Here's a little-known secret: Most vegetables actually grow really well in containers. And by picking the right plants, you can grow a fair amount of food in just a few pots!
Most vegetables do best in full sun (at least 6 hours of direct sun a day). Tomatoes, peppers, and other varieties that often get diseases usually stay healthiest in an open spot with plenty of air circulation.
If you live in a cold climate, you can give your garden a head start by placing the pots near a south-facing wall.
If you live in a warmer part of the country, be cautious about setting your containers on a cement patio, which may grow too warm for optimum growth. Put larger containers on dollies or carts; you can move them to various locations depending on the conditions at the time.
Happily, most vegetables aren't fussy about what kind of container they grow in. The only basic requirements is that the container is large enough to hold the plant and that it has drainage holes so excess water can escape.
When it comes to size, the bigger the pot is, the better, especially for beginners. The reason for this is that large pots hold more soil -- and thus, hold moisture longer so you don't have to water as much.
Look for containers that are at least 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep. Large flowerpots, half barrels, plastic-lined bushel baskets, window boxes, planters, and large containers (like 5-gallon buckets) work just fine.
Some vegetables need particularly large containers. Standard-size tomatoes and vining crops, such as cucumbers, will do best for you in containers 20 inches or more across. Peppers like pots at least 16 inches in diameter. In a pinch, most will still grow in a 5-gallon or larger container.
If your container does not have drainage holes, you will need to add several. Use a 1/4-inch drill bit to create holes in the bottom or along the sides near the bottom. Line the bottom of the pot with screen or landscape cloth to prevent soil from spilling out of the holes.
Plants that grow tall or produce vines -- like tomatoes and cucumbers -- will be more productive if grown up a support. A wire cage, inserted into the container at planting time, will do. Use larger, heavier containers for trellised plants to minimize the risk of tipping.
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