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New to gardening? Try containers!

Herbs grow well in containers. [Metro Creative Connection]
Herbs grow well in containers. [Metro Creative Connection]

If you recently have decided you would like to grow some of your own food, but your vegetable gardening is limited by insufficient space or an unsuitable area, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A balcony or patio can provide sufficient space for a productive mini-garden. Problems with weeds or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by creating a container garden.

Also, if you are at home with you kids right now, container vegetable gardening is also a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening.

Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden also will do well as a container-grown plant. Zucchini, yellow squash, bush beans, peppers, eggplant, herbs and patio tomatoes are great choices for containers. Other crops that are ideally suited for growing in containers include green onions, lettuce and radishes, but you would need to plant now since we are at the end of the planting season for these cool weather crops. Pole beans and cucumbers also do well in this type of garden, but they do require considerably more space and possibly trellising because of their vining growth habit.

Most varieties that will do well when planted in a garden also will do well in containers. But, some varieties of selected vegetables, which are ideally suited for containers, will be labeled as “bush,” “patio,” “dwarf” or “compact.” For tomatoes, try Patio, Pixie or Tiny Tim. Some good choice for peppers would be Cajun Bell, Yolo Wonder, Jalapeno or Carmen.

Herbs are also great to grow in containers. If you are planting a mixed flower container, consider adding a basil plant or thyme plant to harvest from and cook with this summer. The pretty greenery will complement your flowers, as well. Containers are really the best place to grow the different mints, since they can take over your garden.

You will need a large container, like a five-gallon nursery container or bucket. Make sure your container has good drainage. If your container doesn’t have drainage holes, punch or drill a few through the bottom. A high-quality potting soil also is important, and you will need to fertilize heavy feeding crops like tomatoes. You can use an organic or regular granular garden fertilizer, just follow the guidelines on the label per plant or square foot. You also could choose to liquid feed, again using the product label as your guide.

Nearly all vegetable plants will grow better in full sunlight than in shade. Fruit bearing plants, such as cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and eggplant need at least 6 hours of direct sun each day. One major advantage to gardening in containers is that you can place the vegetables in areas where they can receive the best possible growing conditions and even move them if needed!

Container garden soil will dry out quickly. Be prepared to water regularly, especially in the heat of summer. Mulches, such as compost, straw, pine needles or grass clippings, can be placed on top of the soil mix to reduce water loss.

For more information on this topic, go to and look for the OSU Fact Sheets HLA 6004 “Oklahoma Garden Planting Guide” and HLA-6458 “Container Gardening.”

Don’t give up on your dream of having a vegetable garden simply because you live somewhere in which the outdoor space is limited!

Email Julia Laughlin, Oklahoma County Extension horticulture educator, at

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<strong>Julia Laughlin</strong>

Julia Laughlin

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