Tips from Olle Garden Bed: Easy Container Vegetable Gardening
Container gardening has multiple advantages over traditional in-ground gardens, not least of which is space. You can grow vegetables, herbs and fruits in a much smaller area than you could ever get away with growing them in the ground. It also allows you to simplify your gardening routine. You only need to worry about watering them occasionally. Other than that, they will take care of themselves.
If you enjoy gardening, have limited space, and want to grow healthier vegetables (without resorting to synthetic pesticides or fertilizers), growing vegetables in containers or raised garden beds is a great option. By using organic growing techniques, growing vegetables in containers can also be easier on plants and produce tender leaves and fruit that is packed with flavor.
For aesthetic reasons, move containers around the yard to get them out of the way or to follow changing sunlight patterns. You can grow vegetables for longer because containers are easier to protect or move around in cold weather than beds. Containers with plants add beauty to a porch, patio, deck, or any other place (with plenty of sunlight).
You will need to choose a medium (also known as a soil mixture). You can choose commercial products or make your own.
You can create or purchase countless combinations for your potting media. Just make sure it can hold water and nutrients, and is porous enough for the roots to get valuable oxygen.
You can choose some of the ingredients to use in the medium mixture, including peat, perlite, vermiculite, granite sand, bark, coconut shell and composted animal waste. If you don't like your first choice, you can always try something different next season! All media mentioned here should be readily available from your local garden center or nursery.
You can also hydroponic grow many vegetables, especially vegetables.
Composting is a great way to create organic nutrients for your garden and reduce the amount of waste you send to the landfill. You simply mix a "green" substance like kitchen waste with a "brown" substance like dead leaves. With proper care, within six to 12 months you will have a nutrient-rich mixture that can be used to replenish your garden soil - whether it comes in a container or not. Creating a compost bin or compost is easy and there is plenty of information around to help you.
To mix (plants in a container).
The best way to know what to grow together is to experiment and try different combinations of plants. Consider combining plants with similar water requirements, such as potatoes with squash or spinach with beans.
Also consider the height of mature plants: you don't want your tall plants to obscure your smaller plants. Certain plants tend to be tall, such as corn, plaid tomatoes, plaid pumpkins, plaid beans, and okra. Other plants are medium high, such as broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Swiss chard, basil, peppers, rosemary, eggplant, garlic, and celery. Then there are shorter plants such as radishes, Onions, lettuce, thyme, oregano, carrots, strawberries and grape crops without trellises.
There are also many vegetable shrubs or dwarf forms that will defy these generalizations and you can look for varieties that suit your landscape. Keep in mind that any vine can be supported with a trellis, or just to save space in the garden.
Watering can be a tricky tightrope for gardeners. For one thing, over-watering can drown vegetables. Forget to water them, on the other hand, and they wilt and die. To make matters more complicated, all plants have different water needs.
How to Water
Container gardens can usually be easily watered manually with a watering can or hose. Many plants also thrive because of drip irrigation. Water your plants until excess water runs out of the bottom of the container. Never let them sit in water - if there are dishes under the container, empty them after watering.
When to water
Before you get to know your garden, test the soil in the container once a day or so, feeling the moisture with your fingertips just below the surface of the soil. When the soil feels dry, water the plant thoroughly.
Plants in clay POTS and other porous containers should be watered more frequently than those in plastic POTS because they will lose more water to additional evaporation from the walls of the POTS. Small POTS dry faster than large ones.
Hot, dry weather will require more frequent watering, as will other environmental conditions. In other words, there are no hard and fast rules about when to water. Plants in containers can dry out quickly, so keep an eye on yours!
The plants in the container need nutrients just like the plants in the ground. There are two different fertilizers that work in different ways.
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If desired, add slow-release particles to the soil during the growing season. Use water-soluble fertilizers if your plants require quick nutrient repair. Always follow fertilizer label instructions, and remember that overfertilizing can harm plants as much as underfertilizing.
You can also use natural fertilizers such as fish milk, composted animal waste, and homemade compost.
Just as many plants thrive in Florida's climate, so do many pests. Diseases, insects, and wild animals can all attack your container for growing vegetables. Fortunately, vegetables grown in containers are relatively free of weeds and nematodes.
Integrated pest Management
Integrated Pest management (IPM) is the best way to control any pest in your garden. IPM uses many different methods and is designed to cause minimal harm to people, property and the environment. It focuses on managing rather than eradicating pests; Pesticides should only be used as a last resort. Prevention is the key to IPM: choosing the right plants in the right places, choosing insect-resistant varieties and keeping them healthy.
Common vegetable diseases include eczema, leaf spot, root and stem rot, and wilt. To prevent disease, purchase disease-resistant seed strains. If you purchase grafts, check them for signs of disease before purchasing. Examine your plants carefully once or twice a week for early disease symptoms. Remove any diseased leaves you find. Do not use chemicals until you have determined what is infecting the plant. If you must spray, make sure to use available rental toxic products -- remember, you'll be eating the plants -- and always follow label instructions.
Hungry insects may find their way to your vegetable plants, but don't immediately resort to pesticides - there are usually better solutions. Insect management (In your container garden, visit your vegetables at least every other day to carefully inspect them for signs of insects and insect damage. Look at leaves and stems - small animals usually hide. Pick any insects you find and crush them or drop them into a container of soapy water or alcohol. Cut off severely infected leaves. If you are unable to identify any insects, save a sample and have it identified at your county extension office. If you must use pesticides, use the least toxic products provided and follow label instructions.
Wild animals like deer, raccoons, and squirrels can all get into your vegetables and cause damage and headaches!