If you are an urban organic gardener, the majority of your plants will probably be grown in pots or containers. You may want the containers used for growing plants in the front of your home and in the formal sitting areas to look smart and increase curb appeal. The appearance of those used for container vegetable gardening in the growing areas that are subject to less scrutiny can be a little more unconventional.
New containers do not necessarily have to be invested in when planning a container vegetable garden – anything that can hold soil can grow a plant. For many, keeping costs down and stretching the budget is one of the goals of container vegetable gardening and recycling containers can help greatly in achieving that goal.
Become a proficient urban organic gardener. Use these ideas for container choices and preparation when planting a container vegetable garden this summer.
All Types of Containers
Containers can be bought, built or recycled. Just use what you have on hand or what speaks to your inner creative self.
The only criterion is that a container should be deep and wide enough to support the roots of the intended plant. Small plants, like herbs, can grow in 6-inch deep and wide containers but larger plants will need larger containers.
Many recycle-minded gardeners use old tires and cracked 5-gallon plastic buckets as planting containers. A 3-stack of old car tires makes an ideal potato bed and a cracked bucket supports a tomato plant with ease. As long as the recycled container has not been used to hold toxic chemicals and has sufficient drainage holes in the bottom, then it can be used to grow vegetable plants.
If you want to grow larger vegetables, such as potatoes and carrots, but don’t have any items that are suitable for recycling or re-purposing, there are some excellent grow bag kits available.
Planting containers may be constructed from new or recycled lumber and customized to fit your outdoor space. Wooden planters with 2-3 tiers can be used to increase vertical growing space and may incorporate some seating.
Window boxes and hanging planters increase the amount of usable growing space for the urban organic gardener. Both of these planter types enhance the appearance of your home and make plant-care easy.
Some Thoughts on Choosing Container Materials
There are a few things you need to consider about the material that you may decide to use for your containers.
Black plastic will absorb and hold heat, which is great for seed-starting but not so good for mature plants. In general, black containers will require plants to be watered more often otherwise the roots may overheat.
Terracotta containers break easily and pull moisture from the soil. They are great for growing succulents but not for growing vegetable plants. If you like the appearance of terracotta, plant your vegetables in a smaller ceramic, wood, or plastic container and then place that inside of the terracotta planter.
Preparation of Your Containers
It is essential to start with clean containers and to make sure the container has plenty of drainage holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain away. Otherwise, your plants may drown. At least 4 holes will be needed at the bottom of each container to ensure proper drainage.
Place coffee filters in the bottom of small containers and a sheet of newspaper in the bottom of large containers. This will prevent the potting soil from leaching out when plants are watered. On top of this place a few pebbles or some broken pottery to promote good drainage. Then add your choice of potting soil. Use a good quality potting soil that contains compost. Compost will provide instant food for plants plus continue to feed the plants during the growing season. Compost also helps prevent soil compaction.
If you are repotting plants, place them in the potting soil at the same depth they were in the original container. Finally, water the plants and add a 2-inch layer of organic mulch on top of the soil to help retain moisture.
The Best Plant Types to Grow in Containers
Vegetable plants come in dwarf varieties and are well-suited to life in a container. Dwarf varieties of plants produce the same full-sized vegetables but on smaller plants. Beans, peas, cucumbers, carrots, eggplants, peppers, and tomatoes are some popular dwarf plants that grow well in containers.
These dwarf vegetable plants also produce attractive blooms and attract pollinators, making them ideal plants for use on your patio or deck.
For the urban organic gardener, container vegetable gardening is a great way to use the available outdoor space, for growing fresh food, with minimal effort. Once the containers are planted, add water daily and enjoy the view until harvest time. Blooms, birds, butterflies, and fresh food can all be yours with a container garden.
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