American horticulturist Liberty Hyde Bailey once said, ‘A garden requires patient labour and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfil good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.’
The rewards of your labour and diligence come when you walk among your plants, harvesting fresh food that came from your very hand. For those with limited space or poor soil conditions, growing your own food can be challenging. But don’t give up. Raising vegetables in garden containers is easy and you can reap the rewards all year long.
Growing crops in garden containers is quickly becoming popular for apartment dwellers and those with limited space. Any balcony, patio or even a sunny indoor area can become a potential growing zone. Even homeowners who have an outdoor garden, but are burdened with less than perfect soil will benefit from container gardening for the following reasons:
Better control over growing conditions
Garden containers allow you to tailor the soil, amendments and watering to the specific needs of each plant and can minimize the spread of disease among plants.
They are portable
Containers can be easily moved throughout your yard or growing area to follow the sun as the seasons change.
Buying containers in bulk is a cheap way to maximize your growing potential. Inexpensive black plastic growing containers can be found at most home and garden centres and even better deals can be found online. What’s more, any commercial soil you buy will be used more efficiently. A lot of soil space is wasted in traditional row gardening and is used to fill beds that are under-utilized.
Increase your success by following these garden container tips
Choosing the right containers
Before buying, think about the types of crops you want to grow. Small herb plants will do well in smaller containers. However, larger crops such as broccoli, corn or summer squash, or crops with large root systems, will require more room to grow. Thinking ahead will prevent you from having to transplant a vegetable that has outgrown its container.
Location, location, location
The availability of sunlight should dictate the placement of your containers. The majority of vegetables need six-eight hours of sunlight every day and the placement of your containers plays a vital role in the survival and health of your crops.
In milder winter climates, such as the southwest, setting your containers against an outside wall of your home may provide the added protection and warmth needed to grow a bounty of winter vegetables, such as Brussels sprouts, carrots and cauliflower.
Soil is a dirty word
Choosing the right soil will give your vegetables a healthy foundation for optimal growth. Garden containers require a soil mix that has good moisture retention, especially during the summer, when you may be required to water several times per day.
You may consider blending a compost mix with commercial container soil, and make sure your soil resists compaction. It is important to make sure that your containers have adequate drainage holes, which will help prevent root rot and allow air to circulate through the soil.
Water is life
Containers generally retain more heat and therefore require diligent, yet measured watering. When positioning your containers, take into account how much direct sunlight each plant needs, how dry the soil may become throughout the day, and your ability to maintain a watering schedule.
Drip irrigation systems are ideal for garden containers and drip system conversion kits are available, which will allow you to easily covert an existing pop-up sprinkler to a drip line.
Don’t forget to fertilize
Due to containers requiring frequent, repeated watering, the fertilizer in the soil may get diluted faster than in-ground soils. Using commercial fertilizers sprays or fortified soils, and following the instructions specific to containers, will provide your plants with a healthy supply of nutrients and provide strong growth.
English philosopher Sir Francis Bacon once said, ‘God Almighty first planted a garden. And indeed, it is the purest of human pleasures.’ Nothing beats the satisfaction of growing your own fruits and vegetables and sharing your surplus with friends and neighbours. Regardless of the season, growing in garden containers allows you to optimize your results and it’s easy to do.