After thinking about it for months, you have finally decided to create your own vegetable garden.
Today is the day, but where to start? Well, first you have to find the right area and decide on the layout for your garden. Different layouts each have their own advantages that you will have to take into consideration.
So we’re going to familiarize you with the various layout plans so that you can make an informed decision and start on your project right away.
How to Layout Planning for Vegetable Gardens
Before we get to the layout, you have to examine the soil in your garden. Vegetables need nutritious, well-draining soil to prosper. I would suggest that you do soil tests if you are in doubt.
You need to know the exact composition of your garden soil in order to know how exactly to amend it. Once you have the results, you can start by working some fertilizer, hummus, compost and sand into the soil of your garden area.
Next, you have to check which location in your garden gets the most sun right through the day. Vegetables need as much sunlight as they can get.
Do not abandon your plans if you do not have such an area in your landscape. You can still plant your vegetables in containers and place them on your patio, deck or any other areas with full sun.
If you have more than one area available, choose the one that is closest to your water source. In the beginning when your plants are still young, they will need constant watering and if your garden is located too far from your water source, you will quickly become annoyed with this chore and might throw in the towel. Also, do not plant your vegetables too near established shrub or tree roots; they will steal too much moisture from your new plants.
If the only area left in your yard does not receive enough sun, you can always plant your vegetable plants in a few raised beds. Not only do they provide better drainage, they warm quicker. This means that you can start planting earlier. Because the soil in these raised beds is warmer than that of a plot, your vegetables will mature sooner as well.
The following layout plans will give you the options to choose from:
1 - Rows Layout
This is the most common and basic plan for a layout. Vegetable are planted in long, straight rows, orientated in a north to south direction.
This orientation ensures the most exposure to sunlight as well as the best air circulation for your plants. Plants growing in rows running east – west will throw shadows onto the neighboring crops or be in the shade of the rows next to them.
Remember that your vegetable plants need sun all day long.
Tall plants like beans or corn should be planted on the northern side so that they do not shade the smaller crops. Plant medium high vegetables like cabbage, squash and tomatoes in the center of your patch and reserve the south side for the smaller plants like radishes, lettuce and carrots.
How many rows you make, will depend entirely on the number of plants you intend to grow. This layout is ideal for people with a lot of gardening space.
2 - Four Square Layout
The next layout consists of four squares of equal size. Together they form the entire larger square of your garden plot. If you draw two lines through a square, you will end up with this layout.
Each of the four squares within the bigger one now forms one vegetable bed. You should plant crops with the same nutrient need together in one bed; for example you can group together leafy greens and corn since they are all heavy feeders. In the bed for middle feeders, you can include peppers and tomatoes.
Carrots and turnips are both light feeders and both thrive on potash in their soil, so group them together. Another category of vegetables is those that release nitrogen into their soil, for instance peas.
The main advantage of this type of layout is the fact that it forces you to rotate your crops. Usually the layout will start from the top left hand corner for heavy feeders, moving down for middle feeders.
The bottom right square will have the light feeders with the soil builders on the top right hand side. When the next season starts, rotate your vegetable groups into the next square. A rotation like this will help to reduce soil diseases and pests.
3 - Square Foot Layout
At first glance, this layout looks much like the previous one. There is a difference though. Your squares will now each be one foot by one foot.
Each one will again be divided into smaller squares, leaving you with sixteen squares. Use string or wood attached to the frame to make a grid. This will help you once you start planting.
Each section will contain the same type of veggie. The grid will help you to separate the different types of vegetable plants.
You have to calculate how many plants you can grow in each section. This will depend on the space each plant needs. Carrots, for example, need around three inches.
Divide your square foot bed into three and you have the answer of four. You can therefore divide your square foot section into four by four smaller plots and plant a total of sixteen carrot plants in it. Beans need more space so plant only four per section.
All vine type plants should be planted at the back of the garden to allow space for their trellises.
4 - Block Layout
This kind of garden layout forms a block; hence the name. It is sometimes also called wide row or close row planting. There are a number of advantages to the block pattern.
It yields significantly more than the traditional row garden and it suppresses weed growing. It also makes watering and harvesting much easier. This layout resembles the square foot, but in this case, you decide on the measurements.
Vegetables are planted in rectangular blocks or beds, eliminating unnecessary walkways. It is immediately obvious that this will yield much more than the usual long rows you often encounter in larger vegetable gardens.
The block garden is a densely planted garden and therefore need well-drained, fertile soil rich in nutrients to feed all the plants. Fertilizer is essential. Make sure you do not overplant your garden; your veggies still need enough air circulation to prevent diseases.
A recommended measurement across will be between three and four feet. The length will depend on your needs. Anything wider than this will make it very difficult to reach all the areas when you have to weed, water and harvest.
Keep walkways to a minimum and do not make them more than 24 inches wide. Cover your walkways with wood chips, grass clippings and organic mulch.
All your plants should have an equal amount of space around them. Carrots, for instance, must be planted three inches apart, running the length and width of your square.
In this way, you can fit the same number of carrot plants into a block of two by three feet that will need a traditional garden row of 24 feet.
5 - Vertical Layout
If your garden space is limited or even non-existing, this garden layout is designed especially for you. A vertical garden will need very little space; plants are grown along trellises, in hanging baskets and even upside down.
There are many different options of containers to use for this method of planting. Have a look in your nursery to find containers suitable to your available space.
A stackable set of pots will be ideal for a small space since you can place one on top of the other with each one containing its own vegetable plant. These planting towers are quite popular for growing potatoes.
6 - Raised Container or Beds
This is another great alternative for people without a large garden space. If you have sandy or clay soil in your garden, this will also make your chores easier, since you do not have to struggle with the topsoil. You can plant individual vegetable plants in pots in a raised container, or fill a container with a variety of veggies.
Raised beds will make your gardening chores a lot easier. Place them at least 12 inches tall so that you do not need to bend down to the ground or go down on your knees when tending your plants.
If you construct the walls of your raised bed to just below waist height, you may even sit on the edge while harvesting or weeding. No more back pain!
The soil in raised beds will warm earlier than those of the surrounding garden plots, so you can start planting sooner. This will increase your crops and the variety of vegetables you can successfully grow.
Lastly, raised beds will add to the decorative design of your garden.
Be creative: take into account the colors of the plants, shapes and different heights. Arrange them around your patio or garden to create an attractive landscape.
10 Easiest Vegetables to Grow
If you are a novice gardener it is only natural that do prefer to start your venture with those veggies which are the easiest to grow.
I can assure you that there are more than enough vegetable plants that will suit your specific needs; the available space you have, whether in pots or garden plots.
Now I will tell you which ones are ideal for the beginner.
1 – Salad Leaves
What is a salad without those wonderfully fresh, crunchy leaves?
They come in a delightful variety of flavors, colors and textures. Plant a mixture during summer time and within three months you can expect to enjoy your own fresh leaves in your lunch salad or on one of your favorite sandwiches.
These leaves will continue to grow and sprout and reward you right through the season.
2 – Radishes and Spring Onions
These two ingredients add a special flavor to any fresh salad, and besides, they are super easy to grow. They will grow equally well in containers or in garden plots and are fast growers so that you will have a good supply right through the summer.
3 – Potatoes
Potatoes are fun to grow and planting them in bags is the easiest way to do it. Start them in March for a summer and autumn harvest.
You can also plant in August/September for new potatoes at Christmas time. Cover the bottom of your bag with soil and a mixture of compost.
Bury your tuber and keep it moist. As soon as the newly sprouted greens appear, fill up with additional compost to cover them completely. Continue this process until your potato bag is filled.
Leave the plant to flower and to die back, watering regularly. Now comes the fun part: To harvest, simply tip your potato bag out and start searching for your spuds.
Normally they take between ten to twelve weeks to grow but you may harvest them earlier if you prefer smaller potatoes.
How easy is that!
4 – Peas
All peas like cooler weather and even a covering of snow or a light frost will be tolerated by the newly sprouted plants. You can sow the seeds directly in the soil a week or so before the last frost.
Once they have germinated, they do not need much attention except for watering, so they are very easy to grow. When the hot summer days arrive, be sure to shield them from the sun if you want an extended harvest.
Make sure to support their stems with stakes as they grow higher and use some sturdy string if needed. Some varieties grow taller than others.
5 – Mint
All peas like cooler weather and even a covering of snow or a light frost will be tolerated by the newly sprouted plants. You can sow the seeds directly in the soil a week or so before the last frost.
Once they have germinated, they do not need much attention except for watering, so they are very easy to grow. When the hot summer days arrive, be sure to shield them from the sun if you want an extended harvest.
Make sure to support their stems with stakes as they grow higher and use some sturdy string if needed. Some varieties grow taller than others.
6 – Broad Beans
This vegetable plant has a high yield, is easy to handle and does not need a lot of attention. You can grow them either from seeds or from small plants, in pots or directly into the garden.
Plant them from February to April and they will be ready for the picking by June. Seeds will be ready for transplanting into pots or the garden plot within a few weeks. If your plants become too heavy, support them with stalks.
Cut the growing tips for a more bushy plant. The tender tips can even be used as an ingredient in your summer salad. You will definitely be pleasantly surprised by the fresh crunchy taste of your broad beans compared to those you buy in the supermarket.
7 – Runner Beans
Runner beans are another easy plant for beginners to launch their gardening careers. They are such productive plants and pretty on top of it all. Seeds will germinate within a week and grow quickly.
As they grow taller, they will need support. Try an A-frame for an attractive ornamental feature in your garden. If you water them regularly, you will be rewarded with an endless supply.
Pick them every two to three days before they become stringy. A dwarf bean called Hestia is ideal in a decorative pot on your patio and will not take up too much space.
8 – Garlic and Onions
Just try to imagine a kitchen without onions or garlic. Impossible, I agree.
Food is just not the same without these wonderful flavors. On top of it, their health benefits are too many to name here.
These plants must count amongst the easiest veggies to grow and they store well, so nothing goes to waste. They are almost maintenance free. Most of the time you can simply forget about them.
They need only a little weeding and a moderate supply of moisture. Plant them from sets bought from your nursery in well-draining soil. As soon as the foliage starts to yellow, they can be lifted and dried for storage.
Put them in a warm, moisture-free area to dry out and make sure all the green has disappeared from the foliage before you store them in a cool, dry place.
9 – Tomatoes
The most satisfying aspect of growing tomatoes is the fact that one can almost see how they grow!
That is why they are your ultimate choice when introducing your kids to the pleasures of gardening. Cherry Cascade grows well in a window box or hanging basket and need little maintenance.
This is a bush variety and will not need any training. You just need to water and feed it. Growing them from seeds may take considerably longer, so I suggest you grow them using plug plants for your first endeavor.
10 – Beetroot
Beetroot is one of the top ten vegetables grown in home gardens. It is popular mainly because it is so easy and simple to grow.
This vegetable grows underground, as it is in fact the taproot of the beet plant. Its growing period takes up to ten weeks.
Although beetroot prefers cooler temperatures, they can successfully be grown in areas with a warm climate, provided they receive enough moisture.
They are quite adaptable plants and with care can be grown throughout the year. During summer, dish it up with salads and in winter you can enjoy your own succulent beetroot warm.
Beetroot always lends color to your plate and is a very healthy option.
11 Quickest Vegetables to Grow
Are you a late starter? Maybe you live in an area that has only a very short season for growing vegetables.
Not a problem; there are numerous delicious, healthy vegetables with a short growing period. Not all veggies take months to mature before you can start harvesting them.
The following is a list of the fastest growing veggies that will allow you to enjoy your own produce in no time.
1 – Radishes
This hardy vegetable can produce many crops during the season because it grows so incredibly fast. If you are a person who likes instant gratification, this vegetable is for you!
You can plant them in spring and in autumn but make sure they get enough sunlight. Some varieties could be ready in only three weeks, provided they receive enough moisture and sunlight.
Radishes are highly regarded in the Orient, especially Japan where it is eaten regularly in different forms.
2 – Green Onions
Whereas regular onion bulbs may take up to six months to reach maturity, green onion stalks are much faster growing. In only three to four weeks after sowing, you will be able to start harvesting.
If you prefer micro greens, you will only have to wait two or three weeks before you can enjoy their subtle, delicate flavor.
Scallions are actually immature onions and can be grown from seeds, sets or the bulbs of green onions that can be started in jars filled with water.
3 – Lettuce
Lettuce is one of those carefree crops that can be grown without much labor or attention on your part.
Most varieties take about 45 days to mature but some varieties like looseleaf and butterhead leaves can be picked at any stage of their development. They can easily be grown from seeds both in the garden and indoors in pots.
4 – Baby Carrots
These small root vegetables grow very quickly, regardless of where you choose to grow them, indoors or outdoors. They are deliciously crunchy; eat them fresh with a dip for snacks in between meals.
The baby carrots we see in the supermarkets today are either immature regular carrots pulled out before they reach maturity or a miniature strain that has been developed.
Both are equally sweet and will be ready to harvest after a month or so whereas regular size carrots will need around 60 days or more.
5 – Spinach
Spinach like cool weather and is very tolerant of colder climates. Plant a variety in a large planter for a stunning display and start harvesting as soon as six weeks after you have planted them.
If you prefer smaller leaves, you can start picking as soon as they reach the size you require. Spinach is a versatile vegetable that can be eaten raw in salads or cooked and prepared in many different ways.
6 – Kale and Similar Leafy Greens
There are many healthy, delicious greens like watercress, kale and mustard greens that are all fast growers.
On average, they take between fifty and sixty five days to maturity but you can pick the baby leaves after only twenty-five days. Long gone are the days of only lettuce in your salad. Now you can add a myriad of textures, flavors and colors to them.
7 – Peas
Garden peas come in three varieties with beautiful names like snow peas, snap peas and sweet peas.
They can all be used in different ways, either raw, cooked, peeled or in their pods. They make an attractive addition to any kitchen garden with their pretty flowers, climbing tendrils and green pods.
Shelling peas may take up to twelve weeks to mature but mangetout should be harvested when the pods are still tender and the seeds still immature, after about sixty days.
8 – Bush Beans
This kind of bean takes up less space than pole beans that need supports for the heavy plants. They also grow faster and should be harvested before the seeds inside the pods have grown too big.
You will be picking your first beans within forty to sixty five days of planting. Green beans are filled with nutrients and can be eaten raw, or blanched and frozen.
Pickled beans are especially tasty and if your harvest is plentiful, why not can some for later use.
9 – Turnips
Turnips make a convenient substitute for potatoes or can be eaten as a vegetable in its own right. It is quite popular in Europe although the greens have become highly sought after here at home.
Therefore, nothing of this plant goes to waste. It thrives in temperate climates and although the roots need around two months to mature, you can harvest them at any size you want.
In fact, the younger roots are sweeter and more tender. The leaves are ready within forty days.
10 – Cucumber
Cucumbers are tropical plants and need plenty of moisture and hot weather. They grow fast and do not need too much care.
You can start picking as soon as they reach the size you want and the more you pick, the more your plant will produce. If you grow them from seeds, it takes around fifty days to two months to reach the mature stage.
Planting seedlings purchased from a nursery will reduce the period by one or two weeks.
11 – Squash
Squash comes in two types, winter or summer plants. The winter varieties like hubbard and butternut are sturdier and larger and take longer to grow.
Summer varieties, like the popular zucchini, are a lot tenderer and faster growers than their winter counterparts. ZucchAini will be ready to harvest ten days after flowering; in total about two months after planting.
Apart from the delicate flavor of your own zucchini, try the flowers too. They are delicious fried in a light batter.
9 Best Vegetables to Grow for Small Garden
Having to grow your own vegetables in a small garden is very much like having to live in a small home. In both instances, it takes planning and to do that you need the correct information.
If you plan well, it will be a lot less daunting than you think. Space is your main concern, so it only makes sense that you have to choose those plants that will still yield plentiful but do not take up a lot of room.
The choices can be overwhelming, I agree. I suggest you go to your local nursery to look at the ever-expanding list of seed options. Seed companies perform many trials every year to offer their customers the best selections.
Any good catalogue will include a list of compact plants perfect for smaller gardens. If you have access to a large garden, your main objectives probably are productivity and taste, but for a smaller space, you have to consider longevity and ornamental qualities as well.
My suggestion would be to start with the popular, trusted favorites: basil, tomatoes and lettuce.
From here, you can expand and try one or two new veggies each season. To help you on your way, here are my recommendations.
1 – Basil
You will go far to find a garden without basil; not only for its wonderful aroma, but also for its many uses. The strong scent of basil leaves repel certain insects and who can think of fresh tomatoes without basil; they are inseparable culinary partners.
The main ingredient of pesto is basil, so now you can make your own to add to your favorite pasta, on pizzas or in salads. Many people use basil leaves in homemade remedies.
Sweet basil comes in many varieties, more than eighty. Pistou is the tiniest amongst them and is just perfect for window boxes. Growing basil plants from seeds is easy and do not require much effort.
2 – Chard
The upright nature of chard makes it a must for any small spaced garden. It is furthermore a most rewarding plant; the more you harvest its leaves, the more it will yield.
The brightly colored stems of the Rainbow Chard make a wonderful display. If you prefer yellow, ruby red and pink colored stems, invest in the Bright Lights variety.
Chard, family of the beetroot plant, grows well in both warm temperatures and cooler areas. Since it is such a prolific grower, you will have to thin out the seedlings to allow your plants enough space and air.
The bright green leaves of chard are tender and can be eaten raw in salads. Otherwise, use them in dishes like casseroles, pasta sauces, in omelet or quiches.
3 – Eggplant
Eggplant varies mainly as far as size, shape and color are concerned. Their colors range from a purplish black to white with almost all the shades in between. So which variety to choose for your small garden?
Asian or Oriental eggplants grow in a compact unit that is ideal for pots or small spaces. Pingtung Long, which originates from Taiwan, has long slender fruit that requires low maintenance.
The plant may grow high, producing a surprising number of slender vegetables. The tender skin and subtle flavor makes for wonderful gourmet dishes. The deep lavender color creates an attractive display and the plant is disease resistant.
This prolific plant can easily be grown from seeds. For even faster germination, place your seed trays on the top of a kitchen appliance like your refrigerator. The heat at the bottom will quicken the process.
4 – Hot Peppers
An ornamental pot with a beautiful green leaved plant and bright red splashes of peppers on your patio will be a sure attraction for the eye. Peppers are equally at home in window boxes, in the garden or in baskets.
My favorite is the Black Hungarian; it may be a little too big for a widow box, but is perfect for larger containers.
A colorful plant with emerald green leaves to offset its purple flowers, the peppers are sure to attract attention. They start off green, turning black and eventually settle for a bright red color.
Basket of Fire is a smaller plant if your space is really limited but its display is as impressive especially if you grow it in a hanging basket. The peppers are initially as green just like the foliage, but soon turn yellow, then mature into orange and end up a nice eye catching red.
You will often see all three shades on the same plant resembling the flames of a fire. Do not let this pretty display mislead you though; the peppers are quite pungent, almost as hot as the habanero type.
Hot peppers can easily be grown from seeds and later be transplanted into the garden or containers as soon as the warmer weather arrives.
5 – Tomatoes
Cherry tomatoes plants are prolific growers that will very soon overwhelm your garden plot and cover any trellis faster than you will think. Fortunately, botanists have come up with varieties that grow less wildly and have a more compact size.
Cherry Cascade is exactly such a space saving plant. It loves growing in hanging baskets and will produce an abundance of fruit. They will drape beautifully over the basket, but never become too heavy or reach too close to ground level.
The sizes of the fruit varies from marbles to golf balls. It is a surprisingly hardy plant; it tolerates drought and even the blossom-end rot and cracking which often afflicts normal sized tomatoes.
6 – Mesclun
Mesclun literally means “mixture” and originates from Provence, France. It is an assortment of tender, new, young leaves from different greens.
It is highly prized for its mix of flavors, texture, color and nutrition. The traditional mix consists of lettuces, chervil, endive and arugula but these days any combination of leaves can be used.
For your small garden plot or space, you may want to assemble your own mesclun seed mixture. Mesclun is harvested young, so it does not need a lot of space.
Try escaroles and Italian endives; their leaves can be picked one by one. Purslane with its unusually succulent leaves is another good choice because it has a high level of omega 3.
You can purchase different seed mixes all suited to a specific season. I would suggest you start with a mixture designed for spring. These include tatsoi, red and green mustard, and arugula.
When the season turns warm, introduce a summer mix with wild arugula, Jericho lettuce and New Red Fire lettuce. Autumn greens consists of amongst others kale, collards and some lettuce types.
Purple Rapa is the perfect seed mix for the cooler season; it is resistant to diseases, and can withstand lower temperatures.
7 – Lettuce
Lettuce can be divided into five different kinds: cos, loose-leaf, romaine, butterhead and crisphead lettuce. Each of these offer distinct flavors, appearances and textures.
Plant a mixture for a good-looking display. Cos lettuce grows upright with beautiful long leaves and should be included in your mixture. Little Gem is a mini romaine and has a heart both sweet and dense.
For color, include Merlot, a beautiful red butterhead. Lolla Rossa has pretty frilly leaves which will add to the attractiveness of your container.
Lettuce has the added advantage of being a rapid grower and usually takes around forty-five days to grow from seeds to mature salad plants.
8 – Edible Flowers
So you have never eaten a flower before? I have a surprise for you; there are many flowers that are not only edible but which will add charm and special aroma to various dishes.
Edible flower plants have many advantages. They are the natural choice to consider for small gardens and planters; they look beautiful not only in pots but also in food and many of them release a wonderful aroma.
All-time favorites are nasturtiums, calendula and violas, all long flowering plants right through the summer. Keep on picking the flowers and they will continue to bloom.
I consider Lemon Gem a personal favorite because of its refreshing lemony scent and aromatic fern-like foliage.
9 – Pole Beans
Plants that grow vertically are lifesavers for small spaced gardens. The area they need in your garden plot is minimal but their upward-growing nature will still ensure plentiful crops.
Construct a tepee from bamboo for the vines of your pole bean plant and watch how it enjoys climbing up the frame to cover it completely.
Trionfo Violetto, an Italian heirloom is my absolute preferred choice. Its green leaves have a pretty purple color on the undersides. The multitude of eye catching lavender flowers that appear by midsummer makes a startling contrast to the lush green of its foliage.
Afterwards the slender purple pods make their appearance. Start them from seeds in the pot or space where you want them to grow.
How to Grow Vegetables in Containers
If the quality of the soil in your garden is not adequate for growing vegetables successfully but you dread the idea of having to till it, add compost, fertilizer, drainage materials etc., containers is the solution.
Many vegetables are well suited to grow in containers and will supply you with your own freshly grown vegetables. You do not need acres of gardening land to provide your family with enough crops.
By choosing the right types of vegetables, you will have plenty to last the whole year and maybe even enough to pass on to your friends.
How to Pick the Right Spot for a Vegetable Container Garden
The majority of vegetables that are grown in containers perform best if they receive a minimum of six hours direct sunlight per day. They will thrive in full sun. Vegetables like peppers and tomatoes that are prone to disease will stay healthy in open areas with enough circulation of air around the plants.
If your area has a colder climate, there are a number of solutions; you can easily make a plan. Place your containers close to a wall that faces south to catch and reflect the heat of the sun during the day.
In an area with hot summers be cautious where you situate your vegetable containers; a light cement surface or white walls will reflect the heat and can damage your plants.
It is a good idea to fit larger containers with wheels or set them on carts or dollies so that you can easily move them according to the sun. Conditions change as the seasons progress and this way you can easily move them to the best location.
The kind of containers you choose is mostly up to you. Vegetable plants are not fuzzy about their homes as long as the size of the container fits the size of your plants. The basic rule is that bigger pots are better, especially if you are still a beginner gardener.
Larger pots hold a larger amount of soil. This in turn will keep the soil moist longer and you will not be obliged to water your plants that often.
One essential condition for your vegetable garden containers though is that they must have enough holes in the bottom for proper drainage. All the excess water must be able to drain away after watering or a rain shower.
If you are already in possession of containers but they do not have any drainage holes, use a drill with a quarter inch bit to drill holes through the bottom and the sides close to the bottom of your pots. To prevent the soil from leaking through these holes, line the containers with landscape or screen cloth.
There are whole ranges of containers that you can choose from; flowerpots, bushel baskets lined with plastic, half barrels, planters, 5-gallon buckets and window boxes are all suitable for vegetable plants. They should be at least ten inches in width and twelve inches deep.
The size of the container will be determined by which vegetable you plant in it. Regular sized tomatoes and other vining crops, for example, cucumbers need pots at least twenty inches wide. Peppers, on the other hand, need containers with a diameter of around sixteen inches.
Remember that plants like cucumbers and tomatoes that produce vines and can grow quite tall will need some kind of support. This can be in the form of stalks or wire cages and should be inserted when you plant your vegetables.
These types of plants will need larger pots to prevent them from becoming top-heavy and falling over when the plants climb up the trellises.
Choosing Materials for Your Vegetable Containers
This is really not a big issue, your plants will be equally happy in a wooden container or one made out of plastic.
Here is a list of various container materials with their pros and cons.
1 – Clay
Clay pots are good for growing plants. They are quite attractive and their porous nature allows good air exchange. The down side is that they do not keep moisture well, so you will probably have to water your plants more often.
They may be expensive, so your budget will be the deciding factor. The larger pots can be quite heavy and difficult to move around. They are also breakable, so take care when you move them.
2 – Plastic
Plastic containers come in a huge variety of shapes and sizes. They are durable, lightweight, and usually quite affordable.
3 – Glazed Ceramics
These pots come in beautiful colors and can really brighten up any area of your garden or patio. When choosing a colored pot, remember that darker colors like brown will absorb more heat and can lead to overheated soil.
I would suggest that you pick lighter colors if you live in a warmer part of the country. Plants like ceramic pots and they are less subject to freeze damage.
Take care though; they may be easily chipped or even break when not handled with care.
4 – Concrete
Concrete is very heavy, so use these pots in permanent spots. They have many advantages. They are durable, affordable and attractive.
5 – Wood
Make sure the wooden container you purchase is properly treated and rot-resistant, otherwise it will have a short life span.
The chemicals used to treat the pot are very important since some kinds can leak into the soil and eventually be absorbed by the vegetables in the pot. Wooden containers are fairly cheap and lightweight and they can be found in all shapes and sizes.
Choosing Types of Soil for Vegetable Containers
The quality of the soil in your vegetable garden containers will have a direct impact on the quality of the vegetables you grow.
Vegetable plants may not be fuzzy about the color, shape or material of their containers, but they certainly are very fuzzy when it comes to their soil.
They need mixtures especially made for pots and containers. You can purchase such potting mixtures from your nursery or mix your own, which will be a lot less expensive.
A basic mixture consists of the following three materials, mixed in equal parts; potting soil, peat moss and either clean sand, perlite or vermiculite.
The amount of potting mix needed will depend on the measurements of your container but here is a guideline:
- A six-inch pot needs about three pints of the mixture.
- A twelve-inch container needs around three and a half gallons.
- A twenty-inch container needs closer to six and a half gallons of soil.
Always fill up your container almost to the top, as the soil will slowly sink down with time. Fill up if needed.
Container Vegetables: How and When to Plant
For vegetables to be grown in containers follow the exact same time schedule you would for garden vegetables. How you go about it will depend on the type of vegetables you plan to grow:
Plant seeds indoors and transplant them into the containers after germination or start them straight in your pots. You can also buy the transplants or seeds from your nursery or garden center.
Before you plant either the transplants or seeds into the containers, water the soil thoroughly. After soaking the potting soil, leave it for a number of hours until all the excess water has drained.
Follow the directions on the seed packets. It is much better to plant too many seed since not all of them will germinate. It will be easy to do a little thinning out later.
Some vegetables like carrots, beans, spinach, radishes and corn can be planted straight into their containers. Always water the seeds carefully and gently after you have planted them.
You do not want to flush them out, but provide them plenty of moisture to start them off. The soil will dry out slower if you mulch it with leaf mold, compost or straw.
How to Care for Your Container Vegetables
Probably the most essential aspect of successfully growing of vegetables in containers is how much you water them. The potting mix should never dry out, so make sure to inspect your plants regularly.
A system for drip-irrigation will be invaluable and make your life a lot easier. Your veggies will automatically be watered without you having to inspect every container constantly.
Secondly, your plants will need fertilizer to ensure optimum growth. Use a soluble kind and administer according to the instructions on the packet. Start the fertilizer thirty days after planting and repeat every week.
Vegetable plants grown in containers are less susceptible to pests and disease, but you still have to be on the lookout for anything that can harm your veggies.
Do some weeding when necessary and treat or remove any affected plants lest they infect the rest of your container.
- Harvest Tips
Now we come to the most enjoyable and satisfying part of your gardening venture. There are no set times when to harvest the different vegetables. As soon as they have reached the desirable size, you can start picking.
As a rule, it is always better to harvest earlier rather than later. This will increase production of your crop. Leaving the vegetables on the plant too long may result in an overripe product and a reduction in fruit yield.
- Fall Care
The season has ended and you have harvested the last veggies. Empty all the containers of their soil and throw it onto your compost heap. Refrain from using the same soil for years on end; it can carry infestations and infections over to your next crop.
Clean all your pots and containers thoroughly. First, scrub them out with a hard brush; removing all the soil, then rinse them with a solution consisting of ten parts water and one part bleach. Finish by rinsing well with lots of clean water before storing them in a suitable dry place.
18 Best Vegetables to Grow in Containers
Finally, I would like to provide you with some very basic instructions on your container garden vegetables. These suggestions are given with the eye on optimal growth but you can also grow veggies in smaller pots with excellent results.
Obviously, there are so many varieties that will all flourish in containers and I can only mention a few. If you have difficulty in locating my recommended varieties, make inquiries at your local nursery for other suggestions.
1 – Beets
Plant the seeds directly in two to five gallon window boxes.
- Ruby Queen.
- Bull’s Blood.
- Baby Canning.
- Early Red Ball.
- Burpee Garden.
2 – Broccoli
Grow only one transplant in a five-gallon container.
- Small Miracle.
- Green Comet.
3 – Cabbage
Grow either one transplant in a five-gallon container or one in a gallon container for smaller varieties.
- Fast Bull.
- King Cole.
4 – Carrots
Plant the seeds directly in a container of two to five gallons and later thin the seedlings to three inches apart.
- Danver’s Long Half.
- Little Finger.
- Short n’ Sweet.
5 – Cucumber
Grow two transplants in every five-gallon container. The vining types will need a cage or trellis.
- Bush Champion.
- Salad Bush.
- Park’s Bush Whopper 2.
6 – Eggplant
Grow a single transplant in a five-gallon container.
- Patio Mohican.
- Black Beauty.
7 – Green Beans
Sow the seeds straight into a window box that holds five gallons.
- Bush Romano.
- Bush Blue Lake.
8 – Kohlrabi
Plant the seeds in a five-gallon container. Later thin the seedlings out to leave only three plants.
- Early White Vienna.
- Purple Vienna.
9 – Lettuce
Use either transplants or seed in container of one gallon or even larger.
- Salad Bowl.
- Green Ice
- Red Sails
- Little Gem
- Tom Thumb
10 – Onion
Plant the seeds into a container of at least one-gallon capacity. Thin the seedlings to leave a space of two inches between them.
- Any variety of scallion or green onion
11 – Peas
Sow seeds in a five-gallon container. The taller varieties will have to be supported with trellises.
- Mammoth Melting Sugar.
- Sugar Bon.
12 – Pepper
Grow two transplants in every five-gallon container.
- New Ace
- Long Red Cayenne
13 – Radishes
Plant the seeds in a container with two gallon capacity or larger. Then thin out the seedlings to three inches apart.
- Cherry Bell
- White Icicle
14 – Spinach
Plant the seeds into a container with at least a gallon capacity.
- Long Bloomsdale
15 – Summer Squash
Plant either two transplants or the seeds in a five-gallon container.
- Pic ‘n Pic
16 – Swiss Chard
Grow either seeds or four transplants in a five-gallon container.
- Bright Lights
17 – Tomatoes
Grow one plant in a five-gallon container.
- Super Bush
- Patio Princess
- Tumbling Tom
- Early Girl
18 – Winter Squash
Grow from seeds or one transplant in a five-gallon container.
- Early Acom
- Honey Bear
How to Grow Vegetables Indoors
Although there are certain vegetables that are quite happy to spend the cold season out of doors, not all of them will be able to survive the frost. There are a few alternatives to consider, depending on your specific situation.
Obviously, a greenhouse is the best solution, but if you do not have access to one, you might consider growing veggies in your shed in the garden or on your kitchen shelf. With the correct equipment and tools, a basement is also an alternative.
A hydroponic system will help you to grow vegetables in almost any environment like an office, living room, kitchen, etc., but these can be quite costly.
There is also a limit as to which vegetables you can successfully grow using these gadgets. Admittedly, they are quite interesting and have a novelty appeal, but there are other alternatives that are a lot less expensive.
Getting the Requirements for Indoor Growing
Although different plants have different requirements according to their variety, size etc., they all have one thing in common: they need a minimum of six hours sunlight per day.
The five most important factors to consider when you want to grow vegetables inside are the following:
- How much light they require.
- The growing medium.
- The humidity levels.
- Air circulation.
- The temperature.
1 – Light Requirements
Maybe you have one of those so-called sunroom in your house which gets a consistent amount of light through the day. If this is the case, this is where you should grow your vegetable plants. If not, you may consider investing in growing lamps.
Do your research because there are many different kinds. They can be found at most of the home improvement shops and can be inserted into about any light fixture.
The main problem is that the light they provide is usually insufficient. They are perfect for African Violets and such plants, but do not always suffice for vegetable plants since the intensity and amount of light is not enough.
Photosynthesis should take place at a rate which can keep your plants active long enough. Plants have to be close to their light source or they will not be able to grow, bear flowers or fruit. Not only are they affected but the amount of light they receive, the intensity also plays a major part in their health.
Keep in mind that vegetables that bear fruit, like peppers, tomatoes and cucumbers need a lot more light than herbs, root vegetables such as beets and carrots, and salad greens.
Use florescent lights for your sprouts, herbs and greens, placing it within four inches of the plant and they will do quite well.
2 – Growing Medium
When you grow vegetables outside in your garden plot, you always pay a lot of attention to their soil. Well, indoor plants need the same attention, if not more.
The growing medium should provide your vegetable plants with all the nutrition they need or you will face the same problems as with your outdoor veggies if the pH levels are off or nutrition is lacking.
Just like with your outside garden, first test the soil you intend to use for your indoor containers before you start planting seeds. Avoiding problems before they appear is much better than to have to struggle with them later when they have escalated.
3 – Humidity Levels
The next variable to consider is the level of humidity in the area where you place your plants. Too high levels may cause rot and fungal infections while too low levels of humidity will dry out the plants and slow down growth.
The indoor heating systems we use inside our homes during the winter months dry out the air considerable. Move your plant containers to an area without a fireplace or air conditioner or buy a humidifier to counteract the dryness.
4 – Air Circulation
Any gardening space needs a good circulation of air. A fresh breezy airflow helps to prevent fungus and molds from growing and distributes the moisture around your indoor area.
If it is too cold to open a window to enable the flow of air, use a fan with a slow setting. This should take care of the problem effectively.
5 – Temperature
As far as this aspect is concerned, you will have to be especially vigilant. Monitor the temperature of your indoor vegetable garden area closely, even more so if it is a garden shed or garage without insulation.
As you know, temperatures can drop drastically during the night hours. Your vegetables can suffer damage or succumb. Too high temperatures, on the contrary may prevent your tomato flowers from setting if it does not drop below eighty-five degrees Fahrenheit.
How to Choose Vegetables for Indoor Growing
Let me start by saying that not all vegetables will thrive indoors. The light and space required for them to flourish is simply not always adequate. These include corn, squash, beans, peas, watermelon and cucumbers.
However, although they might not thrive, that should not prevent you from attempting to grow these vegetables. Under the right conditions, you might just be more successful than you expected.
This is a list of your best options for selection for your winter indoor vegetable garden:
- Tomatoes, both mini varieties and cherry
Are peas your favorite vegetable? Well, there is a way that you can enjoy your own fresh crops right through the year. Peas prefer cool temperatures and if you build a trellis to support them, they will repay your efforts with plenty of fruit. Peas is a much wiser choice than for instance beans, which do better in warm temperatures.
Growing veggies vertically saves a lot of space and will enable you to even enjoy crops like potatoes. Many indoor gardeners love to grow them in bags or on potato towers. You only need a space as small as a square foot to grow a few pounds of this versatile veggie.
Harvesting potatoes grown in bags, is lots of fun and a lot less tedious than having to search through a whole garden plot for your hidden crop. Re-use your potato bags or towers outdoors in summer for a year round crop. Potatoes can be stored beautifully and is loaded with nutrition.
We all know that carrots enjoy the outdoor conditions but you might be surprised to learn that they can also be grown indoors in big containers with great success. Fill the container with loose soil mixed with rich organic materials and plant either a mini variety or regular size carrots. Provide your plants with enough light and you will pick carrots even smack in the middle of winter.
Have you ever considered growing fruit indoors? Strawberries and lemons will grow well if you make sure to fulfil all their requirements for the right soil, warmth and light. Plant them in your basement garden, greenhouse or shed.
In case you are a novice, I suggest that you start small so as not to become overwhelmed and baffled with all the choices and chores. Purchase one or two florescent lights and begin by growing a few lettuce varieties. Seeing your lettuce thrive will give you the confidence you need to branch out with beautiful green baby spinach and bright red mini tomatoes. From there the sky is the limit.
If you are willing to spend a little and have the patience required, with the correct tools and knowledge you are going to experience the sweet taste of success when you enjoy your succulent, fresh veggies in the dead of winter when other less adventurous gardeners are just staring at their barren winter gardens.
How to Maintenance and Care Your Garden
So we have covered all the information, you need to start your own vegetable garden, whether from seeds or sets. You have decided where you are going to grow your vegetables: outside in your garden or indoors, in containers.
You have made a good start, enthusiastically planting your veggies and they are growing happily.
However, now is not the time to rest on your laurels. If you want your gardening endeavor to be successful and your plants to grow and produce fruit to their full potential, there are certain tasks you will have to perform throughout the season.
Now is the time for staking, mulching, watering and overall garden care. If you tend your garden with lovingly, it will reward you with nutritious, great tasting vegetables the whole season long.
Here are a few pointers to ensure success.
1 - Watering Your Garden
We all know that every plant needs water to be able to grow, but just how much can certainly be a tricky business. First, plants need a constant supply of moisture. The easiest way to achieve this is by installing a drip irrigation system or soaker hosepipe.
If your garden is extensive, this will be especially helpful. A sprinkler system will use as much as sixty percent more water than these, so you will save a lot and whereas sprinkling will leave your plants with wet leaves that can lead to disease, the abovementioned two options will keep them dry and thus better ensure your plants will be healthier.
How do you know that you are overwatering? Moss or mold showing on the soil is a dead give-away. Plants that are yellowing or wilting is another sign that your plants receive too much water. The soil all around your plants should never be soaked.
Plants that are not getting enough water, on the other hand, will wilt and their leaves will turn brown and eventually die. Their growth will be stunted since they do not receiving the nutrition they need without enough moisture.
If you find it difficult to determine whether you are overwatering or under-watering, I would suggest that you invest in a moisture meter. This helpful instrument measures the moistness of the soil around the roots.
Take extra care when you water your seeds or seedlings. A strong stream of water can wash away your seeds or damage your young seedlings. Gently sprinkle the water on the soil.
2 - Determine your Soil Type
There are three types of soil, all of which will determine how much watering should take place. This is not rocket science; with a few tips, you can manage all types of soil.
These tips are according to the Natural Resources Conservation Service of the USDA.
- The soil all around the plants should be loosened to encourage the absorption of nutrients and water.
- Top the soil around the plant with a one to two inch deep mulch layer to protect it. It will reduce soil erosion and evaporation of moisture.
This kind of soil does not absorb water easily, so you should water it according to the pace of absorption. Do not give too much water all at once. Loosen the soil with a spade and then mix in organic materials like peat moss or compost.
Sandy soil does not keep water; it runs right through so that the plant cannot absorb enough moisture before it is gone. Again, you can add in any kind of organic material to keep the water from soaking down too quickly.
Loam soil is a good combination of silt, clay and sand and is the best kind of soil for your vegetable garden. It absorbs the water at a steady pace and then stores it so that the plant can use it effectively.
3 - Maintenance for a Healthy Garden
Now I will tell you how to ensure that your garden stays healthy and green and produces the best veggies for your kitchen.
Feeding your Soil to Feed your Plants
Plants that are well nourished will be able to resist diseases and insects much better. Since they obtain their nourishment from the soil in which they grow, it makes sense that you must provide them with a healthy home to grow in. Do this by applying lots of well-aged manure and compost.
Weed Out the Weeds
Weeds can cause many headaches, not only because they are exactly that but also because they often harbor disease and insects harmful to plants. You will have to weed regularly, especially when your plants are still young and more susceptible. Later it will be much easier to keep the weeds under control.
Dump Your Dead
Dead or rotting vegetation like pulled weeds, plant stalks and dead leaves can harbor pests, so clean around your vegetable plants constantly.
Disinfection of Tools is Tops
Just like dead plant material, tools can also became infected by coming into contact with pests and transfer diseases to your healthy plants. Disinfest all your tools after every use.
Keeping Plants Cool
When a heat wave descends on your area or you experience extra hot conditions, shade your plants or they will suffer and wilt. Cover them with a screen made of cheesecloth.
Many plants will need some kind of support like stakes, trellises, A-frames or tepees. Here are the reasons why you should consider making use of them even if your plants are not top-heavy:
- You will win extra garden space.
- Your plants will have better exposure to needed light.
- Air circulation will improve around your plants.
- Pruning and harvesting will be much easier.
Pick and Pick and Pick
The minute your veggies have ripened and are ready for the picking, you should start harvesting. Afterwards remove the entire plant and throw healthy harvested plants on the compost heap. They may also be re-worked into the garden soil.
Keep Your Plants Clean
The minute you detect diseases, immediately remove the entire plant or those parts of the plant that are infected. Make sure which parts of the plant you have to get rid of. This should be done with urgency so that your healthy plants do not become infected too. Destroy discarded plants.
Re-Start Really Early
As soon as the season has ended and you have finished harvesting your crop, you should start clearing the debris in your garden area. If you are satisfied that your plot is cleaned out properly, leave it bare to rest for a week or so. Then it is time to start cultivating and preparing the soil for the next season. It is always good to have a head start.
4 - Season Extenders
Many enthusiastic vegetable gardeners use all kinds of means to extend their crops season. This may be a simple tarp made of plastic or as sophisticated as a greenhouse that is fully automated.
With help, you can work around the existing weather patterns to increase your crops. Here is a list of season extenders to protect your vegetable plants from the cold:
The insulating materials of row covers will keep your plants from freezing when the cold hits so construct them in autumn to extend the growing season. If you put them up in spring, you can start your plants sooner.
Covers made from plastic, called floating row should be used with care. They may trap moisture and their impermeable nature will hamper air circulation.
If you decide to use them, put them around frames to still allow for air circulation. A simple wire arch will do perfectly well.
Cloches can be made of either plastic or paper and are actually little greenhouses for individual plants. They can be purchased in many different forms from any gardening store. It is easy to make it yourself by using a milk jug that you simply cut up.
Making use of a cold frame can turn your gardening into an all year activity if you live in a moderate climate region. Insert unused storm windows into a plywood frame, forming a bottomless box to place over your plants.
Seedlings can also be protected from adverse weather this way.
These are really only an extension of cold frames. Heating cables are added to the boxes to raise the temperature of the soil. Before cables were used, gardeners simply used manure, which worked just as efficiently.
If you are fortunate to already have a greenhouse or plan to build one, you must pay more attention to your planting schedule. A greenhouse allows you to plant earlier and harvest later.
Start your fall crops in July and remember that if you start later when the days already are shorter with less sun exposure, your leafy crops will take longer to mature.
Your second growing season also needs careful consideration since you need hardier, tougher plants for the fall crops. There are a number of plants that can handle snow or light frost like cabbage, Brussels sprouts and kale.
Since time immemorial, people have been self-sufficient, growing their own fresh produce. In modern times with the busy lives we lead, we have become more and more depended on supermarkets for our daily supply of vegetables and fruit.
Nowadays it has become the norm to pop into the store around the corner for all our needs. As we became physically further removed from the source of our fresh produce, we became less knowledgeable about how to grow our own vegetables and fruit too.
Fortunately, all of this is changing, though. More and more people are starting to acknowledge the numerous benefits of growing their own vegetables and the immense satisfaction to be derived from it. With all the information available, we have begun to realize that you do not necessarily need a large garden plot to be able to do this. You can just as easily grow your favorite veggies inside your home, on a patio or even in a hanging basket.
Neither do you need a science degree to be able to grow plump, juicy tomatoes or healthy, nutritious green beans. It is a lot simpler than you thought.
With the correct information and guidelines, you will reap the fruits of your labor and enjoy veggies that are fresh and a lot healthier than their store-bought counterparts.
If you start small with one or two kinds of vegetables, you will soon get the hang of it and after tasting your own freshly picked harvest you will never look back.
Gardening is a fun way to teach your kids more about nature, get some fresh air and physical exercise, get your hands into the rich soil and enjoy the outdoors.
Vegetable plants will bring life to your patio and the striking, bright colored fruit of a red pepper will add lustre to any room. Salad green in beautiful decorative containers will brighten up any area and encourage anyone to eat more fresh veggies and lead an overall healthier life.
Make a start today and enrich your life. Visit your local nursery for the seeds or seedlings you need, buy a suitable pot and the soil mix you need and there you go. It is as easy as that!