Help with First Vegetable Container Gardens
This year I am trying my hand at growing vegetables from seed and transplanting them to containers when the weather is warm enough. The seedlings are developing and I am wondering what the appropriate size container (in gallons) should be for each plant. I've tried googling, but results have been inconsistenent. I am growing Japanese cucumbers (1 gallon?), roma green beans (5 gallons and 2-3 plants?), Japanese eggplant (3 gallons?), Japanese turnip (2 gallons and 2 plants?), pimentos de padron (5 gallons?), and shishito peppers (5 gallons?) Any advice would be appreciated.
Any state's cooperative extension program should be able to help you. Find yours by clicking on your state at http://www.ahs.org/master_gardeners/index.htm Each state program offers a wealth of information for home gardeners, and gives you contact information so local MGs can answer your questions by email or phone.
Just a few sites that address the specifics of container size, vegetable root depth and spacing in containers:
Good luck with your garden!
I use a book called The Bountiful Container which is the absolute greatest resource for this subject. It has chapters on how to grow every sort of vegetable and fruits you can name.
Spacing is the same as it lists on the package. You can figure out how many to get in the pot using some simple math.
Depth is more important. I checked out the chapters for some of the vegetables you mentioned:
Beans - 6 inch depth, 4 per square foot, trellis is recommended even for bush varieties
Cucumbers - at least 10 inches depth, 2 per square foot, need a heavy trellis system
Eggplant - at least 10 inches depth, 1 per pot
Peppers - 8 inches deep, 1 per pot
I checked the book and they didn't have anything on turnips specifically. You can normally pack Turnips pretty close, square foot gardening spacing puts them at 9 per square foot.
Also, make sure you use quality composted potting soil. When I started I used dirt from the backyard and it was too compacted to allow roots to develop.
I appreciate the help. It appears that as long as my pots are at least 10" deep, I should be ok. I was pricing out the cost of pots this weekend and the 5 gallon general purpose buckets at Home Depot seem the most cost effective. I plan on drilling holes in the bottom. Would this work or would it be a mistake to do so?
Drainage holes are essential in containers. Otherwise excess water will pool in the bottom and rot your plants roots. Holes can be 1/4 to preferably 1/2 inch diameter and should be covered with clay shards or the aforementioned plastic peanuts. Brad-point bits work well in plastic containers. Drill from the inside out as there will be a burr at the bit's exit point.
Turnips have quite a deep tap root. I have no idea how well they would cope with a container but have my doubts. Generally, speaking avoid root vegetables with tap roots in containers.
Generally, vegetables with shallow roots like lettuces, herbs, etc can be grown in pots about 6" diameter X 8" depth. Other veggies will do well in bushels, half bushels, etc. Here's a university extension site with just the information you're looking for.
I have been successful planting in full barrels... using a combination of say, basil, cherry tomato, carrots, nasturtium, for exmple.
Yeah, I think sometimes it's hard to remember that it's what grows below the ground (root system) that dictates the amount of soil. I've also read the tip of putting plastic "peanuts" in the bottom half of so of a barrel before adding planting mix. Saves soil and makes it hugely lighter. I haven't done this yet but when I do I'll lay some type of porous barrier between the two layers so the soil doesn't wash through over time.