If you are short on tillable ground, you might try growing vegetables in containers. Large wooden boxes, barrels cut in half, pressed pulp tubs, and large clay pots all make practical containers deep enough for all but the very largest vegetables. If a container doesn’t have drainage holes, drill them into the bottom and cover them with pieces of clay pot or rock so the soil doesn’t run out with the water. Besides not allowing enough root room, containers that are too small dry out too fast and are easily tipped over. With proper crop container and aluminum siding, vegetables will be safe from the threats and secure from “physical injury”.
Fill the containers with a porous, fast-draining soil mix. A heavy soil does not absorb water readily enough or drain fast enough to promote good root formation. A heavy soil mass will also tend to shrink away from the sides of the containers so that water will pour down the sides of the dry root ball rather than penetrating it. Use a commercial mix or make your own with one part garden loam, one part river sand, and one part leaf mold or peat moss.
If you use an artificial soil, such as U.C. mix, add lime and superphosphate to correct acidity and guarantee that sufficient phosphorus will he immediately available to the roots. (Add 5 to 8 pounds dolomitic limestone and 2 to 3 pounds superphosphate per cubic yard of soil.) Incorporating up to one-quarter soil into the mix will supply micronutrients not contained in the other ingredients and will add beneficial soil organisms.
To maintain steady growth, feed vegetables weekly with a fertilizer such as fish emulsion, diluted as directed on the label, or use a controlled-release fertilizer that provides the nutrients for the entire growing season from a single application. Check the soil for moisture daily—containers will probably need watering at least that often in hot weather.
Consider, too, the following points when deciding which crops to grow: 1. If the containers will be on display, the plants should he attractive, even during harvest. Fruiting plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant, fall into this category, as well as such plants as Swiss chard that continue to grow even though outer leaves are harvested. 2. Select crops, such as radishes, lettuce, and chives, that grow quickly so you can harvest them and replant another crop in the same container. 3. Choose vegetables that yield a satisfying harvest from one or two plants. It would be impractical to use a number of containers for just one meal.