Don’t let the fact that you live in an apartment or a home with no yard deter you from growing your own vegetables. Even with limited space or less than ideal lighting conditions, many vegetables thrive in containers as long as they are watered frequently. Put your green thumb to good use and plant a container vegetable garden right outside your patio door or on your balcony.
One of the easiest to grow and most-loved summer vegetables is the tomato — it also happens to be perfectly suited to be grown in a container. Most tomato plants require support in the form of staking or a tomato cage, so it’s best to use the largest container possible, ideally a 5-gallon pot measuring at least 22 inches in diameter. Some varieties that work well in a container garden are Pixie, Yellow Pear, Tumbling Tom, Red Cherry and Sundrop. All these plants produce smaller vines and fruit that are ideal in salads and pasta, or chopped into a mix to make a spread, such as bruschetta. Plant tomatoes as deeply as possible since hot summer days can easily dry out soil, leading to wilted plants and poor growth and fruit production.
Salad greens thrive in containers, where the confined habit of growth works to the plant’s advantage. Most salad greens tend to have shallow roots, making them good candidates for a wider, but shallower container. The more plants you pot together, the better yield you will have. Plant salad greens in the late summer or early fall. Some good choices for containers are Green Leaf, Oak Leaf, Butter Leaf and Salad Bowl. To encourage continued growth, harvest salad leaves frequently. If you intend to eat a lot of greens, transplant more plants or reseed about every two weeks.
For carrots, select a large, deep container to provide ample room for the carrots to reach deep into the soil — a long rectangular container works well. The types of carrots best suited for container gardening are Little Finger, Thumbelina, Gold Nugget and Baby Spike. Plant carrots from seeds in the spring through fall for a continued harvest, thinning the seedlings out when they sprout to allow for proper development. Too many carrots compacted together leads to immature and deformed carrots.
Perfect for the novice gardener, radishes are easy to grow and have a wide variety of uses. Toss them in a salad, soup or coleslaw or slice them thin to add a zesty crunch to a tea sandwich. Plant radishes in spring and fall when the days are cooler, using at least a 2-gallon container with a planting depth of 4 to 6 inches. Good choices for containers are Early Scarlet, Sparkler and French Breakfast. Like all container gardens, be sure the container you choose allows for sufficient drainage. According to Texas A&M University Agricultural Extension, mixing 1 inch of coarse gravel at the bottom of the container will also aid in drainage.