Preparing a vegetable and herb container garden

Preparing a vegetable and herb container garden
Plant herbs together with similar soil moisture requirements
Container gardening can be a fun and convenient way to enjoy fresh vegetables and herbs where ideal
fun sun outdoor garden space is limited. If soil borne plant diseases have been plaguing you outdoor
vegetable garden, growing vegetables and herbs in pots is a good way to avoid the common pests and
diseases that are persisting in your garden soil. Although many vegetables are easy to grow in
containers, there are some key steps that you as a gardener can take prior to planting to ensure the
success of your container garden.
One of the most important aspects of container gardening is the potting mix. Typically a “soilless”
potting mix is used to provide proper aeration and drainage. Natural mineral soil contains sand, silt,
and clay and if used in pots could make for heavy poorly draining soil unsuitable for plant root growth.
Most soilless mixes contain a mixture of milled sphagnum peat moss, perlite, vermiculite and maybe
some fine bark and a time release fertilizer. To save money when planting up containers I have mixed
my own potting soil. For those interested there are many potting mix recipes online through state
extension websites.
Sanitation of containers and using sterile potting mix will prevent the buildup of pest and diseases in
the containers. I suggest buying new soilless potting mix each year to ensure the highest quality
productive vegetable and herb plants. Extension recommends washing the containers in soapy water
and removing all soil and plant debris. After the pots have been cleaned they can be sterilized by
dipping them in a mixture of 1 part chlorine bleach to 9 parts water.1
University of Missouri Extension Guide # G6570
There are many type of pots available at local garden centers, everything from plastic to glazed clay.
Make sure when choosing a pot for your container garden to buy one that is light in color. Since
vegetable crops need at the very least 6 hours of full sun a day, the darker pots retain too much heat
from the sun, and tend to loose moisture faster. As I mentioned, soil drainage is very important when
growing vegetables in pots. Make sure the holes on the bottom of the pot can drain well. I have place
my containers on bricks or poked holes in the side of the base of the pot to improve drainage.
Everything from summer vegetables like tomatoes and peppers to cool season crops such as lettuce and
spinach can be grown in a container. Besides convenience, container gardens can extend the planting
season and save money. The other day one of the master gardeners in our region mentioned to me how
economical it was to grow lettuce and other “greens” during the spring and fall seasons. She was using
recycled plastic coffee cans to grow lettuce.
When choosing the right plants for a container it is important to keep in mind the mature size of the
plant, and provide them with plenty of soil space to grow. Tomatoes are commonly grown in
containers. Typically the minimum container size for growing tomatoes is a three gallon pot. When
choosing a tomato plant, try a dwarf or bush variety which will stay compact and require little pruning
through the season. If planting an herb container it is important that only herbs which have the same
growing requirements of soil moisture and light be planted together. 2 3
Everything from window boxes to plastic coffee cans can be utilized for container gardens. With a
little caring effort, container gardening can provide a bountiful harvest of vegetable and herb crops
from spring to fall.
University of Illinois Extension:
Cornell University Extension: