Veggie Container Gardening – A Viable Alternative

For many reasons, container gardening is a great way to produce veggies and herbs.  Maybe you live in a townhouse and just don’t have much room for traditional gardens.  Maybe you have a traditional residential lot, but most of the landscape is too shady for an edible garden…most crops need at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.  Or, maybe, your property was flooded, and there are a myriad of issues as a result – residues from raw sewage, silt/sand deposits and the high likelihood of bacterial contamination.


Regardless of the reason that traditional vegetable gardening is not a good option, using containers can help provide healthy food for your family.  A few considerations help property owners be successful:


*The container itself must be matched with the size of the root system of the plants being grown.  For radishes, beets and leafy greens, a 2-3 ft long, 6 inch wide and 6 inch deep container fits the bill.  For peppers, eggplant and tomatoes, a 5 gallon bucket or whiskey barrel size and shape works well.



*The soil is completely different for containers, as the physics of drainage and gravitational pull differ greatly from ground beds.  In this case, a 3 way mix of Canadian peat moss or coconut coir, vermiculite or sand and perlite works the best.


*These soils are excellent for drainage, but don’t hold nutrients well, so you’ll need to lightly fertilize every 3 weeks or so.  Watering is different too, best determined by sticking a screwdriver (or your finger) into the pot to determine moisture level.  Strive for moist, not soggy or dry.


*If the plants start to lean due to size or wind effects, they can be staked or supported with string until harvest.

John Fech
Horticulture Extension Educator at Nebraska Extension
John Fech is a horticulturist with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and certified arborist with the International Society of Arboriculture. The author of 2 books and over 200 popular and trade journal articles, he focuses his time on teaching effective landscape maintenance techniques, water conservation, diagnosing turf and ornamental problems and encouraging effective bilingual communication in the green industry. He works extensively with the media to extend the message of landscape sustainability, making over 100 television and radio appearances each year.
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