Vegetable Container Gardening

Tips and Tricks for Vegetable Container Gardening Enthusiasts

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.


Getting Started – Reusing Containers March 24, 2008

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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

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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.