Container gardening has been on the uptrend over the past five years and continues to grow in popularity, especially in urban areas where green space can be limited. But to ensure the most success, it is crucial for the 21 million households planting container gardens to pick the right plant for the pot.
Going the container route saves space, helps control pests and overcome soil issues, enabling the availability of home grown fresh produce without a yard. But it is important to choose a seed or a plant that was specifically developed for the compact container space.
With increasing interest in container gardening, seed companies are developing vegetable seeds specifically bred for container gardens. "Today's container gardeners now have access to even more plants that are compact in size, yield more, taste great and feature unique colours and shapes," said John Marchese, Sales Manager for Seminis® Home Garden seed. Seminis' Home Garden seed includes innovative vegetable varieties such as the Early Girl tomato hybrid sold to seed retailers for over 50 years.
"Just because they are using a smaller space to grow the plant doesn't mean the fruit has to be small too," explained Marchese. "For example, if container gardeners are looking for a compact plant that produces large and tasty tomatoes, they should try a new hybrid tomato variety called Debut."
Container gardeners don't have to sacrifice flavour for a more conveniently-grown plant either. "Husky Red is a medium-sized tomato hybrid that has great flavour. We have also developed a cherry tomato hybrid version called Husky Cherry Red that has the potential to sets lots of sweet, flavourful fruit," added Marchese.
Other compact hybrid tomato varieties include Patio, which produces about a 4 ounce tomato and a saladette tomato variety called Yaqui that produces large-sized fruit.
Regardless of the type of vegetable you plant, here are some general tips provided by the University of Illinois Extension for growing vegetable container gardens:
Choosing a Container
- Anything that holds soil and has drainage holes in the bottom may be transformed into a container garden for terrestrial plants.
- For vibrant plant growth, the containers must provide adequate space for roots and soil media, allowing the plant to thrive.
- When choosing what to use to fill containers, never use garden soil by itself no matter how good it looks or how well things grow in it out in the garden.
- Container soils are often referred to as soilless or artificial media, because they contain no soil at all.
- When these mixes are used, they should be moistened slightly before planting. Fill a tub with the media, add water and lightly fluff the media to dampen it.
- When filling containers with media, don't fill the pot to the top. Leave about a one inch space between the top of the soil and rim of the pot.
- Soils for containers need to be well aerated and well drained while still being able to retain enough moisture for plant growth.
Choosing Plants for Your Container Garden
- A regular fertilizer program is needed to keep plants growing well and attractive all season.
- The choice of fertilizer analysis will depend on the kinds of plants you are growing. High nitrogen sources would be good for plants grown for their foliage while flowering and vegetable crops would prefer lower nitrogen and higher phosphorous types.
Taking Care of Your Vegetable Plants
- Plants that thrive in like soil, watering, and light conditions make successful combinations. When combining plants, size, texture, proportion, color, setting, and lighting all play a role.
- Containers offer the advantage of being portable. As the seasons, temperature, and light conditions change, you can move your containers to maintain the desired conditions for peak performance.
- Most fruit bearing vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, squash, and eggplant require full sun.
- Leafy vegetables such as lettuce, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, spinach, and parsley can tolerate more shady location compared to the root vegetables such as turnips, beets, radishes, carrots, and onions.
- There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to watering. That is why you have to be watching your containers on a regular basis and understand the requirements of the plants you choose to put in the containers.
- The best way to tell if a plant needs water is to feel the soil. And if the first inch or so of the soil is dry, water. Use enough water each time so water starts to drip out of the drainage holes.
For more container gardening tips from the University of Illinois Extension, please visit http://urbanext.illinois.edu/containergardening
. For more information on Seminis home garden products and where to buy them, visit www.seminis.com