grass clippings or crushed dried leaves.

With established plants, the soil should be moist, not waterlogged. Distribute the water evenly when watering.

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Specific Requirements for Vegetables


Runner beans need a firm support to ensure maximum yield and to prevent wind damage. Insert a wooden stake of minimum 1 meter length into the container at the time of planting the seeds. The beans stalks will climb without assistance once it has been guided onto the stake.

Dwarf beans also known as French beans and bush beans, don’t need stakes. They are the most profitable crops for container vegetable gardening. They can be closely spaced and will yield a good crop.

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Beetroot is treated similarly to carrots; however they need to be spaced out more as their roots are thicker. Beetroot leaves can also be used as spinach. This makes beetroot very popular for container vegetable gardening.

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Carrots are excellent for container vegetable gardening as they growth is mainly downward. Make sure that your container is deep enough to accommodate the roots. These plants can also be planted very closely together, provided you feed them regularly. Sow thinly on top of the soil and cover to a depth of 10mm. Mulch with a very thin layer of dried grass.

They like cool growing conditions. Cover the carrot shoulders with soil if they appear. Feed regularly.

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Lettuce from your supermarket can not compare with the crispness and health of those grown from your container vegetable gardening. Lettuce seeds can be individually planted in the position of the final plant. Don’t plant them deeper than 6 mm. You need to carefully monitor the moisture in the container as lettuces need cool moist conditions. Use gravel or bark chip mulch to keep snails away.

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Sprinkle seeds onto the surface of the soil in your container. Cover with a liberal dressing of compost or manure. Germination can take up to 14 days. When onions start growing larger, harvest selectively and use them as spring onions. Leave some to mature for later use. Use fresh seeds every season.

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Peppers are treated similarly to tomatoes. They make an excellent display due to the size shape and color of their fruit. A family’s needs could be met by four well grown plants of the sweet pepper type, and two plants of the spicy (hot) type. Peppers drop their fruit if not nourished adequately.

Sow 3 to 4 seeds 15 to 20 cm apart, 10 to 15 mm deep. Mulch with a fine grass. The yield may be increased by spraying regularly with a fine mist spray of water.

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Pumpkin and cucumbers

Pumpkins and cucumbers are not really suitable for container vegetable gardening. If you want to grow them in containers be aware that they will spread much wider than the container. Place no more than 4 seeds in each container. You should also support any vegetables that will hang in the air, as the plant will not be able to support large free hanging crops.

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Spinach or Swiss Chard

Spinach is another excellent plant  for container vegetable gardening. It can be grown in cooler weather. Plant your seedlings 150 mm apart. When harvesting only a few spinach leaves should be cut off each plant. This will prolong the harvest period. Check regularly for aphids underneath the leaves. Feed the plants regularly, and they will remain productive for at least 4 months.

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Insert stakes into the container when planting the seedlings. Tomatoes are fast growers and need to be staked. Lightly fasten the plant to the stake. Evaluate the need for more support on a weekly basis. This is especially important when the fruit start swelling.

Cut our dead leaves and other leaves in contact with the soil. Leaves should not be watered especially at night. Wet tomato leaves are very susceptible to blight and rust. The high yield makes tomatoes an excellent choice for your container vegetable gardening.

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See how a container herb garden complements your vegetable gardening!

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