Whether it's an apartment balcony, a backyard patio, an urban rooftop, or even the edge of a driveway, all you need is a space with a few hours of sunlight to grow container veggies. Colourful crops such as red lettuce and cabbage, multicoloured ‘Bright Lights' Swiss chard, and orange and yellow peppers add visual pizzazz. And while you're at it, intersperse pots of flowers, particularly edible ones such as nasturtiums, bergamot, lavender and pansies.
When choosing vegetables, the most important consideration is how many hours of sunlight the growing area receives (consult our chart for various light requirements). Select a site, if possible, with easy access to water; being able to hook up a hose to an outside tap or an indoor faucet will save you laborious and time-consuming trips with a watering can.
There are several options for containers, including barrels, buckets, garbage pails and plastic crates lined with plastic garbage bags—even hanging baskets or window boxes can be used. Keep in mind, though, that clay pots, unless they're glazed, absorb moisture from the soil so plants need more frequent watering.
Here are more container tips to keep in mind:
- Never use anything that's been coated with a preservative or has held toxic substances.
- Drainage holes in the bottom are essential.
- If the pot is too small, the plant can become root bound and develop poorly.
- The smaller the container, the more often it will need watering; those less than 20 centimetres wide are difficult to maintain.
- If your growing site is on an apartment balcony or rooftop, use a lightweight soilless mix and lightweight pots. If you're planning on having several containers, check if your building has any weight restrictions.
Prepping your pots
Before adding the potting mix to the container, place fibreglass screening (available at hardware stores) or landscape cloth over the holes in the base to keep soil in and unwanted creatures out. Fill to within a few centimetres of the top and gently press the mix down—not enough to compact it but enough to settle the mix (if necessary, add more to once again bring it to the desired level). If the soil doesn't already contain a slow-release fertilizer, mix in an organic fertilizer or slow-release type, such as 10-10-10 or similar all-purpose fertilizer for greens, and 5-10-10 for other vegetables, according to manufacturer's directions.