It’s 2019 and you no longer need a yard to be a gardener. Starting out with the right materials makes is important for the success of your patio garden. A good quality potting soil, fertilizer, and the right container can make all the difference. Remember that plants in containers have to rely on the gardener more than plants in the ground, so give them a little extra attention, especially during the hot summer months. We’re here to help get you started, and to answer any questions along the way! Find a sunny spot on your balcony or patio and enjoy a fresh, healthy harvest from potted plants all summer long.
Good drainage is essential. Choose a material that works best with your site and the needs of the plant. Clay wicks excess water, glazed pottery and plastic hold onto water, and metal retains heat and water.
Before planting, incorporate a light granular fertilizer into your potting mix to slowly feed throughout the season. Our favorites are Espoma Garden-tone and Tomato-tone. Add a tablespoon of Epsom salt when potting tomatoes and peppers to help with micronutrient uptake. Add more granular fertilizer to the top inch of the soil monthly, or use a water soluble fertilizer according to the instructions on the label throughout the growing season. We like Foxfarm or Neptune’s Harvest water soluble fertilizers.
Use a light, soilless potting mix (not garden soil or top soil!) to insure good drainage. Our favorites are Baccto or organic Foxfarm mixes.
Tomatoes, peas, pole beans, and vining cucumbers need support to grow vertically. We like using tomato cages that fit directly into the pot.
Most vegetables need 6+ hours of sun to produce well. Leafy greens, radishes, beets, peas, and some herbs can produce with 4 hours of sun.
Use your finger to check the moisture content of the top few inches of soil before watering, and water thoroughly when dry. Water in the morning, and avoid watering foliage to prevent fungus problems. Consistent watering in the heat of the summer is especially important for container-grown vegetables. Remember that containers on concrete will get much hotter than containers on grass or wood.
Plants by Container Size
Use a shallow patio bowl for lettuce, spinach, swiss chard, and other leafy greens, green onions, herbs, and strawberries. For larger plants like broccoli, celery, eggplants, peppers, squash, and bush-type citrus, use a 5 gallon pot. Beans and cucumbers can also fit into 5 gallon pot, choose bush varieties or use plant supports to hold up the vines. Potatoes and tomatoes should be in at least 5 gallon pots, but would benefit from more space. Look for determinate tomato plants labelled “patio” for smaller mature sizes, and use a tomato cage to keep the plant upright. Root vegetables like carrots, beets, and radish need pots deep enough to comfortably grow to their full size under the soil, but should be planted in wide containers with enough space for multiple plants. Small perennial fruits can also be grown in containers. Varieties like Chester Blackberry, Raspberry Shortcake, Northblue, Northcountry, and Northsky Blueberries can be planted in large 10 gallon pots and protect from winter freeze and thaw cycles.