Basil in my container herb garden
Container Gardening,  Edible Gardening

Container Vegetable Gardening Tips

Usually, this time of year, I am monitoring my garden, watering and looking forward to a June harvest; however, due to breaking a bone in my foot at the end of April, I have been limited on what I can do.

My plot garden never was tilled and nothing was planted.   Until recently, it was not even mowed.

I am grateful I purchased and planted several tomato plants, some herbs, a pepper plant and some lettuce before I injured myself.

Doctors told me, I broke a bone attached to two tendons in my foot; resulting in an extra long time of healing.

After four weeks of limited mobility, struggling with a lower leg cast; yesterday, I graduated to a Velcro, open-towed flat shoe.

Doctors still advise against walking very much.  Thank goodness, I am able to water the container plants.

Benefits to Container Gardening

Basil growing in a ceramic potContainers, for growing vegetables and herbs, are ideal when space is limited, or accessibility is limited – as in my case.

Almost any kind of container can be used for growing vegetables, however, the container MUST HAVE HOLES IN THE BOTTOM, to allow drainage and prevent the plant from “wet-feet.”

Make sure to consider how tall your plant will grow.  Most roots grow as deep, as the plant is tall.  I made a mistake with my basil plants.  The containers are too shallow, for as tall as the plant will grow. 

Don’t want to buy containers?  Back to the Roots has several products to grow tomatoes, mushrooms and herbs on your kitchen counter, in their own special container.  The mushrooms even grow outside the side of the box…

Back to the roots kitchen collection  

Back to the Roots send you a cherry tomato plant in a glass jar with a slow-drip watering funnel.  If you have very limited space, I suggest giving them a try.

I use plastic and ceramic pots for all my container gardening.  All have holes in the bottom.  I add a few rocks in the bottom of each pot, just large enough to cover the drainage holes.  The rocks prevent the drain holes from being clogged with soil.   

Soil for Container Gardening

Foothills CompostAnother benefit to container gardening is YOU, the grower, can control the soil.

Good quality soil is the key to productive plants.   For herbs and vegetables, it is important NOT to use “moisture retentive” soils! 

You want water to filter down, through the roots and drain out the bottom of the plant.  

I have success by mixing two components:  Miracle Grow Potting Mix and Foothills Compost.  

In a wheelbarrow, mix 1/3 of a bag of Foothills Compost to 1/2 a bag of Miracle Grow Potting Mix.

Make sure all clumps of the compost are broken up.

Vegetables take a lot more out of the soil than flowering plants. Using and keeping healthy, fertile soil means healthy productive plants.

hands holding compostWant to make your own compost?

Read how here: Composting at home



Seeds verses Seedlings

container pot of thyme seeds germinating
My thyme seeds are germinating. They have been in full sun for about 14 days.

Typically I plant seedlings in containers; however, this year, I tried chives and thyme from seed.  

My grandpa always said never to plant seeds outside until after May 1st.  Soil must be warm and no danger of frost.

All other vegetables and herbs were seedlings when I planted them them at the end of April.

Growing from seed has its advantages.

  1. If purchased from a reputable supplier, seeds are viable and should germinate successfully.
  2. They will be true to type, not a hybrid variation created by cross-pollination.
  3. It is a cheap option.

Just make sure the soil outside is warm enough for seed germination.  You can warm the soil artificially, using black polythene, cloches or frames.

Read more about starting a garden from seed by clicking here.

I find buying seedlings is easier and a harvest comes quicker, especially with tomato plants.  I get anxious once I see a flower.

Avoid planting on a full-sun day.  Seedlings are already going to be stressed when you transfer them, heat will only making it worse.

Thoroughly watering the plant before moving them eases the release from the original pot.

Depth of planting tomatoes
Tomato plants should be planted deeper than most vegetables.

Simple steps for planting a vegetable seedling:

  1. Fill your container half full with your mixed soil.
  2. Press the soil down till it is lightly compacted.
  3. Fill the rest of the container, till 3-inches from the top with soil
  4. Using your hands, dig a small hole, about the same depth as the soil of your seedling.
  5. Keep soil intact around seedling and place in container.
  6. Place seedling at the same depth as the original pot and push soil up and around the plant, lightly compacting the soil.
  7. Water the soil surrounding the newly transplanted seedling.

If planting a tomato plant: make sure to pinch off any lower tiered leaves off the plant, in order to expose more roots growing along the stem of the plant. The seedling should be planted deeper than it was in the original container, up to just below the remaining leaves. 

Although some books recommend adding mulch to the surface of the soil, I have never added mulch.  It is not necessary to maintain a healthy, productive vegetable. 

Water and Fertilizer for Container Gardening

Checking your container gardening often for moisture is crucial, especially during a heatwave, such as the one I am enduring now.

A good way to estimate if your plant needs water, and it is not visibly evident, stick your finger down into the soil, if it feels damp, it does not need watering; however, it the soil is loose and dry – then water – making sure not to drown the plant.

I made the mistake of planting my “Sweet Basil” in shallow pots.  Now, they require water almost daily.

Don’t think you must water all your plants at the same time.  

Typically, I only add fertilizer to my tomato plants – and that is only if I notice the leaves wilting or turning yellow from lack of nutrients.

Spider mites and aphids are my biggest issue with container gardening. 

To fight these insects, I make my own concoction of a few drops of dish washing liquid and water, in a spray bottle.  Make sure to spray the underneath side of leaves, where these insects like to hide.

What are some problems in YOUR container garden?

Share in the comments!

For my vegetables to be planted for only about five – six weeks, I am already getting some signs of life.

Do you already have tomatoes or basil?  Check out my easy  bruschetta crostini recipe here!

Roma tomatoes
Small prospects of Roma tomatoes
Tomatoes growing
I think these are Better Boy Tomatoes

Give me your thoughts...