You have decided to try your hand at gardening but where to start? Why not grow vegetables that complement and grow a salad garden in containers. Cucumbers, tomatoes and salad greens are easy to grow in containers and a great introduction to vegetable gardening for beginners. If you are new to gardening a good way to start is growing plants in containers. Growing vegetables in pots give you better control over sunlight exposure and soil and are easier to water. Container gardening is also a solution for those who are short on space or live in an urban setting.
To ensure a healthy plant and a good yield be sure to follow the recommendations for fertilizing, watering, sun exposure and soil composition on the seed packet. Lettuce is a cool season plant so starting the lettuce, tomatoes and cucumbers early indoors and synchronizing time to harvest means your mini-crops can be enjoyed together. Days to harvest can be found on the seed packets. Generally, plants grow best in potting mix or potting soil which is formulated for containers. Some potting soils and mixes have fertilizer added to them so be sure to check the package to adjust any fertilizer and nutrients you add to your plants.
Give your plants room to grow. The larger the container the better and the required size of the pot depends upon the plant. A minimum size of 10-12 inches in diameter can be a good rule of thumb. Some varieties can tolerate smaller containers but some varieties of vining plants may need a pot as big as 20 inches in diameter.
The types of lettuce best suited to grow in containers are loose leaf varieties. They are easy to grow and have shallow roots which make them a good fit for container growing. A 6-12 inch pot can accommodate 3 to 4 plants. Some favorites for container gardening are Oak Leaf, little gem, Black Seeded Simpson, salad bowl, Tom Thumb, Deer Tongue. Weather for your location is an important consideration. Lettuce is a cool season crop but some varieties are suited to cool or cold weather and some are more heat-tolerant. When the weather is too warm lettuce will bolt-to-seed and have a bitter taste.
It is important that you use a large container when growing tomatoes in pots. Generally a minimum of 18 inch diameter pot for determinate (bushy) and 24-inches for indeterminate (vining) varieties is required. Determinate varieties are best suited for container gardening but both kinds of tomato plants will require staking or support. Keep in mind, it may be necessary to hand pollinate blossoms to ensure a good crop.
It is best to grow bush varieties of cucumbers in pots. However, even bush varieties will require a frame for vines to climb or you can place the pots high enough so the vines hang below. These plants grow best in pots at least 10-14 inches in diameter. Some varieties that grow well in pots are Bush Champion, Spacemaster. Pollination is a consideration as it is with tomatoes. The varieties Arkansas Little Leaf and Salad Bush Hybrid are good choices because they set fruit without requiring pollination.