“Containing” Your Garden
Being able to produce your own food is rewarding but not everyone has a garden, which is why container gardening is a great way to grow herbs and vegetables.
Growing plants in containers is ideal for those who have limited space, have poor garden soil, mobility challenges, or like to move plants around. The other advantage is that you can plant earlier because you are not waiting for garden soil temperatures to warm up or garden soil to be dry enough to work with.
Containers come in all shapes, sizes, and styles making it easy to find one for your particular taste and need. Containers can be made with different materials such as clay, ceramic, wood, plastic, etc, but regardless of what they are made of they should have drainage. Drainage holes are best, but if that is not possible put a good layer of rock in the bottom of the container before filling it with soil. There are also specific containers for growing vegetables .
Strawberry planters are made of breathable fabric, and are tubes or tubs with an open top and openings along the side, to plant strawberries (or other vegetables and herbs). Also available is the ‘potato planter’ made with heavy duty polyethylene. It has access flaps making it easy to harvest potatoes without damaging the plant.
The other thing to look at when choosing a container, is the size. Larger containers are better than small ones. Containers should be at least 20-25 cm deep. Larger containers will hold more and require watering less often.
There is a large variety of vegetables and herbs that grow very well in containers. Generally smaller sized plants grow best in containers but large containers will grow larger vegetables. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and eggplants grow very well in a large pot. We have been growing them in pots at home for over 30 years and have always had a good harvest. Place one plant in a 7 gallon pot, filled with a good quality, well drained soil. You can also plant up a salad container, filled with your favourite leaf lettuce, mesclun, radicchio, etc., and enjoy it for 6-8 weeks. Don’t use head or butter lettuce as these can’t be clipped. A shallow container 20-25 cm will work. When plants are 10-12 cm tall they are ready to be harvested. Simply trim a small section of greens to enjoy. The remaining part of the plant will regrow and be ready to harvest after it has reached the desired height. Eat in sections, and work your way through the container, then start again.
Herb gardens are also good for continuous harvest as many herbs become bushier when they are trimmed. Some of the more popular herbs that grow well in containers are parsley, marjoram, basil, sage, thyme, oregano, tarragon, dill rosemary, lavender, and chives. The nice thing about growing herbs in a container is that the container can be brought indoors for the winter, and still be enjoyed. Bring containers in before temperatures go below freezing.
To grow vegetables in a container successfully, place containers in an area where it will receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Do not place frost tender plants outside until all threat of frost has passed, unless you are able to protect plants from frost by moving the container indoors or by covering it.
Maintenance includes watering when soil feels dry to the touch and regularly fertilizing . There are a number of different types of fertilizer available for different plants, so choose what is best for you. Lettuce and leafy crops require a well balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20. Tomatoes are heavy feeders so use a fertilizer that is high in Phosphorous (middle number of the three numbers listed on fertilizer containers) as it is the phosphorous that encourages flowers and fruit. There are fertilizers specific for tomatoes such as ‘Off the Vine’ which have added Calcium to help prevent blossom rot.
Containers are not only for flowers, they can be for veggies and herbs too!
Jos Van Hage owns and operates two Art Knapp Home and Garden Centres in Prince George:
- Highway 16 West at Kimball road
- Highway 97 North at Northwood Pulpmill Road