Vegetable Container Gardening

Tips and Tricks for Vegetable Container Gardening Enthusiasts

More tips on transplanting your vegetable container garden April 14, 2008

Filed under: getting started,Soil,Tips and Tricks,Transplanting — vegetablecontainergardening @ 6:43 pm

At some point in all of our vegetable container gardens, it will become necessary to transplant some of the plants into larger containers. Whether you are transplanting seedlings or a mature plant that needs some breathing room, the general rules still apply.

From Container to Container

Transplanting takes some practice, but is not that difficult. My main objective when transplanting is to do it fast but efficiently. The goal is to allow the roots of the plant to be exposed for the least amount of time possible. To start the transplant, make sure you have everything ready before hand. This includes having the new container all ready to go – the soil should be already mixed and moistened. It is also a good idea to put all tools that you might need within easy reach. If it is a seedling, before transplanting, make sure the plant is about the right age to transplant. For most plants, this means a few weeks old, but since some plants take more time than others to become sturdy enough to be transplanted, it’s always a good idea to check.

Remove the plant from it’s container by carefully clearing the dirt away from it’s roots. Try not to damage the roots. Although intuition seems to say otherwise, handling the plant by the leaves is the best way to perform the transplant. This is because if you break a leaf or a branch, the plant will be able to recover easily. However, injuring the stem could damage the plant so badly that it might not be able to feed itself.

When placing the plant in it’s new container, try to set it at the same depth as it was in the old one. Some plants, like tomatoes, can germinate roots from their stems so you can plant them deeper than they were originally. But for most plants, at the same level is fine.

Once the plant is in, cover with soil and water lightly, do not completely saturate the soil right away

From Indoors to Outdoor

Once your plants become sturdier, you might want to move them outdoors. But if you’ve started your plants from seeds indoors, you won’t want to put them outside right away. They need time to acclimate, a process called “hardening off.” It usually takes about a week or two to complete. Once again, make sure you are putting the plants outside in the proper season. For many of them, this means after the last frost but each plant is different so be sure to check. It is also not advisable to start during a heatwave. To start the hardening off process, place your plant outside for an hour or two on the first day. Make sure it is in a relatively sheltered spot – meaning not in full or direct sunlight and protected from wind, rain, extreme heat, animals, etc. The next day, keep it outside for a little longer. Then continue to increase the amount of time and sunlight as the days go by until the plant is able to handle being outdoors around the clock.


Keep Dogs and Other Critters Out of Your Vegetable Container Garden! April 6, 2008

Filed under: Pets,Tips and Tricks — vegetablecontainergardening @ 2:46 pm
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Photo courtesy of

There’s nothing more disheartening then putting so much hard work into your vegetable container garden only to have the local animals – dogs, cats, rabbits, raccoons, deer or other furry creatures – ruin it by digging, eating or urinating on your plants. Here are some tips as to how to keep them out! Note: These methods will also work in a conventional garden as well.

I like to use natural methods of keeping animals away before resorting to a commercial spray. Some commercial sprays now a days are organic and safe to use around pets and children, check the labels or ask the staff at your local nursery or garden store what they would recommend. I never recommend using mothballs or moth crystals to keep animals out of a garden. Although they are highly effective, they are extremely toxic to both pets and children.

The best method of keeping animals out of your garden is to either install a fence, chicken wire or keep your containers indoors. However this isn’t always a practical solution for gardeners so here are some more safe and natural ways to keep those critters out:

Spice it up! Sprinkling spices such as Red chili powder, Cayenne Pepper or freshly ground Black Pepper will help keep most animals out of the garden. Most animals will have the same reaction as we do to these spices – sneezing and watery eyes – so once they catch a whiff, it’s likely they will stay away. Re-sprinkle after a rain.

A method I came across to keep cats away is to sprinkle orange peels and coffee grounds in the garden. Cats apparently hate the smell of citrus. Other types of citrus peels will probable work too, and there are some citrus sprays on the market as well. Don’t drink coffee? Stop by Starbucks* – most branches give away free used coffee grounds for composting purposes, but they will work for this method as well. My favorite thing about using the peels and coffee grinds is that not only do they keep the animals out, but they also provide your garden with a fertilizer boost!

Another technique that will work for most animals (dogs, cats, deer, rabbits and raccoons) is to use a vinegar spray on your plants.

This is the most unusual approach I’ve heard of, but I figure it’s worth a shot. Fill empty clear bottles (soda bottles, water bottles etc – take off the wrappers first) with water and place around the perimiter of your garden or yard, approximately every 3 feet or so. I’ve never tried this, but many people claim it works. What have you got to lose?

Hope these tips were helpful. If you have any additional methods, please comment and let us know!

*Disclaimer – Vegetable Container Gardening is not affiliated with or promoting Starbucks in any way. The sole purpose in mentioning them in this post is to provide readers with information that we think is important. That’s all, don’t read too much into it.


Seeding and Transplanting Your Vegetable Container Garden April 3, 2008

baby-plants.jpgPhoto courtesy of

So you’ve gotten all your raw materials (containers, soil, seeds, etc) and you’re raring to get your vegetable container garden started. One way for an easy start is to get some seedlings or clippings from your local nursery or garden center and plant them, as they are, into some small containers. This is a really good option if you are starting slightly behind the optimum time of year to germinate seeds. If it’s warm enough, you can also put your vegetable plants outside right away. However, pay close attention to the weather and environment, your seedlings probably won’t survive a late frost, pouring rain, burning sun rays or animals munching on them.

Other people like to watch plants turn from seeds into tiny baby plants right in front of their eyes. I have to say it is quite magical, seeing those tiny green sprouts against the soft black dirt. If you do decide to choose this route, here are a few important things to consider.

Read the seed packages carefully and follow the sowing directions. Not all seeds are equal, some have more specific needs than others. Cover the seeds with about ¼ inch to ½ inch of soil. You want to provide enough soil to allow for proper germination, but you don’t want the soil to be too heavy so that they have to struggle too hard to break the surface.

Start your seeds in a warm area. The best place is probably indoors – they are safe from the elements and animals, and you can maintain a constant temperature. I usually wait about 4 to 8 weeks before I transplant the seedlings, depending on their size and sturdiness. Another way to tell if the seedlings are ready to transplant is when they have 2 to 3 leaves on them.

If you are planting several varieties of vegetables at the same time, you will want to label each kind. I like using those little colored dot stickers. I write the name of the plant on each one, or use a different color for each kind.


Vegetable Container Gardening Soil March 31, 2008

Filed under: getting started,Soil — vegetablecontainergardening @ 6:53 pm

Choosing the right kind of soil can be tricky when it comes to vegetable container gardening. What works well in a conventional garden won’t necessarily be a recipe for success in your container garden. This is usually because traditional soil is too heavy for the small containers. Container soil needs to be more lightweight to allow water to drain through and enough air in the soil so that plants can breathe properly. Too  heavy a soil can cause your plants to drown or suffocate – or both! Yikes.

So how do you know what kind of soil to choose? Most container gardeners agree that a “synthetic” or “soil-less” potting mixtures are a good option to go with, especially if you are just starting out. They are lightweight and allow for air circulation and drainage. They also often have fertilizer in them too, which will help kick start a beginners’ garden. That way you don’t have to worry about trying to figure out how often to fertilize – at least for the first few weeks! These soil-less mixtures can be purchased at a local nursery or garden center.

Another option for those who are more experienced gardeners or thrifty frugal gardeners is to make your own mix. You can achieve a nice container garden soil by mixing equal parts sand, loamy garden soil and peat moss. Compost would be another great mixing agent – a half compost half soil mix would also work well for most purposes. Sand can also be added to the soil/compost mixture, but make sure to check the seed packet before adding.


Coffee Filter March 24, 2008

Filed under: Tips and Tricks — vegetablecontainergardening @ 7:42 pm
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Here’s a quick vegetable container gardening tip:

Putting a coffee filter at the bottom of your container will allow water to drain out the bottom, but keep all the soil inside the pot!

You could also use things like a piece of window screen, cheesecloth and tulle for the same purpose.


Getting Started – Reusing Containers

Filed under: getting started — vegetablecontainergardening @ 10:39 am
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One of the most commonly asked questions from people about to embark on vegetable container gardening is “Can I reuse containers?”

 As we pointed out in an earlier post, one can use just about anything as a container for gardening. There’s really no limit to the stuff you can come up with once you start thinking about it! I like to use gallon ice cream containers – they are perfect for starting small plants.

However, whether they have been used for food, or as a container for last season’s plants, you should always wash your containers before planting anything new in them. Bacteria and other disease carrying organisms can linger on the surfaces of your containers, ultimately causing your plants to sicken and possibly die.

To prevent this there is a very simple way to clean and disinfect your containers. First rinse off any dirt or debree still on the interior and exterior of the container (or, if it was a food container like an ice-cream bucket or yogurt container, wash with soap and water to remove food particles.) Then immerse containers in a solution that is 1 part bleach to 9 parts water. Let soak for at least 30 minutes. This will kill any remaining bacteria and disease carrying organisms. Finally, dry with a clean cloth, or let air dry. That’s it!


Vegetable Container Gardening – Getting Your Garden Started March 22, 2008

Filed under: getting started,Uncategorized — vegetablecontainergardening @ 11:10 am
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The best thing about vegetable container gardening is that you can do it anywhere! If you live in an apartment, co-op or just have a yard that’s too small, but still want to grow a delicious crop of vegetables every year, don’t despair – vegetable container gardening is for you!

Finding your Containers
The first thing you need to start your vegetable container garden are containers. You can stop by your local nursery or stores like Target*, Walmart,* etc, or go online to get some suitable containers. There is a wide variety of containers available ranging from the very simple to the outrageously ornate. Think about what kind of style you want for your garden and then select containers to match. Conversely, if you’d rather go a simpler (and cheaper) route, almost anything can be used for a container if you use your imagination. Old flower pots, milk containers (plastic gallon or paper boxes) with the tops cut off, bird baths – basically anything that will hold some dirt in it! The sky is the limit. However, there is one thing that all your containers should have and that is a hole in the bottom to provide proper drainage. Otherwise your plants might drown!

Once you’ve got some containers, the next thing you need is some soil. I would recommend purchasing soil because it is going to have all the vitamins and nutrients you need to start your vegetables off strong. Another option is getting soil from a friend’s compost pile if you don’t have one of your own. Some cities also offer free compost, check with your local municipality. If you do have a small patch of land you could also take soil from your yard, but you run the risk of it being contaminated by undesirable pollutants – like gasoline, PCB’s and who knows what else! You will most likely also need to fertilize this soil in some way.

Tip: Many container gardeners recommend putting some rocks or other filler at the bottom of your containers to create some empty space which will allow excess water to drain out of the pot more easily. It will also cut down on the amount of soil you use – thus saving money as well. Bonus!

Putting it all together
The final step in creating your vegetable container garden is to decide what kind of vegetables you would like to grow. I would recommend planting vegetables you most enjoy eating. No sense in planting turnips if you hate the taste of them! Some vegetables that grow easily and heartily in containers include tomatoes, cucumbers, cabbage and squash. You can purchase tiny saplings or seeds to get your plants started. One thing you might want to consider, depending on the climate in which you live and the time of year you are starting your garden is keeping your plants indoors for the first couple of weeks. This will protect them from the elements such as frost, wind and rain while they are getting their start.

What else can I grow?
Container gardening is not limited to vegetables. You can also grow a wide variety of flowers, trees, herbs and fruits in your garden. Flowers can make your garden pop with color and fragrance. Small trees can provide shade where it’s needed. These are just some examples – be creative!

*disclaimer – Vegetablecontainergardening is not affiliated with any of these stores and does not promote them except to suggest where container gardening materials might be purchased.