Vegetable Gardening in Containers
by Jannine Cabossel/The Tomato Lady
Whether you’re new to vegetable gardening or an experienced grower, it’s worth considering growing produce in containers this year. We were all caught off guard with the coronavirus pandemic.
With some know-how, you can still find and grow seeds, seedlings, or larger plants in containers. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are best planted as seedlings around May 15 or later. Most veggies like six to eight hours of sun, so find your sunniest location for them. Some cool season vegetables, like lettuce and peas, do better in partial shade. In all cases, when you’re growing in containers rather than in the ground, don’t forget to water more because the soil will dry out faster. Use a mulch like straw to slow evaporation from pot. Consider watering twice a day.
Be creative about your containers. You can use any pot-like vessel with holes on the bottom for drainage. If the containers have been used before, sterilize the inside with a solution of two teaspoons bleach in a quart spray bottle of water and rinse well. If pots are new, you don’t have to do this. Use bagged potting soil, not garden soil, which may have pathogens. Completely wet the soil until moist like a damp sponge; it is hard to get many potting soils sufficiently moist. I moisten the potting soil in a bucket first and then I put the moistened soil into containers or pots before planting seeds or plants.
If planting seedlings or plants, place them so the crown, where the leaves come out, is level with the soil; do not cover the crown. When planting tomatoes, however, you can plant about half the length of the plant underground. The hairy stem will grow roots, which makes the plant sturdier. If planting by seeds, follow the depth and spacing on the seed packet.
Where to get seeds, seedlings or plants
Besides nurseries and big box stores, one of the best places to get vegetable seedlings or plants is at the Santa Fe Farmers Market. Many of the farmers there should be offering tomato varieties as well as other vegetable varieties.
Vegetables that do well in containers-most can be grown by seed.
Beans: Grow ‘bush’ varieties instead of vining ones. Put 1 plant in a 10–12-inch
pot. Can been grown by seed.
Cucumbers: Grow ‘bush’ varieties by seed. 1 to 2 plants can fill a 20-inch pot.
Eggplant: Transplant 1 eggplant seedling into a 10–12-inch container. Grow by plant only, not seeds, which take too long to start.
Kale and chard: 1 plant per 10–12-inch container; in longer containers you can put in several. Can be grown by seed or plants.
Leafy greens: Lettuces are among many greens that you can cut the outer leaves off of to eat and later cut again for another meal. Keep cool-season crops in partial shade. Can plant by seed or seedling. They do not need deep containers. There are warm season lettuces called Batavian or Crisphead lettuces that do well here in the summer.
Peas: Put tall supports in the pot when planting the seeds. I like to use sticks for them to grow up on. Grow many peas 2 inches apart in 10–12-inch pot or a long container. Place container in partial shade. It’s too warm now in June to plant peas but you can plant them in the fall again. Plant by seed into pots.
Peppers: Grow bell peppers and hot peppers from plants only, not seeds, which take too long to start. 1 plant per 10–12-inch pot.
Potatoes: Grow in large grow bags or containers. Put 4 inches of soil in bottom of container. Then put potato “seeds” on top of soil, eyes up, and cover with 3 or 4 more inches of soil. As plant grows, cover plant leaves with soil. Do not trim the leaves but bury them; they will grow through the soil. Continue to cover the leaves as they grow until you reach the top of the container. Then just let the leafy parts grow. The potatoes grow in the soil above the original potato seeds while the roots grow down. Harvest when plant starts to die. The Farmers Market is good source of potato seeds.
Radishes: Short or long containers work will for these crops. Plant seeds 2 to 3 inches apart. Plant by seed into pots.
Tomatoes: Grow by plant only, not seeds. Tomato plants need support. Use a tall stake or tomato cage to keep your plants upright. Plant determinate varieties, which typically grow shorter. For each plant use a 5-gallon bucket or equivalent with drainage holes. Plant the stem deep. Determinate tomatoes are perfect for containers.
Zucchini or summer squash: Plant a ‘bush’ variety. A single plant can fill a 24-inch pot. Plant by seed into pots.
Winter squash: Plant a ‘bush’ variety. A single plant can fill a 24-inch pot. Plant by seed into pots.