by Kaye Clay, Guernsey County Master Gardener
Saving money, growing fresh, organic, raising your own, getting exercise, and enjoying the outdoors. These are good reasons for growing your own vegetables. If you are contemplating growing vegetables this summer, here are some things for you to consider.
Do you have physical limitations that restrict your movements? Do you have nasty clay soil that won’t grow anything? Or think of your lifestyle, do you have the time to plant, weed, and harvest a big garden? Do you have the equipment and tools necessary? What will you do with the vegetables you harvest, beyond eating them fresh? Do you have freezer space or canning supplies for those you cannot eat before they spoil? If you have lots of time and the interest, go for a traditional garden. If you don’t, think of planting some vegetables in containers.
The basic steps for growing vegetables in containers are simple: find a pot to fit what you want to grow, feed and water the plants, and eat the results.
First decision is what do you want to plant? Containers can be used for planting most vegetables we grow in this area. Think about what you like to eat. Do you usually purchase tomatoes, peppers, onions, beans, or squash? These can all be grown in containers (flower pots).
There are a myriad of containers available on the market. But just about any container that has a drainage hole can be used. Be aware that terra cotta pots will absorb water away from the plant, and these containers will require more watering, sometimes even twice a day. Even a raised bed is considered a container, it has the same attributes: confined space and good drainage. Pot selection should be based on the mature size of the plant you put in it. Some plants such as tomatoes require a lot of room for their roots to grow. Others do not require as big of a container. Know the plant and its requirements.
Start with a clean container. Cover the drainage hole with something that will allow excess water to drain, with allowing the soil to escape. Coffee filters, used dryer sheets, and drywall mesh tape can all be used for this purpose. Next you want to fill the pot 2/3 full with a good potting soil. The use of common garden soil from your yard should be avoided unless you have the soil tested for fertility and pH and you know that it is disease and pest free. So it is easier to use a purchased sterile potting mix. Put your seedling in the potting soil and cover with additional potting soil if needed. You need to leave about ½ to 1 inch below the rim of the pot to allow for adequate watering.
Watch your containers and water when the soil is dry. During the heat of summer this may be once or twice a day. This constant watering can leach the nutrients out of the soil. You should add fertilizer to combat this. There are many fertilizers available on the market, just be sure to follow directions on the label. Remember you are consuming the end product so only use those approved for consumption or withhold fertilizer during crop development and growth.
Growing vegetables in containers will help eliminate some pest problems, but you should still monitor your plants for infestation. A blast of water from the garden hose will get rid of most of the pests we get.
For more information or a complete list of vegetable varieties that do well in containers contact the OSU Extension Office or visit http://ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/1000/1254.html.