During this challenging time, the team at Big Earth Landscape Supply would like to share some ideas for fun activities to pass the time as you stay home with your family. Vegetable gardening allows you to reap the delicious benefits of growing your own food and can be extremely satisfying. But if you don’t have the space for a large garden bed, growing vegetables in containers provides a low-maintenance commitment that can produce a full harvest.
First, Choose the Container
When choosing containers, bigger is better. They require less maintenance and hold more moisture to cool your plants. Feel free to get creative with your containers—large plastic or clay pots work well. but you don’t have to stick with pots. If an item will hold soil and has drainage holes, it can function as a container garden. Inexpensive options include 5-gallon buckets, old laundry baskets, Tupperware storage bins – the possibilities are endless! Let your new garden double as an art project and paint your containers however you like (this is also a great way to include the kids).
Beat the heat with light-colored containers that reflect the sun’s rays and keep the soil cool. Double-potting (placing a smaller pot inside a larger one) and packing the area between with wet newspaper or sphagnum insulates the container and keeps your plants happy during our hottest days.
Window boxes are an excellent container choice for herbs or leafy greens. Place in an easy-to-reach window for grab-and-go, homegrown salads.
Second, Choose Your Veggies
We can grow a wonderful assortment of vegetables in southern Florida, despite our high temperatures. While you have many options, here are some of the easiest choices for South Florida vegetable gardening.
- Cabbage and other cool-season veggies like collards and broccoli grow well
- Sweet potatoes are an extremely low-maintenance choice.
- Pinto, red kidney, black and garbanzo beans – as well as black-eyed peas – add nitrogen to the soil. This means they are perfect to have growing alongside other veggies.
- Eggplant loves Florida warmth and grows even during the summer peak temperatures.
- Tomatoes are a classic garden staple. Be sure to provide a trellis for them to climb behind your container.What Won’t Grow in Containers? Melons, corn and pumpkins
Did You Know? The main south Florida planting season runs from September through March. Be sure to check the seed packets for specific planting times and instructions.
Arrangement and Planting
When designing your container garden, plant multiple veggies together. This practice will maximize your harvest by taking advantage of different growth types and decreases the chances of weeds making a home in your containers. Combine root crops that put most of their growth below the soil (sweet potatoes, radish, carrots) with low-growers (cabbage, collards, broccoli) and climbers (tomatoes, beans, peas) to get the most out of your container and vertical space. Just be sure to group your vegetables with similar sun and moisture requirements.
Make sure your container has drainage holes, then add a small layer of gravel at the bottom to keep excess water from rotting your plants’ roots. You should use a peat moss potting mix as your soil. We do not recommend using soil from an existing garden in your yard, as it compacts in containers and carries undesirable insects and weeds. Feed your container gardens with liquid fertilizer 1-2x per month, and also add compost monthly if possible to replenish micronutrients in the soil.
With a little patience and attention, it won’t be long before you’ll be eating food from your own backyard.