Growing vegetables in containers makes growing food accessible to most people, even those without a yard.
I answered gardening questions from viewers of the Home & Family show on the Hallmark channel recently in my "Ask Shirley" gardening segment.
Teresa Martin of Oklahoma wrote:
I've seen container gardening and want to know how much dirt do you need to grow veggies?
Does it matter? What can you grow in containers?
You can grow lots of vegetables and herbs in containers!
Healthy and prolific vegetable plants need the proper soil, sun exposure, water, and nutrients.
When you grow vegetables in a container, I would add that they need the appropriate space for roots to spread and take up nutrients and water.
Planted in the ground, plant roots are able to spread as much as needed but they are confined in a container.
Here's an example of what you can grow in a small, medium, and large container.
Vegetables for Small Containers (8-10 inches)
I made containers for herbs from white plastic microwave bowls from the Dollar Store: just poke a drain hole!
You can grow most annual, non-woody herbs in a small, 8 to 10-inch container.
This includes basil, cilantro, thyme, lettuce, and other leafy greens.
Mint doesn't really need a deep container as much as it needs a container with a wide surface area for its creeping roots.
The soil in small containers tends to dry quickly, so check it frequently.
Plastic containers retain moisture longer than terra cotta pots.
VEGETABLES FOR MEDIUM CONTAINERS (14-18 inches)
There are plenty of "compact" variety vegetable plants that have been developed that grow well in a medium-sized container.
You can grow a single broccoli, cauliflower, compact cucumber, small shishito peppers, or multiple leafy greens in a 14 to 18" diameter container.
"Patio Baby" is a compact growing eggplant variety.
VEGETABLES FOR LARGE CONTAINERS (18-24 inches)
Large containers can house a single, indeterminate tomato with support cage, an artichoke plant, squash, or any large growing vegetable.
Plant a strawberry patch in a large container with enough space to run!
If your vegetable needs a trellis, install at planting time or you risk injuring the plant roots when you add it later to the container!
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Read answers to other "Ask Shirley Gardening Questions."