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Veggie garden in a container?

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

I've never grown fruits and veggies before and am interested in giving it a try. Is there a thread that has already discussed this? If not, is it possible to grow veggies and fruits in containers? I could sure use some helpful advice.

I am interested in growing Snap Peas, tomatoes, potatoes, carrots, watermelon, cantalope, cucumbers, Sweet Peppers, Eggplant, Hardy Kiwi, strawberries, lettuce, and sweet yellow corn. I have numerous 5 gallon white plastic containers that I could grow these plants in. Though not sure if they would grow in containers or if my containers are too big or too small.

Would appreciate any suggestions and links on growing veggies and fruit in containers if it is indeed possible. Thanks so much!

This message was edited Dec 13, 2009 3:26 AM

Thumbnail by beckygardener
Nurmo, Finland(Zone 4b)

Becky, it's certainly quite feasible to grow veg and fruit in containers. No container can really be called "too big or too small". Yours sound as if they should be fine for a wide range of crops. It helps to use the right varieties though. T&M in their catalogue list a range of varieties specifically for containers.

Coming from a somewhat different climate zone I've no experience of water melons, and if your sweetcorn is anything like the varieties I used to grow in England, I doubt it's practical.

You'll need also to think about compost and watering; but have a go. Nothing venture.......

Nurmo, Finland(Zone 4b)

PS. I just Googled and found this very helpful page:

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
Becky, you are in a great place to grow almost anything you want.
Right now is the time to be planting your snap peas, they want cool temperatures,
the temperatures that are common in Florida this time of year.
I am preparing a seminar to be given at my church on small plot gardens and bucket
gardens. I have been collecting these white buckets for quite some time. Many places just throw them away. I will wash all the buckets with bleach before planting.
The buckets can be hung on a pole, leaned against a wall that gets good sun.
The great thing about buckets, they can be moved. Some people even put the buckets
in a wagon where they can move them to catch the sun as it moves throughout the day.
You need to go this site on Dave's Garden and see what twiggybuds, is doing with her
bucket gardens.
I am going to incorporate these ideas into my seminar and am going to plant several this year myself.
Another site, and where you can visit to get some great gardening ideas.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Thanks Patgeorge and Paul!

I am reading the links y'all posted and getting ideas. I do like what twiggybuds did. Since it seems to stay very hot here in my zone of Florida, sitting pots in water does work quite well. I may try what twiggybuds did this year.

My dh was laid off a year ago and after 5 months on unemployment, he took a minimum wage job working at one of the fast food places locally. (Which is another reason I really want to grow veggies and fruit - to save money on groceries!) Anyway, he has been bringing home the white 5 gallon plastic buckets that the pickles come in. He drills holes in the bottom of each bucket and they make perfect tall pots that don't tip over. The white color helps reflect the sunlight from the roots of the plants and worked quite well for me growing Morning Glory vines this past growing season. That's when I thought that growing veggies in them might work, too!

I know very little about various vegetables and what is required for them to grow and produce veggies and fruits. So I'm gonna give it a go and see what happens. This will be a trial and error year in 2010. I am mostly worried about pests. What kind of pesticide or organic method would work the best for edible plants? I don't want to poison my family. I am so naive about all this stuff.

Would bamboo poles (shoved down into the pots and tied in a teepee shape) work for the tomatoe, eggplant, and bean vines? I don't know if watermelon could grow in a container?

Nurmo, Finland(Zone 4b)

Good on you beckygardener! Give it a go. Yes, bamboo canes will be fine for supports. We use little else in England. However, I also make use of any suitable pieces of wood or metal that happen to be around. For example, I use last year's raspberry canes to support my peas. I'm all for improvising rather than spending a fortune on supports which can take ten years to pay for themselves.

Can't really help with pesticides as I have no idea what pests you get in zone 10!

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi all,
Becky, I do have some more suggestions.
In the buckets, have DH drill holes up the side of the bucket 1". This will hold more water and your buckets won't have to be watered so often or as much.
Here are some instructions for a grow box I made last spring. These boxes will last several years. All you need to do is replenish about 1/3 the soil each year.
This idea can be used with the white buckets also. You can just upend a plastic container of the proper diameter in the bottom of the bucket. The container doesn't need to be tied or anything. Then drill holes up the side of the white bucket at the height of the container inside. This allows water to be held and it will evaporate up into the oil as well as be wicked by the soil. The evaporating water will condense on the inside of the plastic and drip through the fertilizer into the soil below.
If you don't want to build your own here is a site where you can buy one.

Thumbnail by lonejack
(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Thanks everyone for all the great ideas. I have been reading your posts and links as well as doing some internet searching. I have to do this cheap as my garden budget is VERY limited due to this recession. I have the 5 gallon containers already and want to use them.

I need info on best places to get seeds (online), as well as which cultivars grow best in zone 9b/10a. Anyone order seeds from an online website? If so, please share who you would recommend. I want to grow potatoes too and need a good source for potatoe starts.

Greenwich, OH

I have good luck with value seeds and pinetree garden seeds.
Shipping for value seeds is $1.99.
I purchased seeds online from both.
Reasonable prices and great! germination.

(Judith) Denver, CO(Zone 5b)

Becky, I forgot to mention when I said been there, done that, that I've grown most of what you're talking about in containers. Potatoes work great, but you'd better have a bunch of buckets if you want a sizeable harvest. Same with corn. Don't you have a regular plot you could dig up for those? They don't take much room if planted in the dirt. Everything else is do-able. It's fun, too, seeing what you can do in buckets. They're just the right size for most everything you've talked about. And all the ideas from everybody on the thread are great too. The aggie link is one I use for flowers in containers.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Thanks, Karla! I ordered some seeds from both places! Very good prices! :-)

I've already had success in germination. I got some veggie seeds 2 years ago and they are sprouting in styrofoam cups on my south facing bedroom window shelf. Several different cultivars of tomatoes, a cucumber, carrot, scallion, and bush bean have all sprouted at least one plant so far. I am still waiting for the sweet peppers, watermelon, and the eggplant to sprout. I ordered a couple different cultivars of strawberries, too. Strawberries need to be planted now to have fruit by Feb/Mar. After that, the heat fries them.

I am excited now that I have some sprouts! So coool! Never grown veggies/fruits before! A new adventure for me! :-)

How big of a container do tomatoes need? Here are the cultivars I am currently growing: Penduline Orange, Cherry Rainbow, Green Grape, Tiny Tim, Yellow Pear, Speckled/striped Roma. Anyone ever grow any of these cultivars?

Greenwich, OH

The 5 gallon containers will work great for growing tomatoes.
I have grown the juliet cherry tomato in 5 gallon containers and done well.
Determinate tomatoes grows well in containers.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Thanks Karla!

What about cucumbers, potatoes, eggplant, etc.? Anyone grow these in containers? I am going to attempt to grow a watermelon in a container letting the vine and fruit mature outside on the ground around the container. I am doing this to keep the critters/nematodes/rodents from chewing up the roots and main stem of the watermelon vine. Not sure how well it will work, but I know I have to keep the container/vines watered and not let them dry out. :-)

(Judith) Denver, CO(Zone 5b)

See my answer above.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Judith - I can't plant in the ground here. Too many nematodes and too darn sandy. It takes years for any plants (usually shrubs and trees) to grow here in my yard. I've amended and amended, but it doesn't last long before anything I plant in the ground dies. Only the toughest plants survive in my yard!

So most everything you grew, did okay or good in containers, Judith? I know many of these are vines. I just got my snap pea seeds today! Whoo Hoo! I love snap peas fresh! I will be planting those seeds this weekend! :-)

(Judith) Denver, CO(Zone 5b)

Sounds like your dirt is a mess! Yes, everything grew fine. You just have to start your potatoes deeper and hill them up as they grow to keep the taters growing up the stem. By the time you're ready to harvest you can have quite a few in a container. But to make sure you have enough plant a few containers just with potatoes. The vining fruits just hang down and spread on the grass or dirt. No worries there. I LOVE snap peas too!

Ozone, AR(Zone 6a)

Becky, I've planted tomatoes, cukes, onions,lettuce, peppers and cantalopes in the 5 gal buckets the last couple of years and it can be done. I think the Sugar Baby watermelon should do well too. I fertilized with liquid fertilizer abt once a week for the first couple of months than slowly tapered off. I did'nt have as much problems with bugs as i did in ground planting. but finally got tomato worms and had to sprey. Its also easier to spot problems in buckets. The cukes and tomatoes did not get as big but i still had plenty of fruit. Hope you injoy your bucket garden.
I also have always got my seeds from Pinetree seeds. They are econimacal and reliable.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

I was looking into info about Earthboxes and other copy-cat containers and was shocked at how expensive they are! I think Paul is onto something! LOL!

I found this cool website that shows how you can make your own earthbox/self-watering containers using a variety of items, some of which I have on hand:

This is a great pdf file with lots of ideas on how to make various types of self-watering containers that will grow veggies/fruit/and flowers under what appears to be ideal conditions! Enjoy! And thanks Paul for making me taking a closer look at the ideal garden container!

Note added: No longer recommended to use PVC in any of the homemade boxes. PVCs have been demonstrated to leach plasticizers and harmful chemicals, including endocrine disruptors. There are plenty of alternatives, so there's no good reason to use PVC and risk putting these chemicals in your homegrown fruits and vegetables. It was suggested to use vinyl tubing or even better and sturdier - Large Bamboo stakes. You can cut the bottom of the Bamboo at an angle for quicker watering, too!

This message was edited Dec 27, 2009 5:07 PM

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi Becky,
I have been looking for some OFFICIAL or real scientific data on PVC pipe.
I know there is a lot of JUNK Science and hearsay about PVC Pipe out there.
From what I can read is, that around 1977 there was a change in the formalization of PVC pipe that reduced the leaching problem to minimal.
I have been reading that way over 50% of the water piping in the US is PVC. It would seem to me that our good ole gumint would put a stop to it.
P,S, Having said this, I guess it would be best to error on the side of safety.
I am interested in the PVC questions as I am going to be doing some Seminars on small plots and bucket gardens this February.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Paul - I found some information about PVC that I posted on this thread:

I, too, have PVC pipes in my home, so one does wonder. 1977? Hmmm ... I, too, wonder what data there is to support safer PVC now?

Longview, WA(Zone 8b)

Hi Becky and all of you trying to garden.
I hate to bore you with so much printed material but here is an article I found on PVC Pipe.
The pipe is certaily toxic if burned but in it's hard natural state, it seams safe.
The Green Guide responds: PVC is not an environmentally sound choice for water piping: PVC is hazardous throughout its lifecycle, and PVC of all forms, from tiles to toys to blinds to pipes, contains numerous additives that are... See more
The Green Guide responds: PVC is not an environmentally sound choice for water piping: PVC is hazardous throughout its lifecycle, and PVC of all forms, from tiles to toys to blinds to pipes, contains numerous additives that are especially harmful when burned. However, to address your immediate concern, while installed in your walls or in the ground PVC pipe does not appear particularly hazardous to your health. Toxic phthalates can leach from PVC treated with softening plasticizers; PVC pipe, however, is rigid and does not present a phthalate risk. There are other additives to worry about in PVC pipe, but most evidence seems to say that you shouldn't worry too much. How old is your pipe? PVC pipe manufactured before 1977 can leach vinyl chloride into your water. Newer pipes alleviate that hazard--though Greenpeace's toxics campaigner Rick Hind isn't so sure. "That's what the industry says, but we don't know," he said. "We'll have to see how they age." More certainly, PVC pipes often contain organotins as stabilizers. These metallic compounds are immunotoxic at high levels, but leach from pipes in amounts orders of magnitude lower than is toxic; leaching is greatest at the beginning of the pipe's life. According to the World Health Organization, organotin is not a major concern in drinking water. Still, PVC pipes, though fire resistant, are as toxic as any other PVC when burning or smoldering. When building a new house, should you install PVC? Should you replace the PVC pipes you already have--is it dangerous enough to make it worth replacing immediately? The answer to the first question is a probable No, and you should steer clear of PVC more generally. From manufacturing to disposal, PVC has high environmental costs. Its full name is polyvinyl chloride, though it's generally known as vinyl; as the name implies, PVC contains a high percentage of chlorine--it's made with the carcinogen vinyl chloride, and dioxin and ethylene dichloride are byproducts of its manufacture. PVC is hardly recyclable and when incinerated releases both dioxin and hydrogen chloride gas. Dioxin is a very potent known carcinogen; it causes cancer and reproductive disorders, and bioaccumulates and persists in nature. But chlorine and its dangerous compounds aren't the only problem. PVC is softened for certain uses with substances called plasticizers, stabilized and colored with heavy metals, and treated with fungicides. All these additives can be released in incineration--Greenpeace estimates that 100 toxins are released in a PVC fire. PVC is fire resistant, but smolders at lower temperatures, producing hydrogen chloride gas without visible signs of fire--a literally hidden danger. For these reasons, the International Association of Firefighters supports alternative materials to replace PVC. PVC's additives make it dangerous during its lifespan. Plasticizers in soft PVC products (wall coverings, floor tiles, cling wrap, furniture upholstery, and toys, among others) can release phthlates such as DEHP, which can damage the reproductive systems of and have carcinogenic effects in animals, though human effects are still unclear. A study from the February 1999 issue of the American Journal of Public Health found that children raised in houses with PVC flooring were 89 percent more likely to develop bronchial obstructions. A September 1997 study in Environmental Health Perspectives also found a possible link between phthalates and asthma The EPA classifies DEHP as a probable human carcinogen. Lead and/or cadmium has been found by Greenpeace in vinyl mini-blinds and toys, though the toy results were disputed by the CPSC. The answer to the second question is a little murkier. The alternatives to PVC pipe have their own flaws and, in many functional ways, PVC is a versatile material: it is light and strong and durable, resists corrosion, and is cheap and easy to install, though it expands and contracts in heat and cold respectively, placing strain upon joints and fixings. High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is also cheap, light, and flexible, though it, like
I know, the article just ends like this. I will research HDPE and see if I can find more info.

(Becky) in Sebastian, FL(Zone 10a)

Paul - That certainly doesn't sound too encouraging for the use of PVC. And it might explain why so many children have asthma in this country now. Good grief! Probably most synthetic materials are harmful to humans and animals. My house is full of synthetic items from carpeting to vinyl flooring to PVC blinds. Scary! Maybe that is why cancer is so common nowadays!

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