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Best Vegetable Crops for Containers


In general, the fastest growing vegetable crops are best for containers, avoiding those with very long roots. Both annual and perennial herbs also do well, in most cases, and you can also grow soft fruit if you choose the right size pot.

Most people start out growing salads in containers. These are not very fussy (though some types of lettuce require a fair bit of water), and although some have a tap root, there are cut and come again varieties of most types which are harvested small, before the long tap has time to develop.

Salad onions and small radishes are very fast and have fibrous roots (in fact, the radish globe is a type of root, but there are fibrous roots on the bottom of that). They will grow in almost any container, even around other plants. You could either put them around some of your longer-season crops or in a pot of their own. Salad onions grown around roses will help protect the roses from black spot.

Carrots can be grown in containers, so long as you are careful to choose the shorter varieties. There are even round carrots, particularly useful for container growing. There's an advantage to growing carrots in pots, which is that they are higher up than most other carrots, so carrot fly may just zip by underneath without even noticing them (they tend to fly just a few inches above ground level). You can also use carrot fly resistant varieties such as Flyaway, which produces carrots about 5-6" (12-15cm) long. Choose a deep container with straight sides for best results.

Zucchini and other types of summer squash grow well in large individual containers. They need a lot of water, but take care when watering not to splash the fruit, or they may rot off at the base (strangely, the same thing doesn't seem to happen if they get rained on). If watering by hand, put some type of funnel leading to the roots when you pot them up, then water into that. I use 2 litre soft drinks bottles with the lid removed and the bottom cut off.

Tomatoes and peppers also do well in containers, much better than the "3 in a growbag" routine, which just doesn't provide enough soil for a decent crop. You can buy bottomless "ring culture" pots specifically designed for growbags to give a better depth, adding extra soil into each one and planting into that. Make sure to provide a good support frame for your tomatoes or one day they will topple over and uproot themselves.

Another fast growing crop which is well worth growing is French (bush) beans. These are usually dwarf plants which produce masses of beans, so long as you pick them as soon as they reach a decent size. The more you pick, the more they will produce. Try not to leave any on the plant when you harvest, as if the plant thinks it's succeeded in its mission to provide the seed for the next generation, it will stop producing any beans at all. If you keep picking, you should still be collecting beans right up until the first frosts. Use a large container with straight sides and plant them just a few inches apart each way.

Finally, if you like broccoli and calabrese, choose short season varieties and grow them in the deepest straight sided containers you can find. Broccoli has specific seasons, but most types of calabrese will produce spears well into Fall until cut down by frost (and some even longer than that).

-- Update -- I forgot to mention a crop that grows really well in containers, which is garlic. Like other alliums (onions, salad onions etc), it doesn't need a great depth of soil to do well, and you can grow them about 4 inches (10cm) apart, so you can get quite a few into a good-sized container. If you don't like the smell (I never notice it myself, but others have more sensitive noses than me), you can tuck it somewhere you won't notice it so much. It's really simple to grow, as you don't have to buy expensive sets, you can just break up a bulb bought fresh from the grocer and use as many cloves as you need.

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