Dorothy is a Master Gardener, former newspaper reporter, and the author of several books. Michael is a landscape/nature photographer in NM.
You Can Relocate Your Plants When Needed
I like the advantage of being able to move plants from one location to another, which leads me to believe that more people need to be gardening in containers. It's a lot less stressful than watching your plants wilt in the heat when you could have easily moved them into a cooler area for as much time as necessary.
Container gardening is perfect for those of you living in apartments. You can grow fruits, vegetables, flowers or even trees. And, it is possible to grow plants in darn near anything that will hold soil. People use bowls, garbage cans, boxes, clay or ceramic pots and hanging baskets, and the list goes on. You are limited only by your imagination instead of being limited by space.
If your home is in a short-season, cool zone, don't think you can't grow your own nutritious fruits and vegetables. You can always grow them in containers on your deck or patio.
The first supermarket supposedly appeared on the American landscape in 1946. That is not very long ago. Until then, where was all the food? Dear folks, the food was in homes, gardens, local fields, and forests. It was near kitchens, near tables, near bedsides. It was in the pantry, the cellar, the backyard.
— Joel Salatin, American farmer, lecturer, and author
Some Vegetables Suitable for Containers
Not all vegetables are suitable for growth in containers. Here are some of the easiest and most popular varieties of container vegetables.
Many people choose to grow their bell peppers in containers. They are short-lived perennials in tropical areas but in cold temperate regions, they are grown as annuals. I believe the best choices for pots are the small-fruited peppers with a bushy, branching growth habit.
You will need a pot that is about 10-12 inches deep and wide with sufficient drainage holes. Having a pot that size will allow you to grow 2-3 plants of smaller varieties. If you are growing your peppers in a tropical climate, you should avoid placing them in a black container; left in a sunny area they are prone to overheating.
Growing tomatoes in pots is easy and fun. These are my personal favorites: tumbling Tom red tomato, red robin cherry tomato, and fresh salsa Roma tomatoes.
If you are going to grow bush tomatoes in a container, you will need to place them where they have access to lots of sunshine (at least six hours per day), and a water source as they will need a steady supply of moisture. A full-grown tomato plant needs lots of room in which to develop a strong root system so you are going to need a pot that is at least 18" in diameter.
I have recently been introduced to fabric pots and have bought several of them to use. If you choose to go this route, I would buy one that will hold about 20 gallons, but if you select smaller ones, stick to smaller plants like better bush tomatoes.
Baby or Standard Carrots
Just about any size container will work if you want to grow baby carrots, although longer varieties will require the pots to be deeper. For baby carrots, the container needs to be at least 8" deep; and for standard-size carrots, make sure the container is at least 12" deep.
Growing carrots in pots (especially indoors) is easier than growing them in the garden because they thrive on moisture, and the summer sunshine can drain the moisture away pretty quickly. Fill your container with a reliable potting soil, moisten it, and sprinkle your seeds across the surface. Place the pot on a sunny windowsill, then harvest whenever they develop a mature color.
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Some AnnualsThat Work Well in Containers and Where You Should Place Them
There are so many varieties of flowering annuals from which to choose; you should try to plant different varieties of annuals each year in your containers. Ideally, choose ones that have compact growth and abundant flowers.
These are some of my personal favorites:
- Begonias - They need filtered sunlight or light sun but need to be protected from direct sun and wind.
- Celosia - These are warm weather plants that thrive in hot and humid climates - give them plenty of sunshine!
- Coleus - Keep your coleus plants out of the wind to avoid breakage. They won't survive a frost, so treat your plant as an annual or move it inside when the temperature begins to drop.
- Cosmos - Set your container of cosmos plants out in a sunny location.
- Dahlias - Dahlias, like cosmos, like a sunny location.
- Geraniums - If you want the maximum amount of geranium blooms, place the container in an area where it will get 4-6 hours of sunlight daily.
- Impatiens - For the best results, place your impatiens containers in deep shade.
- Marigolds - Marigolds are very versatile plants that will bloom in direct sunlight, high temperatures and average to poor potting soil.
- Nasturtium - Place your nasturtium container in a sunny location, or partially shady location if full sun is not available. Growing them in a shady location will produce more leaf growth and fewer flowers than plants grown in full sun.
The Importance of Regular Watering
How much should you water your outdoor container plants? Both soggy soil and drought can be hard on your plants' health. If you doubt your ability to gauge when or when not to water, you might want to invest in an inexpensive moisture gauge since it is sometimes hard to gauge just how much water for container plants is necessary.
I like to water my container plants early in the morning to give them time to take up the water before the hot part of the day. It will also allow excess water to evaporate quickly keeping the plant from being vulnerable to fungus. Always check on your plants daily in warm, dry conditions; if you allow the soil to dry all the way to the bottom of the container, you should be prepared to lose a plant. One way to tell is to look for shriveled or discolored leaves and petals that have dropped.
Usually, if the first inch or so of soil is dry, it’s a fair indication that watering is necessary. During the summer months, you should always water once a day, although sometimes it might be necessary to water twice a day (if temperatures are above 85 degrees).
© 2019 Mike and Dorothy McKenney
Mike and Dorothy McKenney (author) from United States on July 17, 2019:
Thank you so much for reading the article. I love growing plants in containers because the soil here is so sandy. Good luck with yours!
Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on July 16, 2019:
Well written and very informative article for those who love gardening.
I have many plants in containers at my home. I plan to add some more during this rainy season. Would refer to your article, for tips and suggestions.
Thanks for sharing your knowledge.