Container gardens offer many advantages:
Easy - No digging!
Decorative - They will add to your outdoor environment.
Portable - Locate them in places where you wouldn't normally have a garden such as your balcony, patio or deck.
Productive - You have complete control over the growing medium and fertilizers.
There are many choices in containers. One of the least expensive options, yet still attractive are terra cotta pots. They look nice individually and when placed in groups. Of course, pick the style of container that appeals to you. Match the size to the requirements of your plants. Lettuce can be grown in as little as 4 inches of soil, but tomatoes will need at least 12 inches of depth.
You can also purchase containers specifically designed for growing vegetables. These specialty containers are often self-watering and can be quite attractive. (Standard containers can require daily watering in the summer.) For suppliers of these specialty containers, see the Resources box at right. Gardener's Supply Company offers an exceptional variety of containers for vegetables, including self-watering sytems , self-watering conversion kits , high quality upside down kits and even grow bags .
Get creative with homemade containers crafted from old pots, buckets and what-not. Just be sure they aren't made from substances such as pressure-treated lumber or lead-based paints that could leach harmful chemicals in the soil. All containers must have drainage holes or your plants are doomed to die.
Self-Watering Bucket Garden
Researchers at the Maryland Cooperative Extension of the University of Maryland have invented the clever "Self-Watering 5-gallon Bucket" garden. It uses the cheap (often free) common 5-gallon bucket to create a "mini-garden for vegetables and herbs that recycles water and nutrients and uses only compost as the growing medium." You'll find detailed instructions for the self-watering bucket garden in their fact sheet: Home & Garden Mimeo # HG 600.
Homemade Upside-Down Planter
Want to try an upside-down planter but not sure you want to spend money on it, the folks at Living the Country Life provide step by step instructions on how to build your own at this link: Make Your Own Upside-Down Vegetable Planter.
Fill your containers with a high-quality growing medium. Commercial bagged soil-less mixtures work well in containers. Be sure and choose varieties without synthetic fertilizers or moisture retention mediums — otherwise you won't really be gardening organically. The University of Maryland also suggests the following homemade options.
Some good media mixtures for container vegetables:
• 100% compost
• 100% soil-less mix
• 25% garden soil + 75% compost
• 25% soil-less mix + 25% garden soil + 50% compost
• 25% garden soil + 75% soil-less mix
• 50% soil-less mix + 50% compost
Maryland Cooperative Extension - University of Maryland
Vegetables for Growing in Containers
Not all vegetables, or even all varieties of a specific vegetable, are well-suited for containers. When selecting varsities look for compact, bush or dwarf growing habits. Also look for gourmet choices not readily available in stores.
Visit the Vegtables Forum at GreatLakesGardeners.com to get answers to your growing vegetables questions. To ask a new question, Register if you haven't already done so(it's free and helps protect the forum from spam), click on Start New Topic, enter your question and click on Post New Topic.
You may also appreciate these books on growing vegetable gardens.