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Vegetable Gardening in Containers: Outdoors and In

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Whatever you decide, as long as your container meets the above mentioned requirements, it will work great, with an added bonus, containers can often easily be moved when bad weather hits, enabling you to extend your growing season just a little bit longer.

Media aka Potting Soil

It is always best to use a lightweight potting mix when filling your containers.  Using soil straight from the garden is not always the best idea because it has the potential to have garden pathogens, as well as poor pH and clay.  Starting with a good potting mix lets you start your vegetables out right without the worries of soil amendments. A good potting mix must have great drainage as well as enough organic material to hold water because roots need both.  The best potting mix for vegetable gardening will have at least 30% perlite (or coarse matter) for drainage. You can also mix your own by using one part peat moss, one part garden loam, and one part clean coarse builders sand.  Be sure to add a slow release fertilizer to the mix (14-14-14).  If it is a very large container, a soil test may be helpful to be sure the pH is around 6.5. Potting mixes usually have enough fertilizer for 8 to 10 weeks.  After that time feed with a well balanced vegetable fertilizer according to package instructions.

Watering

The most important thing to remember with container plants is they tend to dry out much faster than garden soil because the amoin of medium is much smaller.  This especially holds true for containers in full sun for several hours a day, as well as those in clay pots or sitting on concrete or blacktop.  If the containers are very small, you may need to water twice a day.  Check often until you learn the requirements of your chosen containers.  Water each container well, until you see it run out of the drainage holes, this ensures deep watering causing the roots to grow deep for stronger plants.  Sometimes, grouping a bunch of containers together, helps prevent rapid drying in the hottest part of the day, or raise the containers off the ground to allow air to flow around the pot to help keep the soil cooler.

Indoor Container Gardening

You can even grow veggies indoors as long as you have enough sunshine or artificial lighting to help out.  You can grow several kinds of small fruiting  tomatoes and peppers, several types of lettuce, radishes, and many herbs in your indoor garden as long as you follow the directions given above.  Remember, containers will dry out less quickly as well as grow more slowly, so they will need less water and fertilizer.  If you think your plants are a bit leggy, chances are they need more lighting, so consider buying a grow light to help them become healthy and strong.

From The University of Arizona

"Herbs are a first choice for many indoor gardeners. Many are less demanding than vegetable plants, and cooks find it pleasant to be able to snip off a few sprigs of fresh parsley or chop some chives from the window sill herb garden. Chives grow like small onions, with leaves about 6 inches tall. These plants prefer cool conditions with good light, but will grow quite well on a windowsill in the kitchen. One or two pots of chives will provide leaves for seasoning salads and soups. Plant seeds or small bulbs in a 6-inch pot. The plants should be about 1 inch apart over the entire surface. It will require about 12 weeks from the time seeds are planted until the first leaves can be cut. Plants can be potted from the garden and brought in. For variety, try garlic or Chinese chives, which grow in a similar fashion, but have a mild garlic flavor.

Parsley seeds can be planted directly into 6-inch pots, or young healthy plants can be transplanted from the garden. One vigorous plant per pot is enough. Standard parsley develops attractive, green, curly leaves about 6 or 8 inches tall. Italian, or flat-leafed, parsley has a slightly stronger flavor and is a favorite for pasta dishes. Leaves can be clipped about 10 to 12 weeks after planting the seeds.

Cilantro, or the leaves of the young coriander plant, can be grown in your window sill garden. Cilantro is used in Oriental and Mexican dishes and must be used fresh. Grow cilantro as you would parsley. Thyme and other herbs will also grow well indoors if given the right conditions.

The small-fruited varieties of tomato, such as Tiny Tim, Small Fry, and the Roma (a paste tomato), may be raised quite satisfactorily in the home. They will challenge your gardening ability and supply fruits that can be eaten whole, cooked, or served with salad. Tiny Tim grows to a height of about 12 to 15 inches. Small Fry, which is about 3 feet tall, and Roma will need more space and should be located on an enclosed porch or in a sunroom. It may be worth experimenting with varieties developed for hanging baskets.

Some of the small-fruited peppers may be grown as indoor plants. Like tomatoes, they require warm bright conditions to grow well indoors. Fruit will be ready to harvest from peppers and tomatoes about ten weeks after planting.

Whiteflies and aphids may present a problem on indoor tomato and pepper plants. Keep a close watch for these pests so that they do not get a good start in your planting. Yellow sticky traps, either purchased or homemade, are effective in trapping whiteflies. Insecticidal soap or other pesticides approved for vegetable plants can be used to control aphids. Fortunately, problems with such outdoor pests as tomato hornworms, corn ear worm, and late blight will essentially be eliminated.

For a quick-growing crop, try radishes. These must be grown very rapidly if they are to be crisp and succulent. Scatter radish seeds on moist soil in a 6- or 8-inch pot. Cover with 1/4 inch of soil, and place a piece of glass or plastic wrap over the pot to conserve moisture until the seeds germinate. Carrots are slower, but can be grown in the same way; use the small-rooted varieties, such as Little Finger, for best results indoors.

Experiment with various types of lettuce. Leaf lettuce and the miniature Tom Thumb butterhead are some to try. Space them according to package directions. Keep lettuce moist and in a very sunny spot."

And that is one to grow on.

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