Vegetable and fruit-filled gardens aren’t just for gardeners with large patios and open spaces. Most foods and many fruit trees can flourish in pots, transforming smaller spaces into productive places for gardening. Even if your yard offers plenty of room to grow, pot-grown foods offer good options. Regardless of your level of gardening experience, whether you are a beginner or a seasoned professional, you can grow healthy and productive food gardens in pots.
Benefits of growing in pots
One of the biggest benefits of growing food in pots is the ability to create your own garden area in a small space, even on a balcony in the city. You can choose pots that complement your décor, and you don’t have to limit yourself to the type of soil in your garden. With pots, you can mix your own perfect growing medium for the plants you want to grow. For plants like blueberries, which prefer more acidic soils, you can give them exactly what they need right from the start.
How to choose the pots
Edible crops are a category of plants for which larger pots are almost always best used. For tomatoes, bell peppers, eggplants, and similar fruit vegetables, larger pots are needed, at least 12 inches (30.48 cm) or more in diameter and depth, to allow more room for roots to grow. Larger pots also help conserve moisture in the soil and keep temperatures constant, which benefits food growth.
Edible crops to inspire your planting plans
Most edible plants do well in pots, provided they are well cared for and have room to grow healthily. Root crops, such as carrots and beets, can be grown from seed in their pots. Without the challenges and space issues, they often have when planted in garden soil, these form nearly perfect edible roots when planted in a pot with prepared soil. Fruit trees, from dwarf citrus trees to fleshy figs, grow exceptionally in large patio pots. And lettuce and other edible leafy greens make it easy to grow mixed greens for salads, even in shallow pots or hanging baskets.
Basics for the care of productive edible crops in pots
Vegetables, fruits, and other foods grown in pots require the same as outdoor crops. It is your responsibility that they have everything they need:
- Abundant light. Delicious and nutritious crops of bountiful vegetables and fruits need plenty of light. The minimum for most crops is six to eight hours of direct sunlight. Generally, the more light you give your container food gardens, the better your plants will be so that you can enjoy more fruits and vegetables on your table. Move pots outdoors as needed when light patterns change with the seasons. For indoor pots, place food plants near windows that get the most sunlight or make them brighter with normal lights or grow lights.
- Healthy and nutritious land. Proper use of land and nutrients increases food production. Potting mixes specially designed for growing in pots drain quickly but retain moisture. Adding a complete and balanced fertilizer and extra organic matter, such as earthworm humus, at planting time provides a good foundation for potted foods. These foods also benefit from fertilizers designed to provide the special nutrients that fruits and vegetables prefer even when they have little soil at their disposal. Also, a fertilizer with added calcium helps prevent diseases such as blossom end rot.
- Constant water. Fat, juicy fruits, and vegetables need plenty of constant water. Variation in humidity can cause the fruit to dry out, crack, or break. Because soil dries more quickly in pots, you should be vigilant about humidity levels. Overwatering can be worse than underwatering, so always check before adding more water. Just stick your index finger into the dirt and check to see if it feels wet and cool. If it’s dry, water until the excess runs out of the drain holes. If the soil feels wet, make sure the holes are not plugged, let it dry for a day or two, and check again.
End of season for pots
With the arrival of fall, temperatures drop, and some foods grown in pots should be indoors, including potted herbs. Even strong potted plants will die or be injured if left outside for the winter. If you live in a cold region, your decorative pots may also be damaged.