Container vegetables versus in-ground ones (Google Alert / eMediaWire)

Already published on my desertification weblog on May 27, 2007

Container vegetables versus in-ground ones (Google Alert / eMediaWire)

May 27, 2007

Posted by willem van cotthem in soil conditioning, container/bottle gardening, horticulture/gardening, organic farming, soil, water. trackback , edit post

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Google Alert for Gardening


Organic Gardening Expert Discovers Vegetables Thrive in Containers And Harvests Often Surpass Results From In-Ground Plants

Container gardens filled with red and green lettuces, or a container that holds yellow tomatoes, purple basil and red peppers can be just as beautiful as a pot of flowers and much more delicious

More and more people are recognizing the benefits of fresh, home-grown organic produce, but at the same time, many of us are running short on space, time and the know-how to tend a successful vegetable garden. Ed Smith, author of The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible, has been growing organic vegetables in his backyard for more than 40 years and has teamed with Gardener’s Supply to offer tips on growing your own tomatoes, cucumbers and vegetables easier and in most cases, faster than in ground plants. In the controlled micro-climate of a container, plants will thrive quickly catching up to plants grown in the ground.

(PRWEB) May 25, 2007 — Growing vegetables in containers is especially relevant since almost every region in the country has experienced a late spring with extra rain and cold temperatures, and many enthusiastic gardeners have have been worried that their ‘grow your own’ plans were thwarted if they haven’t planted by Memorial Day. Is there a solution? Yes, according to Ed Smith, author of the best-selling The Organic Vegetable Gardeners’ Bible. Self-watering containers allow vegetable gardeners–from the casual weekender interested in a tomato plant or two to the very dedicated gardener with limited space–to quickly grow richly producing plants in a controlled, low-maintenance environment.


Container gardens filled with red and green lettuces, or a container that holds yellow tomatoes, purple basil and red peppers can be just as beautiful as a pot of flowers and much more delicious” said Kathy LaLiberte, director of gardening, Gardener’s Supply.

If you are new to growing vegetables in containers, or have had limited success, here are six steps for getting started

Step 1: Selecting a Container
Self-Watering Containers are key to vegetable-growing success because they ensure plants have consistent access to water and nutrients. With Self-Watering Containers, moisture is provided by a water reservoir located beneath the planting area. ……………….

When selecting a planter, be sure to consider the root system of the plant you’ll be growing. (Following this article is a helpful chart with recommended soil depths for healthy root growth.) Plants with large, deep root systems require adequate space for their roots to develop properly.

Step 2: Where to Locate Your Container
Most vegetables require at least six hours of sunlight per day. Salad greens and herbs can usually get by with somewhat less. Tomatoes, peppers, beans and other sun-lovers will appreciate as much sun as they can get. If your yard is short on sun, consider putting your container garden on a Plant Caddy. This will let you move the planter around to catch as much light as possible, as the sun tracks across the sky.

Container-grown vegetables will be happiest in a protected location where the wind can’t batter and dry out their foliage. Clustering potted plants together provides some wind protection and also helps raise humidity levels, keeping plants more productive.

Climbing or vining vegetable plants need the support of a trellis. There are many decorative trellises for containers that are both functional and eye-catching such as the Terrazza Planter Trellis. The trellis should fit securely in a heavy pot or be tied to a railing or some other fixed upright.

Step 3: Choose Your Soil
Do not fill your containers with garden soil or a heavy, store-bought potting soil. Container-grown plants should be planted in a “soilless” blend that will retain lots of moisture and resist compaction. Container Mix is a blend of sphagnum peat, vermiculite and perlite. Water-absorbing polymers …………… help to retain moisture in the soil and keep watering chores to a minimum.

Step 4: Plan Your Watering System
Vegetables require a consistent supply of water to perform their best. Inconsistent moisture causes a range of problems such as blossom drop, poor root development, leaf curling, insect problems, and rot. Again, the best way to ensure your plants always have a consistent supply of water is to use a Self-Watering Container. Filling the reservoir every few days is all that’s required. The plants absorb moisture as they need it.

Using a drip-irrigation system is another option. …………..The company found that when plants are irrigated, they produce significantly higher yields with fewer signs of stress.

Step 5: Always Fertilize for Guaranteed Success
Fertilizer is especially important when you’re growing vegetables in containers. In fact, you just won’t succeed if you don’t use some kind of fertilizer. LaLiberte recommends using a granular organic All-Purpose Fertilizer when planting, and then watering weekly with a water-soluble fertilizers.

There are several reasons fertilizer is particularly important for container-grown plants. First is that the growing medium in a container usually contains few, if any nutrients. This means plants are totally dependent on the gardener for the nutrients they need. Second is that containerized plants are watered frequently, and every time they’re watered, nutrients are washed out of the soil. Third, is that most container gardens pack a lot of plants into a very small space. A weekly application of water-soluble fertilizer makes sure there are enough nutrients to go around.

Step 6: Choose Your Plant Combinations
If you want vegetables be the star of your garden, LaLiberte recommends seeking out some of the newer, more ornamental varieties such as yellow-stemmed Swiss chard, red lettuces and purple broccoli. When combining several different types of plants in one pot, choose some that are upright, and some that are more horizontal or even trailing. LaLiberte also recommends combining plants that have similar needs for moisture and sunlight. The chart below suggests some plants and plant combinations that work well in containers.

Minimum Soil Depths for Healthy Root Growth
4-5 inches: chives, lettuce, radishes, other salad greens, basil, coriander
6-7 inches: bush beans, garlic kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint, thyme
8-9 inches: pole beans, carrots, chard, cucumber, eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary
10-12 inches: beets, broccoli, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass

Best Vegetables for Container Growing
Potatoes, chard, lettuce, cherry and bush tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, summer squash, Asian greens, pole beans

Good Companions in Containers

  • Beans, carrots, squash
  • Eggplant, beans
  • Tomatoes, basil, onions
  • Lettuce, herbs
  • Spinach, chard, onions

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Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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