This story was originally titled "Potted Produce" in the May 2010 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!
Are you the kind of person who loves fresh-picked veggies from a garden in the summertime – but doesn't have a garden? No worries: You can grow your own vegetables in containers that take up very little space. Growing vegetables in pots and planters brings the taste of fresh homegrown fare to just outside your kitchen door. It's easy – the same basic principles apply as when you're growing veggies in garden plots.
Step 1: This is the fun part – deciding what to grow. I recommend you grow what you eat. The vegetables I would grow in containers include tomatoes, cucumbers, radishes, some lettuces and peppers (hot, of course), along with my favourite herbs: basil, Italian parsley, rosemary and oregano. I also suggest growing vegetables that continue to produce after first harvest, such as tomatoes, peppers and bush beans.
Step 2: Ensure the area gets at least five hours of direct light each day. The more direct light the plants get, the better their performance.
Step 3: Container selection depends on the types of vegetables you desire. Vegetables with shallow roots – such as lettuce, radishes and herbs – can grow in as little as 20 centimetres (8 inches) of soil depth. More productive plants, such as tomatoes, bush beans and squash, need deeper and larger pots.
Tip: You need to water plants in pots more often than those planted in the ground. The bigger the pot, the more moisture it can retain.
Step 4: Outdoor garden soil is just too heavy for pots and will result in root rot and drowning (on the same note, ensure containers have proper drainage). When choosing soil, go for a soilless potting mix made for container gardens to ensure that plants will have healthy, happy roots. My favourite is Nature Mix Container Soil, a certified organic mix.
Step 5: You must fertilize vegetables in containers, as frequent watering leaches out nutrients. Varieties of fertilizer are endless, from time-release to a selection of water-soluble ones. A fish- or seaweed-based fertilizer makes a good organic alternative to a chemical one.
Step 6: Don't crowd the plants; the right number of plants in the right size pot with adequate light is the recipe for success. Overplanting results in a weak harvest and, ultimately, dead plants. Plant tags as well as seed packages will detail the spacing needs.
Page 1 of 2 - Learn Frankie's top five picks for container veggies on page 2.
Frankie's fab 5 container veggies
1. F1 'Tumbler' tomato:
A perfect sweet cherry tomato, easily grown in hanging baskets, that’s one of the first varieties to ripen.
2. 'Salad Bush' cucumber: This compact bush variety of cucumber is ideal for pots, patios and decks, and is ready to harvest 57 days after sowing.
3. 'Salad Bowl' lettuce:
The ultimate leaf lettuce for containers, with tender, frilly leaves; ready to harvest within 45 days. Keep extra seeds to replant in pots for multiple crops.
4. F1 'Hansel' eggplant:
This miniature eggplant produces finger-size clusters of fruit up to 10 days before other varieties.
5. 'Kentucky Wonder' bush bean: An heirloom green bean variety in bush form (I recommend a large container or window box) that matures in 56 days.
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