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In her book Container Gardening Complete (Cool Springs Press, 2018), Jessica Walliser demonstrates that you can have a lot of fun—and grow a lot of food—gardening in containers.
“Any fruit, vegetable, or herb can be grown in a container, but the trick is to either seek out small-statured varieties that have been specifically bred for container culture or make sure you choose a container large enough to support a full-sized variety,” advises Walliser, who notes that there are now container-specific varieties of most fruits and vegetables, including watermelons, winter squash and even grapes.
There are a few basic rules to follow when growing in containers. “It’s essential that containerized plants receive enough light,” she says. However, she also points out that one of the biggest benefits of growing vegetables in containers is that you can move the pots throughout the day to maximize their sun exposure if necessary. It’s also smart to pick pots that offer adequate drainage, and be sure to use a premium potting mix. Walliser suggests amending the potting mix with high-quality compost to add nutrients, improve its water-holding capacity and introduce beneficial microbes to the plants.
The most important task to remember when growing in containers is regular irrigation. “Without ample moisture, container plants will suffer and yields will be greatly reduced,” says Walliser. She also points out that physiological disorders such as cracked fruit and blossom-end rot are common in containers that don’t receive consistent water throughout the growing season. Larger pots hold water better than small containers, so they can reduce the need to irrigate. Don’t forget to feed your plants every few weeks with a liquid organic plant food for vegetable crops.
In Container Gardening Complete, Walliser spotlights a number of fun and easy DIY projects like self-watering containers, food fountains and a pollinator habitat garden that feeds both the bees and you. She also encourages gardeners to mix food and flowers for container gardens that are both productive and beautiful.
Image credit: cristina.sanvito/CC BY 2.0. Text by Niki Jabbour for the March/April 2019 issue of Horticulture.