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Growing Vegetables in Containers

by Dennis Patton, horticulture agent

Millions of Americans plant vegetable gardens. But oftentimes we hear comments such as, “I don’t have room,” or, “It is just too much work to combat our local soils.” If you are one of those people who can’t see the forest for the trees then I have the solution for you — containers.

Container gardens for flowers have long been popular. Containers are terrific problem solvers because you can control most of the growing conditions. If you can grow a geranium in a container then producing fresh vegetables for the table should be easy.

What you need to grow vegetables in containers
Vegetables in containers have only a few basic requirements. Sunlight might be the only possible limiting factor for vegetables. Crops that produce fruit, such as tomatoes and peppers, will need at least six hours of sunlight daily for best growth. Crops such as lettuce and spinach will grow even in shady areas.

The size of the container is important for success. Small containers in the 1 to 3 gallon range work best for salad crops or single plants of broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage. Three to 10 gallon pots will grow medium size vegetables like green beans, onions and summer squash. Containers larger than 10 gallons will support tomatoes, peppers, and many of the vining crops, such as cucumbers and melons.

The beauty of containers is that you control the soil, fertilizer and water. They should have adequate drainage holes to allow excess water to escape. Containers can range from the highly decorative glazed pots to re-purposed nursery containers.

Good soil is also recommended for success. Containers should be filled with a commercially available potting mix. This provides the right balance of water holding capacity and aeration for good growth. For best growth avoid using soil or dirt from the garden, as it is heavy and does not drain properly.

Container vegetables do require regular fertilization. There are many products available on the market that can be sprinkled into the pot or diluted in water to accomplish a nutrient rich growing media.

Watering is the one task that does require time and effort. During the hot Kansas City summers containers may need to be watered daily. One tip to decrease maintenance is to use larger containers. They are easier to care for because they do not heat up and dry out as quickly.
So you are now out of excuses. Everyone has space and the ability to grow fresh vegetables at home. Whether you start small with a bowl of lettuce, or step up and grow tomatoes and peppers for homemade salsa this summer, vegetable gardening is doable. Join your fellow Americans and plant vegetables, as they will taste so good.

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