If your garden is small, you can always grow a selection of vegetables in containers. It's important to select suitable containers - they need not be ornamental, unless the patio is closely observed from the house, but they do need to be practical. They need to have a broad base to offer stability and good drainage holes to ensure that any excess water can be removed. If there are no drainage holes, or perhaps an inadequate number, these should be punched in the base of the container.
Not all containers need be large. Lettuce, mesclun, silverbeet and many herbs can be grown in smaller tubs. Even vegetable packing cases can offer makeshift containers for situations where the visual quality of the container is not important.
You won't need gravel in the base of the container if you use a quality potting mix. Debco’s Organic Mix, PotMate Vegetable & Herb Mix or Green Wizard Vegetable and Herb Mixture will provide an ideal environment for growing container vegetables but ordinary garden soils should never be used. They lack the necessary drainage and aeration for successful growth.
Essential to the cultivation of crops in containers is watering and feeding.
Containers on patios and terraces may be exposed to strong sunlight and wind. The former is most important for successful crop production and care must be taken to ensure that crops do not shade each other. You'll probably need to water your crops twice daily during summer, especially if the container is located in a windy position. Crops will be most sensitive to water, and any drying out will inevitably reduce the amount of your harvest, as well as laying the crop open to increased problems with pests.
Tomatoes are especially demanding of water and it may be worthwhile placing a dish of water beneath the container to keep water supply up to the plants.
It is vital to recognise that vegetables grown in containers have no source of fertiliser beyond that in the potting mix. The suggested Debco Potting Mixes contain enough controlled release fertilizer to provide abundant growth for up to 6 weeks at which time a supplementary fertiliser will be required depending upon the crop. Debco Plant Food applied fortnightly to leaf vegetables will be ideal; however tomatoes and other fruit-bearing crops, eg capsicums and eggplants, will need Debco Tomato Food.
One of the great advantages of growing crops in containers is that pest control is made simpler, since the crops can be closely inspected and caterpillars and other pests removed by hand, reducing the need to use chemical controls. Should these be required, effective application can be assured because the plants are so accessible.
Most vegetables are easy to grow in containers, though many of the brassicas – cabbage, brussel sprouts and cauliflowers – are more difficult.
Crops especially well suited to container cultivation include dwarf forms, e.g. dwarf beans and tomatoes, and those that can be harvested on an on-going basis, e.g. mesclun, lettuce, silverbeet and swiss chard. Herbs have been cultivated in pots for a long time and they are especially well suited to the exposed sunny position of patios.