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If you don't feel like tilling up what's left of your Spring Garden to start a Garden for Fall planting, Container Gardening might be the way to go. There are many Families switching some, or all, of the vegetables they grow into containers. When there is limited time and space, Container Gardens also make sense.
There are several types of containers that can be used for growing vegetables including polyethylene plastic bags, clay pots, plastic pots, metallic pots, milk jugs, ice cream containers, bushel baskets, barrels, and planter boxes. It is important to use containers that can accommodate roots of the vegetables you want to grow as the vegetables vary in sizes and rooting depths. The container needs to have good drainage, and should not contain chemicals that are toxic to plants and human beings. Most vegetables grown in backyard gardens can be grown in containers, although a container's diameter and depth needs to be considered when selecting what vegetables to grow. The plant density (number of vegetable plants per container) depends on individual plant space requirements, and rooting depth.
It's best to use one of the potting mixes in vegetable container gardening as they are light, disease-free, weed seed-free, and have good drainage. Some potting mixes have pre-mixed plant nutrients, so read the information on the label about how long the pre-mix will feed your plants before you start applying fertilizers. You can also make your own two bushels of potting mix using the following recipe: Shredded sphagnum peat moss (1 bushel), Vermiculite (1 bushel), Ground limestone (1¼ cups), Phosphate fertilizer either 0-20-0 (½ cup) or 0-45-0 (¼ cup), Slow release granular fertilizer such as 5-10-5 (1 cup).
Container-grown plants require more frequent fertilization than field-grown plants because of the limited space within the container for drawing nutrients. Fertilizers can be mixed with the soil mix before filling the container and can also be applied as a nutrient solution. Nutrient solutions can be made by dissolving soluble fertilizer such as 10-20-10, 12-24-12 or 8-16-8 in water following label directions. The nutrient solution is applied once a day when the plants are watered. How often you water may vary with vegetables, but once a day is adequate. Leach the unused fertilizer nutrients from the potting mix once a week by applying tap water only. It is also very important to water occasionally with a nutrient solution containing micronutrients such as copper, zinc, boron, manganese, and iron and follow label directions in order to give plants the right amounts.
Plants grown in containers need frequent watering as the containers dry fast. Watering on a daily basis is necessary to provide adequate moisture for plant growth. Apply enough water to reach the bottom of the container. Allow the excess to drain out through drainage holes. Avoid wetting the leaves when watering as this will encourage development of foliar disease. Try not to allow the containers to dry out completely between watering as this will lead to flower and fruit drop. Do not over water the plants as the container will be waterlogged and the roots will lack oxygen leading to poor growth and eventually, perhaps, the plant's death.
The size of the containers needed will depend alot on the vegetable or herbs you are planting. Most Herbs can be planted in 1/2 - 1 gallon containers. Cabbages, Cucumbers, Green Beans, Leaf Lettuce, Spinach, Swiss Chard, and Cherry Tomatoes can be planted in 1 gallon containers. Beets, Carrots, Eggplants, Peppers and Radishes need 2 gallon containers. Your regular tomatoes will need 3 gallon containers. (great info from the University of Illinois Extension)
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