GARDEN TIME with DOUG – Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers


Now that it is late February, this is the best time to plan and prepare for container gardens on your patio, deck, balcony, or in your landscape gardens.

  • Before we get started you need to ask yourself “do I have enough sun to successfully grow herbs and vegetables?” Keep in mind that vegetables and herbs are sun lovers and need a minimum of six to eight hours of direct sunlight to grow well and produce. If you answer the question with a “yes” then we can proceed further.

And, I can’t think of any vegetable or herb that can’t be grown successfully in a container.

Just to let you know that I AM A CONTAINER GARDENING NUT! Now more so than ever because I recently moved and will be doing more growing in containers than ever before.

One more thing that I want to stress and that is DON’T BE AFRAID OF FAILURE!! With failure comes experience and comes knowledge, so embrace any failure and turn it around. Don’t let failure win. I have experienced plenty of failures with container gardening over the years. And, at the same time, I have enjoyed some wonderful successes.

  • A second question to ask yourself is “what do I use for a container and what size?” Simply put, a container is anything that can hold soil. So, a container can be simply a clay pot or a half whiskey barrel or a colorful, glazed container. I have them all and then some. I have an old black cauldron and even an old Red Flyer Wagon that I use as containers. With any container, it is very important to make sure that the containers have sufficient drainage holes. Good drainage is key to being a successful vegetable and herb grower.
  • A third question is “what size container(s) do I need in order to grow my wanted vegetables and herbs?” My personal feeling is that the bigger the better. I feel that larger containers, with more space and soil, require less maintenance and give you more options when it comes to planting selection and companion planting.

Are we good so far?

  • Next question is about soil. What soil is best for growing vegetables and herbs in containers? No question that soil is important to being a successful container gardener. I prefer a mixture of a good quality potting soil that is mixed with some organic matter such as composted cow manure or earthworm castings. This combination will provide a loose, well-drained soil that is full of nutrients.

Now comes the fun part and that is with selecting the plants!

  • Can some of my chosen and favorite vegetables and herbs be grown in the same container? This is a very good and logical question and the answer all depends on the plants and whether they can be compatible within one container. You need to know the eventual growing dimensions for each plant. For example, a tomato plant needs a large container to grow in because of the size it grows. There would be very little room for companion planting. However, you could try growing English thyme in this tomato container since thyme is a creeper and will spill over the edge of the pot very nicely.
  • What about watering? Watering is a key ingredient to being a success in growing vegetable and herbs in containers. We can’t always rely on Mother Nature to provide us with all the water needed by the containers. You need to use your finger and stick it down into the soil and feel for moisture. If the soil feels dry to the knuckle then you may want to water. When you do water, then water slowing and thoroughly saturate the soil until the excess water comes out of the drainage holes.
  • How often do I need to fertilize my vegetables and herbs? Personally, I like to stay as organic as possible when I grow vegetables and herbs. So, at the time of planting, I use and highly recommend adding ESPOMA BIO-TONE to the soil. Bio-Tone is an organic product that promotes root development which will lead to healthier and stronger plants. Bio-Tone lasts in the soil and dramatically reduces any need to do any further fertilizing with any fertilizer. To stay organic then use some of the other Espoma plant foods such as Tomato-Tone, which has added calcium or Garden-Tone.
  • What about insects? Good question. Plants that are strong, healthy, cared for properly, and happy – and not in any stress – seem to have little problems with pests. However, it is always a good idea to keep an eye out for any insects. A common insect is aphids, which will appear on the newer growth. If you want to stay organic, as I do, then a soapy bath with Ivory soap and water can do the trick to ward off any unwanted insects. By not using any chemical sprays you are helping to keep our bees and other pollinators healthy and safe.

Give container gardening a shot. You will have fun picking fresh vegetables and herbs that you grew yourself. A very rewarding feeling.

Happy Gardening!!!!

4 thoughts on “GARDEN TIME with DOUG – Growing Vegetables and Herbs in Containers”

    • Patty,
      Thank you for sending me your question. What I do is use my dish pale and make an solution as if I was getting ready to wash some dishes. Then use this water to fill up my spray bottle. Ivory soap is so gentle that I think if you just use a squirt or two into a spray bottle that that will work. Hope I helped to answer you question. Doug

  1. Hi Doug,
    It is way too early but do you have any method to successfully fight squash bugs? They killed my squash and cucumber plants last year and I don’t know there’s any sense trying again this year. Last year I used insecticidal soap and neem oil and was vigilant looking for new eggs and removing them, nothing helped. Pretty disappointing. I would appreciate your advice. Thanks!

    • Izabela,
      I have a couple thoughts to share with you about the squash vine borer. To try again this year will require re-location of the squash and cucumber plants. You will need to plant about 6 ft. from this infected area. Second thought – at the crown of the plant (the stem that comes out of the ground) you can take aluminum foil and wrap the stem. this will keep the moth from penetrating the stem and laying her eggs. I hope you can try again this year. Take care, Doug

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