Anyone can grow vegetables at home. This simple fact should be encouraging if you dream of having produce but are lacking in space.
Depending on where you are in the state, it’s often best to take vegetable growing out of the traditional, in-ground garden and into containers. Here are some steps to get you started.
Choose Your Container
Vegetable plants can grow in a variety of containers as long they allow enough room for roots. A minimum depth of about 6 inches is required.
Many common plants—such as tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers—need about 5 gallons of soil volume to support growth. Smaller plants may need less space.
This means you can grow plants in buckets, nursery pots, ornamental containers, raised garden beds or even an old bathtub. If it holds soil, has drainage holes and does not contain hazardous materials, it will probably work.
Fill the Container
The soil you use is more important than the container itself. Good soil provides the plants with nutrients, holds moisture while draining well and allows maximum root growth.
A lightweight, well-drained potting soil mix will likely work, as will many commercially available soils labeled as garden soils.
You can build your own soil by mixing equal parts peat moss, compost and coarse vermiculite or sand.
This will likely be the most expensive part of your garden, so think about this as you plan the size of your container.
Plant Your Plants
Now that you have a container full of soil, what do you want to plant?
Choose vegetables you and your family enjoy eating.
Most common garden species will do well in a container, but be sure to research varieties that work well in your area and plant them at the right time.
A great resource for this information is the Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vh021.
The guide also will help determine plant spacing, and whether you should start from seeds or transplants.
Place Your Containers
Where you put your garden is key, so choose a place that gets at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day and is close to a water source.
Make sure you can easily access your plants and work around them.
Often, your vegetable containers can be attractive and integrated into your landscape or patio.
Grow Your Garden
Throughout the growing season, keep the soil in your containers moist but not overly wet. Look for wilting, which can signify too little or too much water.
Plants often need fertilizer. Start with a slow-release, balanced fertilizer such as 10-10-10 at planting. Supplement with a water-soluble fertilizer later in the growing season.
For leafy vegetables, keep going with a balanced fertilizer but switch to a product such as 6-12-18 or 8-16-16 for plants producing fruit, seed, tubers or edible roots.
It is Florida, so pests will likely show up at some point. Keep checking plants regularly and identify and determine the best possible treatment if pests do show up.
If you need help with pest identification or have any vegetable gardening questions, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office.
Some pests will not cause enough damage to warrant control and can be removed by hand or with a spray of a hose.
If pesticides are needed, read the label thoroughly and follow all directions. Stay away from broad-spectrum products that kill a variety of insects, as they can harm pollinators and other beneficial insects.
Hopefully, your first container gardens will be the gateway to a lifetime of enjoying fresh produce grown from your own efforts.
For more information on Florida Friendly Landscaping, visit https://ffl.ifas.ufl.edu or contact your UF/IFAS Extension office.