Climbing beans in a bathtub
Much has been made recently about container gardening. I think this is because people that have never gardened before are starting to try their luck with a small vegetable garden, or because many would be gardeners have limited space, as in apartment or city dwellers with only small area in which to grow their vegetable plants. Container gardening is an ideal solution to the problem of limited space or to cope with poor soil conditions.
Container gardening has many advantages over the old plant in the ground method but some of the more important ones are:
- You can grow vegetables in any container that will hold soil.
- You have a much greater control of the composition of your soil, including nutrients.
- You have a much greater control of common garden pests.
- You can ensure optimal moisture content of your soil.
- It is easier to care for your vegetable plants (weeding, pruning, & etc.).
There are many more advantages but these are the ones that seem most important to me. Having good control of your soil, pests, and moisture, is ninety percent of the battle to ensure you have a productive and healthy garden.
Choosing your containers is easy if you use a little common sense. You wouldn’t want to try to grow potatoes in a 1 pint flower pot, but a 5 gallon bucket would work just fine. As I mentioned above; anything that will hold soil will work, just allow for drainage so you don’t have water standing in the bottom of your container to turn sour and ruin your vegetable plants or drown the roots. My wife uses an old bathtub to grow pole beans and peppers.
You can build your own containers. We built a container for tomatoes using rocks for the sides and lined it with plastic sheeting. As long as you allow for drainage you can use anything you have. I saw an article by a guy that used 6 inch PVC pipe laid flat with 2 inch holes cut in the top every 12 inches or so for the plants. He put old socks over the ends of the pipe to hold in the soil and allow for drainage. This wouldn’t work well for root crops but it would be great for most anything else. You are only limited by your imagination.
The greatest advantage, in my opinion, is that you have complete control of what is in your soil. You can make sure the soil in your containers is optimized for the vegetable plants growing in it. Different plants require different ph levels and nutrients. You can make sure they have exactly the growing conditions they need.
It is not surprising that container gardening has become so popular. It allows you a degree of versatility and control you just can not get in a traditional vegetable garden. Even if you have never tried to grow vegetables before, you can have great results with your very first effort.
Your vegetable garden is all planted; things have come up and started growing. You may think that all you have left to do now is sit back and wait for your garden to start producing those juicy fresh vegetables you’ve envisioned picking off your plants. You can do just that, and if you get the rains just right, and the weeds don’t take over your garden, you’ll get some produce from your vegetable garden.
However; if you want to get the most return for your effort and investment in planting your vegetable garden, there are some things you can do to get the most out of your garden;
- Water; getting the right amount of water at the right time is very important to your plants. Sufficient water is necessary for your plants especially while they are still immature in order for them to mature into healthy plants that will produce quality vegetables for you. Failure to get regular watering will result in stunted weak plants that will produce poorly if they produce at all. This is slightly less important after they mature but if you want them to produce for you, you will see that they get regular watering.
- Mulch; mulch will help your plants in 3 ways; it will hold moisture thereby reducing the amount of watering necessary, it will keep the sun from burning the roots, and it will provide nutrients as it decomposes. The best mulching material is compost that has already started decomposing, but any natural mulching material is better than none.
- Weeding; when you allow weeds to grow around your plants they compete for the available moisture and nutrients. Weeds are much better competitors than vegetable plants and will starve your plants for moisture and nutrients. It is better to pull the weeds up by the roots just after watering than to cut them off at the ground with a hoe. Hoeing leaves the root systems intact to compete with your vegetables and grow a new weed.
- Pruning; most vegetable plants need pruning to produce their best. Pruning your plants allows them to focus their energy upon vegetable production rather than unnecessary foliage. Some foliage is necessary so be careful to avoid over pruning as this can stunt or even kill your plants.
- Shade; some plants benefit from shade during the hottest part of the day. Even plants that are supposed to grow in direct sunlight such as tomatoes and peppers can benefit from shade during the hottest part of the summer. I plant rows of field corn spaced around my vegetable garden to provide shade. During the early part of the season when the plants need direct sunlight the corn is short and doesn’t block off the sun, but as the season progresses into the hottest part of the summer, the corn is taller and provides needed shade for part of the day. The corn stalks also make good trellises for climbing beans or peas.
- Pest Control; bugs and caterpillars can eat your entire vegetable garden. The best way I know to control pests without chemicals is to get out in your garden early and late and pick them off your plants destroying any eggs you find on the underside of the leaves. I have tried many natural remedies for pests but none of them work as well as disposing of them manually (my chickens follow me around when I do this waiting for me to throw them the bugs and caterpillars).
Now is also the best time to plan your fall vegetable garden. Some vegetables seem to do best if planted in the fall and allowed to grow all winter. Some of the veggies that do well in cold weather are; carrots, greens, garlic, and onions. There are many others but these are mainly what I plant.
There, you now have some ways to enhance the productivity of your vegetable garden without much effort. If you will do these things, you will be rewarded with many more vegetables for your effort, and a healthier better looking garden, too.