Healthy Kids First: Master Container Gardening with these Tips

By Mandy Curry on May 09, 2015 from Healthy Kids First via

It’s Mother’s Day, which means it’s the perfect weekend to plant flowers.  But along with flowers also comes the opportunity to start your vegetables too.
There is a huge movement around vegetable gardens right now.  We are seeing schools, local communities, hospitals, and even the White House join in to grow their own food.
The garden is no longer reserved for those with a huge, flat backyard.  More and more, vegetables are being grown in containers on back decks.
The benefit to growing our own vegetables is numerous but most importantly we begin to control the quality (organic and non GMO crops) and quantity of the vegetables we consume.  On average, you can also save 20% off of your grocery bill by simply growing your own produce. 
But for many, gardening is very intimidating.
Today I’ll share with you a few tips and resources to totally master your container garden and grow your own food. 
Container Size is critical. 
First and foremost, container size is critical.  Some plants have shallow roots and can be grown in a container as small as a Solo Cup.  Other plants have very deep roots and actually need the depth equivalent of a 5-gallon bucket. 
A small deck planter box about 7 inches deep will limit your vegetable options to just a few like radishes and leaf lettuce. 
A container 11-inches deep allows you to plant a host of options like carrots, beans, cucumbers, beets, and spinach. 
The website Start A Garden can walk you through each piece of this.  This site was built to take the intimidation out of gardening (and it’s free).   
You can use this to determine which container size will work best for the vegetable you want to plant.  Or if you have an existing container that you want to use, the site will tell you which vegetables can be planted in that container.   It’s so easy!
Now that you know what size container to use, the next important piece is determining which type of container to use. 
Here are a few important tips for choosing the right containers: 
  1. Watch what types of plastics you use. Plastics containing the numbers 1, 2, 4, and 5 are least toxic and ok for plant use. This number can generally be found on the bottom of most plastic containers.  {photo included}
  2. Good drainage holes.Many pots look really nice but if they don’t have drainage holes in the bottom, then your plant roots will become waterlogged.  This also applies to DIY containers and raised beds.  Be sure to drill drainage holes.  
  3. No aluminum. Researchers believethe aluminum from cans can get into the soil and reduce the root growth.  This is ok for flowers, but not for garden vegetables or plants to be consumed.  This includes aluminum coffee pots, soup cans, and soda cans.
  4. Terracotta.  Terracotta is a beautiful garden pot but can get very hot and dry the soil out quickly.  If using terracotta, be sure to water your plants more frequently.  
If you are just getting started with container gardening, I offer the following advice:
  1. Decide if you want to start from seed or plant?  Starting from seed is so fun but it takes time and patience.  If you are just starting out, you may want to simply purchase a young plant that simply needs transplanted into your container. 
  2. Foolproof containers.  I often recommend the Earthbox for those just getting started or have limited space.  It is 11 inches deep and will support a plethora of vegetables.  We used this to grow kale all winter long.  It’s a great all-in-one grow box.
  3. Warm & Cool Season Options.  We are now gearing up to plant and harvest “warm season crops” like tomatoes, peppers, and corn.  Later this summer it will be time to start on “cool season crops” such as kale and beets.  So don’t worry if you’re not ready to plant quite yet.  You’ll have plenty of opportunity for Round 2 in just a few months. 
Enjoy your planting and Happy Mother’s Day!  

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