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Growing Vegetables in Containers

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Even if you don't have the garden space for a vegetable garden, you can grow a variety of veggie plants in containers. This is a guide about growing vegetables in containers.
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July 8, 2014

My wife and I lived in a house for 45 years with a large garden in the back yard area, We loved to garden and enjoy the produce that we grew each summer. As we became older and had to move into a high rise apartment, with a outdoor balcony, we decided to still enjoy a smaller but productive garden out on the balcony of our 16th floor apartment. I purchased 12 plastic containers and 12 bags of black earth soil. Then I purchased some small tomato plants from a nearby nursery, some lettuce, onion, and radish seed. After planting and watering on a daily basis, our garden started to grow and we are now enjoying the fruits of our labor.

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August 14, 2008

Yes you can! This is a picture of my deck vegetable garden - all in pots. This is not my first year to do this, but this is the first time I have had so much (the squirrels usually dig up the seeds before they even get started). What you see are tomatoes, green and yellow beans, cucumbers, yellow squash, and zucchini. I have several plants of each. I am looking forward to making and freezing soup, dessert breads, and pasta sauce - not to mention what will be eaten straight from the garden. It is possible to have a great, productive garden without too much space or work.

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By Marie from West Dundee, IL

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September 11, 20081 found this helpful

Here is my husband's "veggie garden on the deck", built entirely from recycled pallets. Isn't he clever, we are growing lettuce, cabbage, onions, carrots, and spinach!

By Jen from VIC, Australia

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Comments

March 19, 20120 found this helpful
Top Comment

Your husband did a very nice job.

For anyone out there wanting to use pallets for gardening there are several types of treatments used on pallets, you want to make sure you use the heat treated types when growing your veggies.

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October 25, 20060 found this helpful

Question:

My husband and I recently moved to an apartment. I am seeking ideas for inexpensive vegetable patio gardening. There isn't much direct sunlight on our patio.

Hardiness Zone: 8a

Michelle from Dallas, TX

Answer:

Michelle,

Growing vegetables on your patio certainly doesn't need to be expensive. The lack of sunlight, however, could prove to be a problem. For successful growth, most vegetables will need a minimum of 5 hours of direct sunlight a day. Some will need even more. "Leafy" vegetables (cabbage, lettuce) will tolerate the least amount of light, but vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots will need more sun. You'll have to experiment to see what grows best. To maximize the light you have, use strategically placed shiny materials and light colored rocks around your containers to reflect light back onto the plants.

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The most inexpensive way to start vegetables is from seed. Varieties labeled "patio, bush, or dwarf" are often bred specifically for container gardening. Saving seeds from year to year will cut down on expenses even further, but you'll need to start with heirloom seeds and avoid hybrids if you want offspring true to the parent plants.

Just about anything that can hold a soil can be fashioned into a container: pails, trashcans, dishpans, plastic detergent or cat litter containers (cut down), wooden or wicker baskets, or even old leather or rubber boots. I like containers made from plastic materials, even though they tend to deteriorate over time with repeated sun exposure. They don't dry out as fast a terra cotta, transfer heat or rust like metal, and you can usually recycle them when you're done using them. If you use plastic containers, try not to spend much on them. Crops with shallow roots, like radishes, beets and onions, will grow just fine in old cake pans. Provide cages or trellises for climbers like beans, peas and cucumbers to save space, or plant them in hanging baskets and let their vines trail downward. If you don't have anything suitable on hand, shop around at flea markets, rummage sales or dollar stores. Make sure your containers have adequate drainage holes on the bottom.

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In regards to a growing medium, plan on using a very light soil or a soil-less mix-something that will drain rapidly, yet hold nutrients and keep the plant's roots consistently moist. You'll need to water your vegetables daily and feed them frequently with a 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion.

Ellen

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Comments

September 11, 20060 found this helpful
Top Comment

Although most vegetables grow best in direct sun, I wouldn't rule anything out until I've tried it. Remember, some varieties will do better than others too. Once you find one that does well, if it's an heirloom, just save the seed for next time. If it's not an heirloom, make a note of that variety, so you'll be able to look for it next season. Mix varities and grow smaller veggies around the taller ones in the same container. Plant a patio tomato plant, some garlic, and some lettuce or radishes with a marigold in the container too. A pot of herbs would be a nice addition to any kitchen. Use old plant pots and large tin cans too. Staggered sizes will look nice and you'll get more food. Adding flowers will give the patio some interest, and remember that some flowers can be eaten. Remember to water the containers daily, they dry out faster than a normal garden will.

The biggest expense will be the containers. Have you thought of using 50 gallon plastic drum containers? Many soda pop manufacturers will sell them to you very inexpensively. They can be cut in half for two containers of a great size. 5-gallon buckets also work well. Check with restaurants and/or fast food places. They often buy pickles and other stuff in them, and will give them to you rather than throw them out. Make sure that you poke holes in the bottom and place stones, used aluminum cans, styrofoam packing peanuts, or something else in the bottom for drainage. If the plastic containers are a strange color, you can paint them with special paint for plastic.

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By guest (Guest Post)
September 12, 20060 found this helpful
Top Comment

To increase the light around your plants, place mirrors or aluminum foil (or any other reflective surface) behind them. Good luck!

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By 4 found this helpful
May 20, 2014

I hate always trying to tie strings to hold my plants so I used some coil I had to place over wooden plant stakes to encourage my peas to climb up on it.

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February 18, 20160 found this helpful

This is a guide about selecting the right sized containers for growing vegetables. Choosing the right sized container for growing your veggies is important to the overall success of your harvest.

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Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

August 27, 20110 found this helpful

I grew vegetables in plastic containers this year. And somebody said eating veggies from plastic containers isn't healthy. I got these at the flea market. I suspect they came from a nursery. Am I OK to eat these as I did this year?

Thank you for any help you can give.

By Herrold D

Answers

August 28, 20110 found this helpful
Best Answer

I've grown vegetables in plastic containers and I'm not dead yet. Many vegetable gardeners use over-sized plastic pots which costs less then clay pots. If you have to move some pots around in your yard for sun exposure, its' less work to move a plastic container than a heavy clay pot.

One of my neighbors in the apartment complex does container gardening. He lost a leg due to a motorcycle accident years ago and is wheel chair bound. He grows a lot of vegetables in the large plastic storage tubs.
I've met people who run off at the mouth, and they can give you a lot of false information.

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January 15, 2009

I am wanting to plant some vegetables in pots next spring. What kinds of vegetables can I plant in pots? I really like tomatoes and used to help my mother with those, but I am wondering about others.

Also, since I have two crazy cats who once attacked and ate an entire aloe plant, I cannot rear the plants from seed indoors. When should I plan to buy the plants to plant in pots outdoors?

Hardiness Zone: 6b

Crazyliblady from Pittsburg, KS

Answers

January 15, 20090 found this helpful

Since you have cats, you might have the big plastic pails that clumping litter comes in. I planted cherry tomatoes and bell peppers in mine,(one plant to a pot.) I had great results.These pails are nice and deep, especially for tomato roots. Plus there is room for a stake or trellis to be inserted. I had spray painted mine a dark geen with plastic paint just to match my deck furniture. This may have helped to keep the soil warm, but it probably isn't necessary.
Teresa

P.S. Don't forget to drill some drainage holes.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20090 found this helpful

Almost all veggies can be grown in pots if the pot can accomendate their needs. Pots can be obtain furgally by saving milk jugs, litter buckets, plastic plaster buckets, or just plant in a soil bag on an old tray. (fill the bag with soil, tie it off and lay it on it's side, slit the top and plant.

Orange, lemon and lime rimes thrown around the plants base will help keep the cats at bay. You'll need to add fresh rines now and then. Sprinzting water deluted lime and lemon juice on the leaves will also keep the cats at bay and won't harm the plants.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20090 found this helpful

I grow zucchini, all forms of cukes, eggplant, all forms of squash, strawberries and as you say, all of my tomatoes in pots.

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By guest (Guest Post)
January 16, 20090 found this helpful

There is realistically nothing that you can't grow in pots, but all members of the cucurbit family, incl. squashes, zucchinis, eggplant...all peppers, all herbs,all tomatoes, even potatoes do well!

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April 7, 2009

We want to put out a simple container veggie garden this spring to help cut grocery bills even further than we already have. We're focusing on a few simple things we eat a lot that aren't especially cheap at the local farmer's market. Such as various lettuces, heirloom tomatoes, and some herbs.

We're using 28-lb kitty litter buckets for large containers and cut-off 2-liter soda bottles and similar products for smaller containers. Both will have rocks and holes in the bottoms for drainage. We have a relatively small area of yard that gets enough sun for a vegetable garden, so our space is limited. Because I don't trust the dirt in our yard to be free of contaminants, we'll probably buy bagged soil.

We have lots of rabbits here, will setting our containers up on large cinder blocks be enough to keep the rabbits from reaching them? What else could we do without spending money? Where should we look to find unusual heirloom tomatoes to plant? Should we look for plants, or try to start from seed? What other tips can more experienced gardeners here share with us? We want to minimize expense and keep the work simple, while harvesting yummy produce. Thank you in advance!

Hardiness Zone: 5b

By Sterghe from PA

Answers

April 8, 20090 found this helpful

Because you will not be getting nutrients from the ground you will need to feed them occasionally. follow the recommendation of how often for the plant food you buy.

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April 10, 20090 found this helpful

I grow a lot of vegetables in hanging baskets to keep animals away. I have had success with tumbling tomatoes and herbs. If you can get a child's sandpit on legs this could be used with holes punched in the bottom for salad ingredients, such as bell peppers, garlic, spring onions, lettuce, radishes etc, cress can be grown indoors on the windowsill as can herbs.

Outside you can plant sage, rosemary. mint etc in the flower beds. I doubt animals would like the taste of herbs all except parsley which peter rabbit loved lol

Other vegetables grow underground such as tubers and wouldn't be touched by animals such as potatoes, new potatoes, carrots.

I think your problem areas would be plants close to the ground such as cabbages and broccoli which you may have to cover with a framework of chicken wire mesh, which is what I would use.

Runner beans, green beans grow up poles and are also out of the reach of rabbits.

If you have a list of things you want to grow people could think up animal free solutions hopefully carol x

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Photos

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By 4 found this helpful
September 15, 2014

Photo Description
I grew this beautiful corn in the corn box I made from wood. The box size is 4ft. x 8ft. x 3 1/2 ft. deep. I had so much corn I was giving it away to all my neighbors!

Photo Location
Montclair, California

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April 7, 20090 found this helpful

I would like to start a container Garden for a college project. My class is about sustainability. In these containers I would like to grow food.

I would like to know if anyone has any ideas of what I can use as containers, by recycling, or ways to make or buy cheap containers. Also what could I grow in these? I have never grown winter vegetables, does anyone know what vegetables can be grown this time of year in the Pacific Northwest.

Stella

Answers:

Vegetable Container Gardening

Hi, Stella! Container gardening is a great way to produce a surprisingly bountiful amount of food, and the work involved is quite pleasurable. As to containers, you need materials that will not leach any toxic substances into the planting mix. Clay containers are probably best, but hard to find as recycled items. Food grade plastic, with the recycle codes (1) and (2), are good. I've been told that some restaurants and food packaging plants discard five gallon buckets, but I don't understand why they would since these could probably be reused. Avoid wooden containers that may have been made from creosoted lumber (whiskey half barrels are fine, but not cheap!). Metal containers are iffy in my opinion...most will rust quickly and whether they leach or not is the question.


As to plants, lots of choices. Much of the Pacific Northwest is zone 8 for hardiness, so most of the brassicas will do well now - broccoli, kale, cabbage among others. Carrots should be good, too. My personal favorite is Swiss chard. I like this best of all the cooked greens, and it is easy and durable to grow. It will tolerate both heat and cold, even below freezing for short periods, and is ornamental as well. I like to grow the variety "Bright Lights". The stalks will be a mixture of red, pink, white, yellow and orange, contrasting nicely with the deep green leaves.


Will your containers be placed where you can check them daily? Maintaining an even water supply, enough but not too much, is very important. You live in a wonderful place for gardening supplies and advice. One of the best is Nichols Garden Nursery in Cottage Grove, Oregon. (www.nicholsgardennursery.com).


Beth, San Antonio TX (USDA zone 8b, heat zone 9) (10/09/2004)

By ThriftyFun

Vegetable Container Gardening

I container garden on our front porch since we don't have usable garden space in our yard. My container of choice has been the five-gallon buckets that my sister gets for me from the fast-food restaurant that she works for (generally the buckets are thrown away when empty). I use a drill and drill 3 or 4 drainage holes about 1 inch from the bottom. The holes help the plants from becoming waterlogged. Good luck. (10/09/2004)

By Kathy

Vegetable Container Gardening

The polystyrene boxes that fruit and veggies come in are good. They are about 2' x 1.5' x 1'high and are easy to punch drainage holes in the bottom. In Australia you can pick them up free from supermarkets. They have good insulation properties as well and are nice and light to move - a container full of potting mix can get heavy. (10/09/2004)

By Jo Bodey

Vegetable Container Gardening

Stella, take a look at http://www.containerseeds.com. It's a small company just getting started, but you can read the monthly newsletters that have some really good ideas for containers.
(10/12/2004)

By Beth

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January 15, 20090 found this helpful

I'm in an apartment. Does anyone know what vegetables would grow well on a deck in pots? They would get a fair amount of sun. I'm planning for next year. Also, what are some frugal ways to accomplish it? Dollar store pots, etc. Do most farmer's markets have heirloom seeds? Any insights would be appreciated.

Hardiness Zone: 8b


Bethany from SC

Answers:

Vegetables For Potted Garden

Tomato plants grow very well in pots. Just make sure you have good soil and drainage. Good luck. (09/22/2008)

By Bobbielynn

Vegetables For Potted Garden

http://www.HomeschoolViewTube.com/video/61/Square-Foot-Garden (09/23/2008)

By mguess

Vegetables For Potted Garden

This is the best example I've seen for a method of vertical gardening which is ideal for apartments; I plan on doing it next year. Weight must be considered if you are not on the ground level, in which case I would keep my projects no more than two units (whatever you are using) high.

Go to newwork-newculture.net, which is written in Dutch, I believe, look on the upper left for projects, click, and find it a little lower on the page, complete with image of what is possible, as well as general directions in English. It's wonderful.

(09/23/2008)

By pikka

Vegetables For Potted Garden

Forgot something, sorry!

Link on left: project, then click: project in Sud-Africa.
Then click: neue Arbeit in Sudafrika, and scroll down to gardening image with guy next to it. You can see how much you can produce in a small space.

(09/23/2008)

By pikka

Vegetables For Potted Garden

I second the tomatoes. Do small ones- grape or cherry. Also looks cute with flowers in the same pot. Avoid carrots as they really need to be in the ground. (09/23/2008)

By J

Vegetables For Potted Garden

I had great success with cabbage plants. Use large pots and potting soil. Just water and feed with Miracle Grow occasionally. Good luck with your terrace garden. (09/23/2008)

By lillieK

RE: Vegetables For Potted Garden

Vegetables For Potted Garden

My vegetable/herb garden currently has tomatoes, green peppers, eggplant, mint, sage, basil, rosemary, parsley and cucumbers. All did well except the cucumbers. In the spring and fall, I grow leaf lettuce. The pots I use are dollar store waste baskets with drainage holes drilled in the bottom. My dollar store had plant stands, so most of my pots are elevated off the deck. The rest are on bricks. Raising them slightly aids drainage. (09/23/2008)

By jean

Vegetables For Potted Garden

Invaluable resource book: The Bountiful Container by McGee and Stuckey. It answers all the questions and gives great ideas. Recipes too. (09/24/2008)

By JB

Vegetables For Potted Garden

I live in a second floor apartment, different country to you-Australia. But I think the same things would work. I'm also the supervisor of a small community garden project where we grow things in pots for people who have no yard/ garden to take home with them. Parsley, mint, rosemary, thyme, tomatoes, bell peppers, nasturtiums, Yes.. these plants are entirely edible, leaves can go in salads, and the flowers are pretty in orange, burgundy, cream etc. They are also completely edible, make a nice decoration on salad dishes, or on top of an iced cake. If you have big pots, and can rig up some sort of trellis, peas and broad beans also grow very well in pots. (09/24/2008)

By Ellie

Vegetables For Potted Garden

I grow bell peppers, eggplant, radishes, carrots, lettuce, herbs, beets, zucchini, peas, onions, beans, corn & even watermelon in containers. Look for the space saving seeds available like the "tom thumb" variety,"spacemaster" cucumber and the "Danver's half long" carrots. It also helps to research "companion planting" so you know what plants will compliment each other. I get those large rope handled tubs and I utilize the Native American "Three Sisters" approach by planting corn, pole beans to trellis up the corn stalks and then squash around the perimeter. They do great together.

Deep window boxes are great for radishes, onions, lettuce or beets. I've grown the tom thumb tomatoes in hanging baskets. As far as containers go, you can also drill drainage holes in old cooking pots, plastic file cabinets, storage totes...all kinds of things. Also check your local "freecycle" and craiglists sites to see if anyone is giving away any pots. I've found a bunch that way. I've had good luck with buying seeds online from Burpee but have found really good deals on ebay. Good Luck. I have a lot of fun with it and hope you do too.


(09/25/2008)

By abbey

Vegetables For Potted Garden

Hello, as for the veggies in potted garden; a thrifty way to collect seed is to take a few out of the tomatoes that you will have for a meal. I have done this and rinsed them off. Then let them dry and plant. They sprouted very well.

The same can be done for many vegetables that you use/purchase to make a meal, or from the vegetables out of your own garden. Seeds will not sprout if they have been cooked.

Many people put their tomatoes in five gallon pails. But be sure to give them good drainage. And don't use any that have had hazardous material in them.

Consider the potato tomato. This is done by putting a tomato seed in a pot with a potato. The roots to the tomato grow around the potato. According to my reading, when the tomatoes are done, you pull out the tomato and get your potatoes at the bottom.

Be aware there is a difference in the breed of tomatoes. Some produce tomatoes early, some produce a little later, and some produce most of the summer. While some breeds produce all at the same time, then they are done. Good luck with your garden.

(09/25/2008)

By Windgate

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