The traditional garden is a thing of beauty indeed — a well-tended patch of cultivated ground with neat, straight rows of lush, green vegetables. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that image, and many gardeners would have it no other way. In recent years, however, alternative techniques, such as square-foot or raised beds, have come to the forefront.
Container gardening is one alternative that has amassed a dedicated following of space-challenged gardeners. While lack of acreage for a traditional garden is one reason for the popularity of container gardening, it’s only scratching the surface when it comes to the many benefits of growing vegetables in pots:
1. No weeding necessary – Any gardener who has ever planted a traditional garden is familiar with the arduous labor involved in frequent weed pulling and hoeing under the hot summer sun. Vegetables in containers, on the other hand, are generally grown in sterile potting medium. It isn’t impossible that a stray weed may occasionally find its way to the container, but weeds are rare and easily dispatched.
2. Easy on the back – If your back complains every time you grab a shovel or hoe, then give yourself a break; container gardening is easy on the back, (and the knees, too). While container gardening is helpful for folks with a few aches and pains, it’s often the answer for people who have had to give up the pleasure of gardening due to various physical limitations. Even a wheelchair-bound person can enjoy container gardening.
3. Decreased chance of disease – Container-grown vegetables certainly aren’t immune from disease, but plants in a well-drained container filled with lightweight potting mix tend to be less susceptible than those grown in the ground. Proper watering is a factor, as soggy soil may result in root rot, which is nearly always fatal.
4. Reign in aggressive plants – If you’re concerned that a plant is beautiful and useful but just too much of a pest to grow in the garden, then a container will control rambunctious growth. Mint and lemon balm are prime examples of lovely, aromatic herbs that will take over your entire landscape very quickly if they aren’t contained.
5. Control the weather! (Sort of) – Moving containers from one spot to another allows you to take advantage of sunlight or shade, or to provide shelter in case of an unexpected cold snap, which in turn, means a longer growing season. Place a large container on a rolling platform to simplify relocation.
6. Fresh and convenient – Containers on a patio, deck or balcony are typically handy to the kitchen. Snip a few fresh herbs for dinner or harvest leafy lettuce or spinach and a juicy, ripe tomato for an unbelievably delicious salad. What could be better (or fresher)?
7. A no-till garden – Tilling isn’t only back-breaking work, but loosening the soil can unleash a monstrous amount of dormant weed seeds, meaning more back-breaking work throughout the season. Additionally, many gardening pros agree that cultivation actually disturbs important soil organisms, thus upsetting the natural balance of life in the garden.
8. Containers are pretty – Containers may be as utilitarian as an old washtub or a row of terracotta pots, but for gardeners with a creative bent, pots are available in nearly every color under the rainbow. Look for containers made of wood, glazed ceramic, plastic or concrete, each with their own set of advantages and a few drawbacks, too. Have fun, but do your homework and consider your budget before investing in containers for your vegetable crop.
9. Vegetables are pretty, too – It’s all about practicality when it comes to growing vegetables in containers, but it’s a nice bonus that many vegetables are also highly decorative. Bright purple kale may be the queen of ornamental vegetables, but colorful veggies like chili peppers, bold rainbow chard, or bright purple eggplant add a real spark to the container garden. Don’t forget irresistible red tomatoes; frilly parsley or carrot plants; spiky, upright onions and chives; bright green basil; purple green beans on a trellis; or a cucumber vine draped gracefully over the side of the container.
What would you add to our list? Share your thoughts in the section below: