For those who may not have the space for a vegetable or herb garden, container gardening is an ideal solution. Even if you have a vegetable garden, containers can be used to grow certain specialty vegetables or herbs that may have been left out when planning your garden. Container gardens are perfect for patios or balconies that receive at least 8 hours of sun each day.
Planning your planting is as important for container gardening as it is for a larger garden. For example, tomatoes, peppers and squash are typically larger plants with deep root systems that will require a larger container in which to grow. Smaller plants such as lettuce and strawberries are ideally suited for more shallow containers. Larger plants generally prefer a container depth of 18" to 24", while smaller plants will be right at home in containers with a depth of 12".
With that in mind, the shape and style of the container should be whatever best fits your available space and personal tastes. Many styles and sizes of containers are available, ranging from oak half-barrel planters to a vast assortment of wooden, plastic and terra-cotta planters. Be sure that your container of choice has holes in the bottom to allow for proper drainage.
Before planting your container garden, cover the drainage holes with a piece of fine mesh or window screen to keep the soil in and let the water drain out. Use a good commercial potting mix to fill your containers. Garden soils often become hard and compacted in containers and should not be used. Potting mixes are typically rich in nutrients and are fast-draining.
When planting your container gardens, remember to stake or trellis plants like tomatoes, squash and cucumbers to allow them to grow vertically and give your smaller plants more room to grow. Containers can be planted in cuisine themes or as a collection of favorites. For example, a half-barrel planter could contain a tomato of your choice, an eggplant, leaf lettuce, head lettuce and arugula. Large fruits like watermelon are difficult to grow on a trellis but, if you have enough room, they can be allowed to sprawl out of the container. There is no right or wrong combination for container gardens, so keep your container sizes in mind and be creative.
Remember to fertilize your container gardens every 2 to 3 weeks with a water-soluble fertilizer for vegetable gardens. Water your containers when the top 2 to 3 inches of soil becomes dry.