5 top fruits and vegetables to grow in containers

Auyanna McBride navigated four countries when her husband was in the military, in gardening conditions, and she adapted even when she only had a stamp of the outdoors.

Her solution: container gardening.

“I’ve been gardening for over 20 years, and one of the things I say to people is that it doesn’t matter how much space you have,” says McBride, an accountant and gardener who lives in the garden with her husband Retired in Hinesville, Georgia and has many plants. “Often we didn’t have a farm. We have mostly lived in apartment style buildings but I would find a way to grow.”

McBride became so skilled that she now has her own YouTube channel called Southern Entertaining. She offers videos, books, and classes on how to grow vegetables and fruits in raised beds and containers as they take up most of her backyard.

“I could really fill up more,” she says. “Why not have containers on the patio?”

Experts like McBride say that container gardening is not only an easy, portable way to get started gardening, it’s an efficient use of the space you have, whether it’s a yard, patio, or sunny window. Almost any container will do, whether it’s a 5-gallon plastic bucket or a ceramic heirloom. Just make sure the container is the right size for the plant and has holes for drainage. If you’re growing food, make sure the container is lead-free.

To get started, keep a few basics in mind.

  • Grow what you like. Don’t waste resources and space on something you won’t eat, says Whitney Wade, a gardening teacher and trainer who owns Plant Grow Eat, a Los Angeles gardening service. She sets up container gardens for clients and schools while growing the things she likes — veggies, flowers, and even fruit trees — in containers at home. “I have a garden that I’m going to plant for someone next week. She doesn’t want tomatoes but everyone else, it’s tomato season,” says Wade. So if all you want is herbs, stick with it.
  • Choose the right plants. A common mistake is picking a plant that is growing too large for your chosen container, says Megan Will, the Dallas County master gardener coordinator for the Iowa State University extension. Buy plant varieties labeled for containers and don’t crowd them. “[Gardeners] Maybe they have this 5 gallon bucket and they get a little bush or patio style tomato plant, but then they’re like, ‘Oh, but she’s so tiny in here. Let me sprinkle some basil or lettuce around it,” says Will. “Someone will lose. It’s better to put the basil…in its own pot.”
  • Use the right soil. Be sure to use potting soil that is relatively light. Avoid garden soil or topsoil, which compacts in a container, experts say. And don’t skimp. “All potting soils are not created equal,” says McBride. “So you want to get the quality potting soil, maybe even some nutrients, to start with so you can set up your plant for success.”
  • Water wisely. Never mist or spray water on potted plants from top to bottom, says Will. “Number one, half of that water isn’t even going to get into the pot because it just dripped down the sides and you watered your leaves unnecessarily,” she says. “Push away any branches you have and bring them straight to ground level.” Then water until liquid appears at the bottom of the container. A layer of mulch on the bottom means less water and weeds in large containers, she says. And think about the type of container. Terra-cotta pots, for example, dry out faster than plastic, Wade notes.
  • Give it a boost. Containers depend on the gardener’s nutrients, so McBride adds a slow-release organic fertilizer to her pots. She gives heavy feeders like tomatoes and cucumbers a boost of liquid fertilizer every month.
  • guards. Make a habit of checking your plants for water and pests, says McBride. “I like to go into the garden at least once a day, check my leaves, look under my leaves, look at the plants. If there is a pest, that gives you a time frame of when it started. Fungal diseases often appear overnight.”


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