Grow your own salad fixings—in a container

Don’t let a lack of garden space keep you from growing fresh, flavorful vegetables

Want to grow vegetables where you live, but lack the space and soil to make it happen? Think container gardening!

Popular Vegetable Varieties for Container Gardening

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Alaska’s climate is ideal for growing vegetables in containers. With a sunny spot (patio, deck or even the front steps) where you can place a container or two, you can grow lettuce, tomatoes, onions and more salad fixings. Plus, plants can be easily moved in and out of the house in case frost threatens.

Read on for some growing tips and advice from the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service:

Containers. Practically any container can be used for growing vegetables. Clay pots, plastic buckets, trays, wooden boxes and trash containers all work well. All containers must have drainage holes in the bottom so excess water can drain out. Porous containers such as clay and wood, will have to be watered more often than plastic and metal. Matching container size with the amount of space the vegetable will need is important.

Varieties. There are many vegetable varieties suitable for container growing. Some varieties produce small plants with regular size vegetables. Midget varieties have also been developed which produce small vegetables on small plants. Many area greenhouses and garden centers carry a good selection of container vegetable varieties.

Soil. A good general potting mixture includes one part soil, one part moistened peat moss and one part coarse sand or vermiculite. Most locally produced topsoils already contain a high percentage of peat so adding the sand or vermiculite may be all that is necessary. A loose soil mix is important because it allows air to reach plant roots. The addition of a few handfuls of compost and bone meal will supply a slow release source of nutrients. Lime may be necessary to raise the pH to a suitable growing range. A soil-less potting soil can also be used.

Fertilizer. Container grown vegetables require more feeding because nutrients are washed out through the bottom of the pot during watering. Use a water soluble fertilizer according to the recommendations on the package. A high nitrogen fertilizer, such as 20-10-10, is suitable for leafy vegetables. Flowering and fruiting vegetables should have a high phosphorous fertilizer such as 15-30-15.

Water. Soil dries out quickly in containers. If your vegetables wilt from lack of water, they may never fully recover. Check the soil daily and water when needed. Always water thoroughly. Apply enough water so it drains out the bottom of the pot. Don’t water so forcefully that you disturb surface roots and try to keep water off the leaves to prevent diseases.

Light. Most vegetables grow best in full sunlight. Leafy vegetables have the lowest light requirements and can get by with four hours of direct light. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers need close to 10 hours of sunlight each day. Dedicated gardeners can move small containers to follow the path of the sun if necessary

Container gardening offers advantages such as less soil preparation and fewer weeds.

Having a salad growing at your doorstep is convenient too!

For more details on varieties and container sizes, check out the Popular Vegetable Varieties for Container Gardening chart (click here).

Enjoy your harvest!