Many varieties of vegetables and fruit trees have been carefully selected for traits that allow them to be grown successfully in small spaces, including containers.
Generally, the bigger the container, the better. For some plants, like potatoes, you will want about 3 gallons (pot size) per seed potato; that really adds up! For other plants, like Genovese basil or Oriental Chives, a 1/2 gallon container might do nicely. When selecting seeds or plants, you want to keep in mind the size of the root system and the size of the canopy in selecting a container size. Most garden plants, like tomatoes or eggplants, will do well in with a five gallon container. Most potted fruit trees will prefer 10 to 15 gallons. Always consult the planting instructions or seller for more specific information. Container type is also important. Have you ever removed a pot from a plant and found a mass of thick, white, circling roots were the soil should be? Using smooth-sided, non-porous containers causes this problem. Instead, you can use porous materials like clay or wood, or use specially-designed "air pots", either soft- or hard-sided, to alleviate or prevent this problem. Always make sure your pots have drainage at the bottom.
Using well-draining soil is your best option in most cases. Use soil that is high in organic matter, holds water well-enough that it does not dry out quickly, but also drains easily to prevent anaerobic conditions that inhibit root growth. Some plants, like potted citrus, will require a more sandy soil. For container plants, you may notice that the soil level lowers over time: that is a good sign you need to add a bit more soil or compost to the pot.
Make sure your soil does not dry out (except when growing drought-tolerant plants or potted citrus), but also does not stay soggy for long periods of time. The author finds that drying out is generally the more common problem. Generally, if the first two inches of soil is found to be dry, it's time to water. If you are dealing with a lot of pots, perhaps in an outdoor space, you can setup a drip irrigation system with a timer to do your watering for you.
Light needs vary from plant to plant. Some plants, like many herbs, can be grown in a sunny window. Others, like tomatoes and fruit trees, will need full sun.
A Few Suggested Plants
- Tiny Tim Tomato
- Tom Thumb Pee
- Sugar Baby Bush Watermelon
- Buena Mulata Hot Pepper
- Dwarf Fruit Trees (these trees have a special root stock that keeps the tree from growing too large)
- Herbs such as basil, catnip, mint, chives, thyme, and more!!
Your container gardening options are almost limitless! Some people use container gardening to grow fresh greens and sprouts indoors all winter long. Some people use containers for all of their gardening, because it gives better control of soil conditions. Don't be afraid to experiment and have fun!
Don't forget: starting around May, many of our vendors have potted garden plants for sale. This year, skip the big-box store and get your starts from a local farmer!