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Container Gardening Basics

Many plants grow well in containers you can put on a porch, balcony or patio. Choose a container with holes at the bottom so extra water can drain away. Use a commercial potting soil rather than soil dug from the ground. Most vegetables will do best in containers that hold 2 to 5 gallons of soil and are at least 12 inches deep. In general, larger containers make it easier to keep your plants happy.

Here are some plants that grow well in containers, with some growing tips:

  • Beans and peas: Plant one sprouted seed or seedling in a 5-gallon container for best results. Provide a pole or trellis for pole beans and peas.
  • Beets: Choose a container at least 12 inches deep.
  • Carrots: Choose a shorter carrot variety and plant in a container at least 12 inches deep.
  • Cucumbers and summer squash: For best results, choose a bush variety rather than a vine variety. A pole or trellis in the pot will help support the plant and allow air to flow around the leaves.
  • Herbs: Many herbs grow well in containers, including basil, chives, cilantro, mint, oregano, parsley, sage and thyme.
  • Peppers: All peppers like to have support, but it is especially important for varieties that produce large peppers. Use a stake or tomato cage to keep them upright.
  • Potatoes: Containers should be at least 18 inches wide and 3 feet deep to allow the most potatoes to grow. Look for varieties of certified seed potatoes that mature in 70 to 90 days.
  • Radishes: Containers 4 to 6 inches deep work well for this cool-season vegetable that grows quickly.
  • Salad greens: These cool-weather vegetables can be grown from spring to fall, but may need shade during the heat of the summer. Cut the outside leaves when young and they will grow back for another harvest.
  • Tomatoes: For best results, plant varieties designed for containers. They may have the word dwarf or patio in their name. Provide extra support with a stake or tomato cage.

Tips for your plant’s health

Check the seed packet or plant tag for information such as how much sun and space your plant needs and how many days until it will be ready to harvest. Regular water and fertilizer are important because container plants dry out and lose nutrients faster than plants in the ground. Check the soil each day. When it is dry, add water until it runs out the drain holes.

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