'Packing' vegetables in containers?

castorpJuly 31, 2011

I see (in gardening books and on-line) lots of pics of containers just packed with mixed vegetables and herbs. A tomato, a cuke, a basil, a marigold, all sorts of things, will all share the same container. I think these mixed plantings pretty, but is it practical? I realize that they would require frequent watering/feeding--probably very frequent when everything is full grown--but would the quality of the vegetables suffer?

I use Al's 5:1:1 mix. For containers, I'm either going to be using pretty unglazed clay pots--or really ugly plastic 50 gallon drums sawed in half. That's another question. Would a thick-walled plastic drum or terracotta pots be best for this sort of planting?



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I'm new to all this so definitely not an expert but I think there are some plants that complement each other and can share a container better than others. Even for traditional in-ground planting, I've seen sites that refer to good "companion plants" for particular things. Think about the classic "three-sisters" arrangement where you grow corn, pole beans, and squash right on top of each other. I forget the specifics but it's something like the beans convert the nutrients in the soil to a form that's easier for the corn and squash to take up, the corn stalks provide a "pole" for the beans to climb, and the squash shades the roots to keep everybody cool. You can pack those in together and they work very well but some other combinations wouldn't.

As far as what kind of containers to use, I'd steer clear of clay or terra cotta in FL. The clay wicks moisture from the soil and dries it out much faster. I'm in GA and I wound up moving everything I had in clay pots to plastic pretty early on.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 2:24PM
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Ohiofem(6a Ohio)

I've been growing vegetables in containers for many years and found that they generally do better if I grow only one kind per container. In the beginning, I only had two containers. I grew two or three tomatoe plants in the 25-gallon pot and a bell pepper and four bush cucumbers in the other. I never got more than a handful of peppers and maybe a dozen cucumbers from the one pot. These days I grow my cucumbers and peppers in separate containers and the yield is easily 5 to 10 times greater. I also tried growing "companion" plants that are supposed to ward off pests: marigolds or basil with tomatoes and nasturtiums with cucumbers. I don't know if they helped with the pests, but I do know that the companion plants never do well. They usually die midway through the season. Hungry vegetables always hog the food and shade their companions. I also tried growing several herbs in the same container, and they never did well.

I do recommend mixed plantings of flowering annuals. The thriller, filler, spiller concept can be very attractive. But they do need extra room and attention. And more vigorous plants often overwhelm the slower growing ones. You need to choose plants with similar requirements.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 4:51PM
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Thanks to you both for the information.

Ohiofern, I had a feeling that those containers just packed with all sorts of veggies, herbs and flowers were too good to be true. It's too bad because I really like the idea!

Btbarbara, do you ever have trouble with plastic pots overheating? That was my main concern with plastic. I was wondering if I should paint the split barrels white to keep them cool

Thanks again.


    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 6:11PM
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I just have to think that if anyone found a way to make multiple plants produce well packed into one container, we would see plenty of articles about it and plenty of photos.

But let's distinguish between trying to achieve simultaneous production and planting thoughtfully for a year-round sequence of produce. Attempting a variation on French Intensive Farming by arranging for one species to be growing while another is producing. The first producer is done and gone when the second is producing, and another successor is growing.

And, while corn is a lousy container vegetable, consider the "three sisters" garden of corn, beans growing on the corn stalk, and squash as the green mulch. The motivation was originally the need to complete the protein in corn by eating it with beans, but if think, you can probably come up with other combinations of tall, low, and vining that aren't competing for the same horizontal space. Something like a tomato, Malabar spinach that will grow into the tomato plant, and Greek oregano or thyme to use the ground level. I just began thinking about it, so you can no doubt do better.

    Bookmark   July 31, 2011 at 8:55PM
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