Types of Container for Vegetable Gardening
Part 2: Disposable & Storable Vegetable Gardening Containers.
Ok, so in part one we looked at the permannet style of container and to recap in my opinion the only useful style of permanent container for vegetable gardening is the wooden one. Now lets take a look at the other options open to us.
Grow bags / 60 litre potting compost bags
I sometimes think that grow bags are a little bit like convenience food for vegetable gardening.
They come ready filled, topped up with nutrient rich potting compost and are ready to go from the off. Grow bags tend to be quite shallow, but you can easily get around this by inserting some old plant pots with the bottoms cut off them as ‘funnels’ which you can top up with more soil. Tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and many beans will all do nicely in grow bags. As well as the ‘rip open and go’ aspect, they are highly portable and, like wooden containers, can be made to fit the available space quite nicely. But my number one choice of vegetable gardening container is the 60 litre bag of potting compost. It has all the advantages already mentioned in the grow bag but if its placed on its side it has a really good depth of soil, enough for any vegetable gardening needs.
To prepare them, what I do is this. When I’m ready to use one I get hold of it and drop it on its side from about waist height. I pick it up, turn it over and drop it again. I then drop it on both the front and back alternately. What this does is loosen up all the compost inside the bag without having to open it. Next I place it in its final position on its side. From here I can then add whatever opening I like. If I want a trench style as you can see above, I’ll cut the bottom out of a plastic trough, draw round it with a permanent marker and cut round it to make a hole in the bag ready to receive the trough. I then just push the trough in the hole. It takes a bit of wiggling to get it in. I like to cut the hole a little shy as I prefer a good tight fit. I push the trough in about 2 inches and then re-loosen the soil that is now inside the trough.
This style is ideal for veg you grow in a row such as peas and french beans. For single plants, for example tomatoes, I’ll do the same thing but use a large plastic pot instead of a trough. Again come the spring I shall put together another Youtube video showing you exactly how it is done. There is only one down side with these containers and that is they have a limited shelf life. The UV light from the sun will make the plastic brittle in about three seasons and then they will crack and fall to bits. But that having been said they are by far the most versatile of all the vegetable gardening containers I use.
Collapsible storage bags
Collapsible storage bags share many of the advantages of grow bags or 60 litre potting compost bags but are that little bit more sustainable. If you have a ready supply of soil or are willing to bulk buy compost each year, filling up these collapsible bags is a great way of setting up your garden in spring and ‘putting it to bed’ again come the autumn.
Like grow bags, they are easy to move and transport, and they also come in variable sizes and depths meaning that you should be able to find collapsible storage bags to suit almost any vegetable that you want to try growing. Personally, I particularly like them for potatoes where you need a really deep growing space but perhaps need something that little bit stronger than a traditional compost bag.
General tips and advice
Of course, the most important ingredient for choosing the right container is a liberal sprinkling of common sense. In reality you can push almost anything into service as a garden planter provided it’s the right size for the task in hand. Whilst your herbs might be happy in a dainty little pot inherited from a beloved aunt, large leafy vegetables or those with strong, deep growing roots are unlikely to thrive.
It’s also worth thinking through whether what you are about to plant needs moisture retention or excellent drainage and whether you’re likely to need to protect the crop from pests, sunlight or frost. As a general rule, the larger the container and the more soil it carries, the more moisture it will retain.
As with most aspects of container vegetable gardening, a little planning goes a long way. So good luck finding the containers you need to get your own crops off to the best possible start.