Not sure what type of container to grow your vegetables in? Don't fret -- typically, you'll care more about this than your plants will.
In general, plants in terra-cotta (clay) need more attention to watering than other types of pots, because of the porous nature of the terra cotta.
Also think about the color. Dark colors absorb heat -- so they may make the soil too warm for some vegetable crops in summer, especially in hot-summer areas.
And avoid containers made of treated wood, as it may contain chemical compounds that could be absorbed by your vegetables.
While your vegetables aren't fussy about the kind of pot they're in, they do care about the potting soil.
As is the case with most other types of container gardens, your vegetables will do best in potting mixes made for containers. Ask at your nursery for a mix designed for use in larger outdoor containers.
Or save money by blending your own container mix. Use equal parts of peat moss, potting soil, and vermiculite, perlite, or clean sand. Fill the containers to within an inch or two of the rim.
To determine how much potting mix you'll need, figure:
- 3 pints of soil per 6-inch pot
- 3 1/2 gallons of mix per 12-inch pot
- 6 1/2 gallons of mix per 20-inch pot
Plant your vegetables in containers the same time you would plant in the garden. Depending on what types of vegetable you want to grow, you can start seeds in your containers, grow transplants from seeds started indoors, or purchase transplants from a garden center.
Here's a hint: Start crops such as beans, corn, carrots, radishes, and spinach, from seeds sown directly in the container.
Regardless of whether you are planting seeds or transplants, thoroughly water the container before you plant. Soak the potting mix completely, then allow it to sit for a few hours to drain excess water.
Plant seeds according to the package directions. Because not all seeds will germinate, plant more than you need, then thin the excess later.
Set transplants at the same level they were growing in their pot (except for tomatoes, which you can strip off their lower leaves and plant them deeper in the container).
After planting, water gently but thoroughly to settle the seeds or transplants. Keep the soil from drying out as fast by mulching with straw, compost, leaf mold, or a similar material.
Continued on page 3: Care Tips for Vegetables in Containers