Guide to Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Tomatoes ripened on the plant
Tomatoes ripened on the plant

Tomato is one of the most versatile vegetables which is loved all around the world for its flavor, texture, color, taste and juiciness. But tomato is also a food source with an ambiguity. Though botanically its a fruit, it is eaten as a vegetable. However knowing this fact really does not make any difference to you when you want to grow juicy, colorful and yummy tomatoes in a container in your garden. But going through this post on how to grow tomatoes in containers surely will. So without much ado here we go.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Tomatoes in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 30 °C
Germination Temperature 20-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 3-10 days
Soil pH 5.5 to 6.8
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Transplanting
Container size 15-20 liter
Time to Harvest 60-100 days from germination depending on variety
Harvest Period  3-4 months
Pollination Self pollinating.
Typical Pests leaf eating caterpillar, aphids, fruit borers
Typical Diseases Blossom End Rot, Leaf curl, Septoria leaf Spot, Early Blight, Late Blight
Best season to grow in India November to February. Under shade house you can grow from October – April

Tomato Varieties you can Plant

Cherry Tomatoes Growing in Bunch
Cherry Tomatoes Growing in Bunch

Tomatoes come in many sizes and colors. The smaller tomatoes that are typically not more than an inch on the longest side are called as cherry tomatoes. These come in many colors ranging from red, pink, yellow to purple and are salad friendly vegetables. These are also container friendly varieties and give a huge amount of yield even in small containers.

Tomatoes also can be of bush and vine varieties. The bush varieties which grow to a height of 2-3 feet are called determinate variety and are usually shorter and more compact plants than the vine or indeterminate varieties which grow up to 6-8 feet.  As the indeterminate varieties grow much taller more staking is usually needed for these. The major difference however between the determinate and indeterminate varieties is the fruiting cycle. Determinate plants bear fruit in batches. An entire batch fruits and ripens at the same time. And a few days after the first batch has ripened a new batch of flowers start blossoming. In indeterminate variety fruiting, flowering, ripening continues till the season ends all at the same time. However due to size the determinate variety is more suitable for container gardening.

Starting Tomato Seeds and Transplanting in pots

Tomato Saplings in Paper Cups
Tomato Saplings in Paper Cups

To grow tomatoes in containers you need to start the seeds in a seed tray under controlled conditions as the seedlings take good amount of time to grow. If you do not have a seed tray you can use used paper cups. Fill up the seed tray loosely with seed tray mix (see potting mix post for details) and give a tap so that it settles down nicely in the tray. Spray wet the media so that it settles down further. Drop 3-4 tomato seeds in each cup of the tray. Cover the seeds with more seed tray mix so that the seeds are just covered with 2-3 mm of the mix. Water again very lightly with a water sprayer and keep the tray in a warm place. If the seeds are good and the temperature is right it should germinate within 3-4 days. When seeds have germinated, transfer the tray to a place where the seedlings can get at least 4-6 hours of sunlight.

You need to water the seedlings as needed. Make sure they are protected from direct rain and harsh sunlight. Its better to keep the seedlings under shade house if the daytime temperature is more than 30 degrees. In about twenty to thirty days time when 4-6 true leaves have emerged the sapling is ready to be transplanted.

Staking arrangement done for Tomato Plant as soon as it is transplanted
Staking arrangement done for Tomato Plant as soon as it is transplanted

The potting mix that you use for tomatoes must be rich in minerals especially calcium. So be sure to add some fish meal or bone meal to your potting mix when you grow tomatoes in containers. Additionally you can also add crushed egg shells to provide additional enrichment to the soil.

To transplant carefully take out the sapling from seed tray and bury the ball of the sapling it in the center of your pot. Water the pot properly and place it in a sunny area. After about 7-10 days when the saplings have adjusted to the new soil remove the weaker saplings. Retain only one plant and cut off rest of the saplings using a garden scissor. To grow tomatoes in containers successfully you need to limit the number of plants to 1 for 15-20 liter container. If you have much bigger containers you can plant more saplings. But keep at least 1.5 feet distance between each sapling.

Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Companion Planting - Tomato with Carrots
Companion Planting – Tomato with Carrots

Tomatoes grow very well when they get optimum climatic condition of cooler temperature, low humidity and full sunlight. In case your area is very hot even in winters it will be good to keep tomato plants under a shade house or under shade net. Tomato plants are not strong enough to bear fruits without support. When saplings are planted in a container of appropriate size they grow quite fast and hence staking arrangements need to be done upfront. When you grow tomatoes in containers you can simply stake using a bamboo stick and tie the tomato plant to it using a jute string. You can even stake the tomato plants using a cotton or jute string hanging from any support above the plant. The important thing is to stake your tomato plant well in time to help it grow well.

Fully grown tomato plants
Fully grown tomato plants

There are a lot of opinion on how to handle the suckers (Suckers are sprouts that develop between the main stalk and a leaf node. They are similar to suckers in eggplant. You can see the picture of a sucker in the post I made on eggplant.) in tomato plants. Some people are of the opinion that, if left on the plant suckers affects the yield and overall health of the plant. While another group of people are against removing the suckers. I follow a middle path approach. I remove the bigger suckers which hinder airflow and penetration of sunlight to all parts of the plant. And rest of the suckers are left untouched on the plant. And this seem to work out fine.

Water your tomato plants as needed. Dry soil can stress your tomato plants. But over watered tomato plant is undesirable. Water the plant at the base and never on leaves. Wet leaves can easily catch fungus. Rain can also cause fungal attack. Hence it is good to provide some protection to the plants during rains so that the leaves do not get wet. When you grow tomatoes in containers it become easy to move them around and protect them from rain. Use a good organic soil conditioner like panchagavya once every 12-15 days to supplement the soil with nutrients. Spraying panchagavya once every 12-15 days also helps in better fruiting and keep away a lot of pests.

Pollinating Tomatoes

Self Fertile Flowers of Tomato
Self Fertile Flowers of Tomato

Tomatoes are self pollinating. In lay man’s language every flower of tomato plant is self contained and has the potential to turn into a fruit all by itself. But they need a little help from wind, bees and wasps to get pollinated. So in case you find your tomato flowers are not turning into fruits in spite of the weather being right and plant being healthy you may have to help your plant in pollination. Giving a little shake to the plant helps pollen to fall off from the stamen onto the pistil and thus pollination takes place.

Another way you can hand pollinate tomatoes is by using some kind of vibrating apparatus that mimics the vibration caused by flutter of bees or wasps. A battery operated tooth brush is one such apparatus you can use. Just put on the brush in vibrator mode and move it around near the flowers. Be careful not to touch the flowers. the vibration created in the wind will be sufficient to pollinate the flowers.

Pest Management for Tomato Plants

Winter Moths Bore into Tomato
Winter Moths Bore into Tomato

Keep watching for bugs on your tomato plant on a daily basis. Mealybugs are very common on tomato plants and if not checked during initial stages they can infest the plant. Wipe away the bugs as soon as you spot them. You can use a cotton cloth dipped in some methylated spirit to wipe them off. Other major bug family that seem to like tomato plant is caterpillar. Some of them eat up the leaves while others like the winter moth get inside the fruit and eat it up. Cow urine diluted ten times with water can be sprayed to keep the caterpillars away. Panchagavya is also an excellent pest repellent to keep them away. But manually removing them early in the morning everyday works out best.

Harvesting Tomatoes

Bountiful Tomato Harvest
Bountiful Tomato Harvest

Tomatoes produce a lot of fruits under suitable weather and soil conditions even when you grow them in containers. On the flip side tomatoes are actually very slow growing vegetable compared to most other veggies. They take about sixty days on the plant before you can pick them. A few varieties even take around ninety days to become ripe and mature. So you need to have patience when it comes to harvesting them. Tomatoes in the unripened stage are green and after staying that way for 40-50 days they start to ripen. It is good to pick them up after they have completely ripened and turned red. As soon as they turn red pick them up immediately when they are still firm. You can also pick them up when they are partially ripe and leave them to ripen in your kitchen. When mature, tomatoes can easily be separated from the plant with hand.

Additional Tip

Blossom End Rot in Tomato
Blossom End Rot in Tomato

Tomato fruit is susceptible to BER (Blossom End Rot) especially when you grow tomato in containers. The bottom end or blossom end of the fruit is rotted while rest of the fruit looks fine. When this happens you can not consume them. And this happens due to lack of calcium in the soil. As there is limited amount of potting mix in your container, tomato plant may not be able to get the required calcium. To fix this you can water your plant with butter milk with a pinch of asafoetida for a few days. Other quick fix method that you can use to address this problem is to use a herbal calcium tablet. Take one tablet per plant, crush it properly and mix it with half a liter of water. Water your tomato plant with it. This will fix BER issue for a single tomato plant.

And here is the last tip before I sign off. Keep your tomato plants (and plants belonging to tomato family like eggplant) well spread out in the garden. Keeping them together will be conducive for pests (esp caterpillars) to spread to all plants. Keeping them away from each other reduces the probability of pest infestation.

How to Grow Brinjal in Containers

Eggplants galore
Eggplants galore

Fire roasted brinjal (or eggplant or aubergine) smashed with chopped onions, chilies and a little mustard oil is a dish that is smoky, sweet, gooey, meaty, hot and above all irresistible. It is an absolute favorite here in my part of the world. In fact eggplant is one of the most used vegetables in Odia cooking. Its goodness can really be enjoyed to the fullest if it is organically grown and is of indigenous variety. Brinjal being a perennial vegetable in tropical weather, it can be planted any time and it can be enjoyed throughout the year. In this post I’ll guide you on how to grow Brinjal in containers organically in your terrace garden.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Brinjal in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 30 °C
Germination Temperature 25-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 6-12 days
Soil pH 6 to 7
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day (Sun loving Plant)
Preferred Planting Method Transplanting
Container size 15-20 liter
Time to Harvest 60-80 days from germination
Harvest Period  8-12 months
Pollination Self pollinating.
Typical Pests mealy bugs, aphids, fruit borers
Best season to plant in India June – November

Starting Eggplant Seeds and Transplanting in pots

Seed starting in paper cups
Seed starting in paper cups

To grow brinjal in containers you can sow the seeds directly. But its better to start brinjal seeds in a seed tray as the seedlings take good amount of time to grow. During this time it is susceptible to forces of nature. If you do not have a seed tray you can use used paper cups. Fill up the seed tray loosely with seed tray mix (see potting mix post for details) and give a tap so that it settles down nicely in the tray. Drop 3-4 eggplant seeds in each cup of the tray. Cover the seeds with more seed tray mix so that the seeds are just covered with 2-3 mm of the mix. Water the tray very lightly so that the soil mix is not disturbed. Now cover the tray with a polythene sheet and keep the tray in a warm place. Make sure that there is about 1-2 inch gap between the soil and the polythene sheet. The plastic sheet helps in retaining moisture. But you can skip this step if you want to. But you need to make sure that the soil is moist all the time. In about 6-7 days time seedlings will emerge in the tray. As soon as the first seedling emerges remove the plastic sheet and transfer the tray to a place where the seedlings can get at least 4-6 hours of sunlight.

You need to water the seedlings as needed. Make sure they are protected from direct rain and harsh sunlight. Young brinjal seedlings are susceptible to root rot. To reduce probability of root rot you may water the seedlings with Amrut Jal once in a week. in about thirty to forty days time when 4-6 true leaves have emerged the sapling is ready to be transplanted.

watering the eggplant seedlings with a spray
watering the eggplant seedlings with a spray

To transplant carefully take out the sapling from seed tray and bury the ball of the sapling it in the center of your pot. Water the pot properly and place it in a sunny area. After about 7-10 days when the saplings have adjusted to the new soil it is time to remove the weaker saplings. Retain only one plant and cut off rest of the saplings using a garden scissor. To grow brinjal in containers successfully you need to limit the number of plants to 1 for 15-30 liter container. If you have much bigger containers you can plant more saplings. But keep at least 2 feet distance between each sapling.

Growing Brinjal in Containers

Brinjal grow in full sunlight and hence the soil can dry out very fast. So mulch you pot heavily to avoid evaporation. Keep the soil moist all the time and never let it dry out. in harsh summers a fully grown plant can get water stressed.

Happy brinjal seedlings
Happy brinjal seedlings

Just like Tomatoes suckers sprout in a brinjal plant too. Suckers are sprouts that develop between the main stalk and a leaf node. If left on the plant it affects the yield and overall health of the plant. So check for suckers and remove them using hand shears regularly. It is a good idea also to remove all leaves that become old and start touching the soil. You can also prune the leaves that point towards the stem of the plant. Such leaves block sunlight to other leaves and also prevent airflow.

Suckers in eggplant have been cut off
Suckers in eggplant have been cut off

Use Amrut Jal or any other organic liquid soil conditioner/fertilizer every 10-15 days. During flowering increase the frequency and use it once every 7 days. When you grow Brinjal in containers you need to make sure your plant gets enough nutrients at all times. Do not forget to add extra compost to your pot at regular intervals. Adding about 3-4 liters of compost for each plant every 40-50 days will keep the plant healthy. Always add compost below the mulch layer.

Flower of aubergine
Flower of aubergine

Aphids and Mealybugs are the major pests that you have to face when you grow brinjal in containers or on the ground. So check your plant regularly below the leaves. In case you find them remove them with water jet. You can also use a neem spray or any broad organic pesticide like diluted cow urine to get rid of aphids. For mealybugs take a cotton ball dipped in a methylated spirit to wipe them off.  During fruiting plant can get infested with borers especially if temperature is low. Spraying once a week with Panchagavya keeps borers away. It is a good idea to keep all your brinjal and tomato plants away from each other so that borers can not spread easily.

Harvesting Brinjal

Fruit borer on brinjal
Fruit borer on brinjal

Eggplant flowers are self pollinating and they are pollinated with the help of a little wind. You can also tap the flowers gently to help in pollination if there is no wind. The plant tends to fall over during fruiting due to the weight of the fruits. So staking is a must for brinjal plants. Stake your plants before or as soon as flowers start to bloom. Staking will also help protect your plants from heavy winds.

An eggplant has just formed
An eggplant has just formed

Eggplant is ready to be picked up in about 15-20 days from formation of fruit. Press the fruit slightly to check if it is mature. If it is soft to touch then it probably will grow a little more. If it is hard to touch it has already matured. You need to harvest your eggplant when it is no more soft to touch. To harvest do not pull it. It will not come off and will damage the plant. Use a pair of garden scissors to cut off brinjal from the plant.

Second life of Eggplant

When you grow brinjal in container, in about 5-7 months after the first harvest there may be a reduction in size of the fruit and the leaves. When this happens its a good idea to cut off your plant from top leaving only 3-4 main branches and about 8-10 leaves in the plant. The best time for this to be done is during monsoons. Never do this in harsh summers. In few days time new and bigger leaves start to emerge.In about a month’s time your plant will grow to its full glory again, and the brinjals that will fruit in the plants will be of bigger size. Thus you’ll be able to get tasty and nutritious eggplants round the year from the same plant.

 

How to Grow Radish in Containers… Even in a Plastic Bottle

A single radish plant can be grown in a recycled plastic bottle
A single radish plant can be grown in a recycled plastic bottle

Radish is one super friendly vegetable to grow in small spaces. Hence it is a favorite among people doing container gardening. You can grow them in as small container as a recycled plastic soft drink bottle. Yes you heard me right. You can grow full fledged radishes even in small containers as plastic bottles. All you need to do is to do it in the right way. This post is a complete guide on How to Grow Radish in Containers from seeds to harvest.

Quick Reference Table to Grow Radish in Containers

Coated radish seeds
coated radish seeds

There are many varieties of radishes to choose from. From long slender ones to round ones, from white ones to red ones, the choices are many. Every variety varies in term of optimal growing condition. This table is a more generic table that covers almost all general varieties.

Item Value
Growing Temperature 10 – 28 °C
Germination Temperature 15-30 °C Ideal
Germination Time 3-7 days
Soil pH 6.0 to 7.0
Sunlight Need 5-8 hours per day
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing
Container size 3-4 can be planted in a 10 liter containers. Keep 6-8 inch distance between two plants.
Time to Harvest 30-40 days from germination
Harvest Period 10-12 days
Pollination Radish is a root vegetable which is harvested before it starts flowering.
Typical Pests Aphids, Cut worm, Cabbage looper
Best season to plant in India Beginning of winter and through winters

Choosing Container for Radishes

Around 12 radishes can be grown in a 1.5 x 2 ft box
Around 12 radishes can be grown in a 1.5 x 2 ft box

As I told in the beginning of the post radish can be planted any type of container with some minimum depth, so that the root has enough space to grow. You can choose from grow bags, recycled wooden boxes, recycled thermocol boxes, old plastic buckets, recycled paint buckets, recycled plastic bottles (2 liter of bigger bottle works well. Avoid anything less than 1.5 liter bottle), recycled juice or milk cartons or your good old un-glazed earthen pots. To grow radish in containers the choices of containers is endless. Just use a little imagination. And you can recycle many things at your home and grow radishes in them. Just make sure that depending on the variety of the radish, the root will have enough space to grow downwards.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Making a small well for sowing radish seeds helps in keeping the plant straight later
Making a small well for sowing radish seeds helps in keeping the plant straight later

For sowing seeds prepare your container in the morning and leave it in the sun so that the potting mix warms up by evening. For sowing make marks with your finger at the place where you would be sowing your seeds. Now scoop out potting mix from around the mark to make a small well. The depth of the well can be approximately 1 inch. At the center of each well make a hole of approximately 0.5 inch depth. Drop 3-4 seeds in each hole and cover the hole loosely with some potting mix. Water using a watering can. Keep the potting mix moist and make sure it gets sunlight. You’ll have your first few seeds germinate in about 3-5 days. When the saplings are about 3-4 inches tall thin the saplings to just one.

Now you could always sow the seed without making the well. But there is a reason why we recommend making the well. Young radish plant is very frail and tends to bend even in light windy condition. When the plant bends, its root does not develop too well. When the plant is young and has grown to approximately 2 inches of height, the well is covered with potting mix and lightly firmed with hands. This makes sure that the radish plant stands straight and develops a proper root.

Growing Radish in Containers

well formed radish peeking out of the soil
well formed radish peeking out of the soil

Radish is a root vegetable and hence the condition for the root to grow should be kept at optimum. If your pot dries up often the root will not be able to grow well. Hence keep the potting mix moist. But make sure that its not too wet. That will cause the root to rot. If your potting mix is a well drained one and you have made proper drainage holes in the container then you should not have issue of rotting.

Liquid fertilizers work well for root vegetables. Hence use organic liquid fertilizers like Amrut Jal, Jiwamrit, Panchagavya, compost tea once a week to fertilize your radish plants. Keep checking under the leaves once in a while for aphids. If you find them spray them away with jet of water. Alternatively you can use neem spray once in a week to get rid of them. If you find any leaf eating caterpillars of insects just remove them manually. Check for them early in the morning else you’ll never be able to spot them.

Happy looking radish plants growing in a box type container
Happy looking radish plants growing in a box type container

When the plant is frail and young protect is from strong winds. If the plant still bends down straighten it up by putting some soil around its trunk and firming it up making a small mound. Bent radish plant means not well formed radishes. So try to keep the plant straight before radish starts developing. To grow radish in containers this is all you have to do and in no time they will be ready for harvesting.

Harvesting Radishes

When radish roots starts developing it starts to peek out from the soil. So just keep checking how well your radish has grown before harvesting it. When radish plant starts flowering the radish does not taste very well. Hence in case you see any signs of flower harvest your radish immediately. Ideally you should be harvesting radish well before it flowers. To harvest just pull out the radish from your pot. You could wet the soil to make the soil loose before harvesting. And remember to wash your radish clean before consuming them. When you have harvested your radish do not throw away its leaves. The leaves can also be cooked as any green leafy vegetable and let me tell you it tastes yummy.

As radish has a very short time to harvest, you can keep sowing radish seeds once every 10-12 days in your garden. This will make sure you have a continuous supply of radish during its growing season. One last tip to grow radish in containers would be to plant your radish as a companion plant. As radish does not take up too much space it can be planted along with egg plants or tomatoes as a companion plant and you can enjoy fresh radish from your garden without even having to get a separate container for it.

 

 

How to Grow Okra in Pots Organically

okra plants can grow up to ten feet
okra plants can grow up to ten feet

Okra (Bhindi in Hindi and Bhendi in Odia) also known as ladies finger is a very generous plant. A single plant produces one to three fruits daily over a period of 50-60 days. Six to Eight okra plants are enough to meet the vegetable needs for a family of four for a single meal. On top of that Growing Okra in Pots Organically is completely hassle free. Ladies finger is a native African plant and is a close relative of hibiscus. Okra flowers have beautiful color and look similar to hibiscus flowers. Its leaves also have a nice star shaped design. Hence a lot of people also use okra as an ornamental plant and grow them indoors in small pots. Okra is generally eaten cooked lightly, but you can eat them raw if you grow them yourselves organically in your garden.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Okra in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature Okra is a warm season crop that needs night time temperature to be at least at least 17-18 °C
Germination Temperature  28-33°C Ideal
Germination Time 3-8 days
Soil pH 6.5 to 7
Sunlight Need 6-8 hours per day
Preferred Planting Method Direct Sowing is preferred
Container size 15-20 liter depending on variety
Time to Harvest 30-40 days from germination
Harvest Period 50-60 days
Pollination Self Pollinating
Typical Pests Aphids, caterpillars
Best season to plant in India Anytime other than winters

Choosing Okra Variety

Okra is a green to dark green colored fruit; at least that is what we generally get to see. But there is also a red variety of okra called the Red Burgundy which looks very attractive due to its color. Taste wise there is no difference between a green okra and a red okra. In fact the red okra turns green when cooked. But as a decorative plant in your kitchen garden the red okra scores much higher than the green one. And due to this fact its seeds are more expensive. So while growing okra in pots if you can spend some extra money its not a bad idea to go for the red okra.

red vs green okra
Red vs green okra

The height of an okra plant when grown in an appropriate container can reach up to 10 ft. If you have vertical space constraints go for a dwarf variety of okra. There are a lot of varieties of okra seeds available in the market. Check the typical height of the plant before buying seeds.

Choosing Container for Okra

Okra has a tap root which likes to go deep in the soil. Hence bucket type of container works well for Okra plants. A 20 liter container is good for normal variety while 15 liter container works fine for a dwarf variety. For growing okra in pots, you can choose between an earthen pot, recycled paint bucket or an old recycled plastic bucket.

Month old okra plants in plastic buckets
Month old okra plants in plastic buckets. Basil is planted in the same container as its a good companion for Okra.

Here is a little hack in case you are unable to get a dwarf variety of okra. Just use a smaller container (10 liter). This will make sure the root system does not develop completely and hence the plant will not reach its appropriate height. But it will also bring down the yield.

Seed Sowing and Germination of Okra

Okra seedlings
Okra seedlings

Okra seeds are suited for direct sowing rather than transplanting. However they can be transplanted provided you germinate them in one liter or bigger size container and then transplant the seedling with the entire soil ball. For faster germination soak the seeds for 24 hours in Amrut Jal. If you can not get hold of Amrut Jal plain water works fine. Plan to sow seeds in the evening in a pre-warmed container. Get your container ready in the morning of sowing the seeds and leave it in the sun so that the potting mix warms up by evening. For sowing the seeds make a hole in the potting mix with your finger. The hole should be around 1 inch in depth. place one seed in the hole and cover with loose soil. Water the pot well and cover it from top to preserve heat and moisture. Sow 3-4 seeds per container close to the center. Thin the seedlings to just one after the plants are around 6-8 inch tall.

All but one okra plant was removed after plants developed four true leaves
All but one okra plant was removed after plants developed four true leaves

Once you have sown the seeds check the moisture in the potting mix on a daily basis and keep the potting mix hydrated. In about 3-6 days you should see your first few seedlings peeping out of the soil inquisitively. At this point remove the cover from your pot. Ladies finger plants love sunlight from the day they are born. So let them enjoy some sunshine.

Growing Okra in Containers

Curling of Okra leaves by a Caterpillar
Curling of Okra leaves by a Caterpillar

Okra plants grow very fast. The normal varieties reach a height of approximately 2 feet in a single month. Buds start to appear in a month or so. While growing okra in pots if your potting mix is very loose then you may have to provide some support to the plant. Since okra is grown in warm season, moisture dries out fast from containers. Hence mulching is an absolutely must for okra plants. You need to water the plant two times a day when the day time temperature is high. Otherwise watering once in a day is sufficient for the plant. In case you are not sure how much you should water check for dehydrated leaves a few times in the course of the day. If you notice dehydrated leaves, then you need to water more.

Young Okra plant eaten up overnight
Young Okra plant eaten up overnight

Young okra plants can be attacked by leaf eating insects and the whole plant can be eaten up overnight by them. So just keep checking on your young plants every morning. If you notice parts of the leaves have been eaten away look for insects and pests everywhere in the plant especially under the leaves. As soon as you spot them pick them up and throw them off. Some caterpillars like winter moths curl up the leaves . Just tear off leaves where you see such curls and throw them away. The whole leaf need not be torn off. For getting rid of aphids just use a neem oil based spray.

When the plant starts flowering add about 3-4 liters of well decomposed compost to your pots to get plentiful harvest.

Harvesting Okra

Beautiful Okra Flower
Beautiful Okra Flower

Okra plants flowers almost everyday and every flower self fertilizes itself to a fruit. The fruit takes about 7-10 days on the plant to grow. Okra needs to be harvested when it has grown to a length of 4 to 6 inches. A day or two extra on the plant and it becomes hard and woody. Generally the fruit is covered with tiny soft thorns. While picking up okra these can pierce into your fingers. Hence while harvesting okra hold it at the pointed end and cut it off with a pair of pruning shears. Don’t try to pluck okra with your hands. You’ll end up damaging the plant. Its a good idea to harvest okra on a daily basis. However if you cant do that make sure you are harvesting them every 2 or 3 days. Any longer gap between harvests means you’ll end up with hard fruits.

When you are growing okra in pots, the fruiting period lasts up to two months. So if you want to have a supply of ladies finger in your kitchen all the time, then sow new seeds every two months and enjoy this soft, succulent, nutritious and tasty vegetable on your dinner plates throughout the warm season.

Growing Long Beans in Containers

Yardlong  beans, asparagus beans, Chinese long beans are different names for what is commonly known as long beans. This is a tropical and subtropical climate vegetable which is a favorite vegetable in Asian countries. The bean pods generally grow around 12-20 inches and are tender, crisp with a beautiful texture. You can eat it stir fried,  pan fried, steamed and in curries. You can even eat it raw. But in raw form it tastes best when you grow it in your own Organic Terrace Garden. One of the very interesting aspect of this plant is that it grows quickly and fruits vigorously. You need to harvest on a daily basis as they fruit on a daily basis. The best part is that Growing Long Beans in Containers is super easy. It needs very basic care and is quite hardy in nature. In this post I am not only going to guide you on how to grow long beans in containers and pots, I am also going to give you some tips, which will make Growing Long Beans in Containers a fun activity for the entire family.

By the way in case you are new to Organic Terrace Gardening I recommend you to read about the things you should consider before starting your Organic Terrace Garden and a Beginner’s Guide to growing vegetables in containers.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Long Beans in Containers

 

Item Value
Growing Temperature 25-35 °C
Germination Temperature 30 °C Ideal
 Germination Time  3-7 days
 Soil pH  6.0 to 7.0
 Sunlight Need  6-10 hours per day
 Planting Method  Direct Sowing
 Container size  upto 2 plants in 10 liter container
 Time to Harvest  40-45 days from germination day
 Harvest Period  30 days typically
 Pollination  Self Pollinating
 Typical Pests  Aphids, Ants
 Best season to plant in India  Monsoons

Before Sowing Long Bean Seeds in Pots

Trellis structure for long bean
A Simple Trellis structure for long beans. Long bean plants automatically start climbing on the strings provided.

Yardlong beans are climber plants. Within 10-12 days of developing true leaves they start to develop vines which starts climbing on any support that they get. This support is generally strings hanging loosely from top of the trellis. These plants grow very fast. Hence you must be prepare the trellis structure for the plant to climb as soon as you sow the seeds. It would be better to make the trellis even before sowing long bean seeds in pots because sometimes it is not possible to put up a structure at some places and if you cant move your container your plants get stuck in a place where they cant climb. And that is a disaster. Hence make sure you have a structure ready for climbers when you are Growing Long Beans in Containers.

Choosing Container for Long Beans

You don’t really need very big containers to grow long beans in your Organic Terrace Garden. You can use a 10 liter container to grow 2 plants. Just make sure that the depth of the container is 8-12 inches. Anything smaller than that would not give a good harvest and anything bigger than that would not boost your harvest significantly. The container can be anything from a un-glazed earthen pot to a plastic tub. Anything works as long as you take care of the minimum depth requirements of the container. Depending on the surface area of the container you can plant multiple long bean plans. If you are planing in a box type container, keep the distance between two plants 1 ft and between two rows the distance should be kept at 1.5 to 2 ft. If your containers is more of a bucket or a pot then plants can be planted closer; but not more than 2-3 per container.

Seed Sowing and Germination

Step by step guide to sow long bean seeds
Step by step guide to sow long bean seeds in containers

We treat Chinese Long Bean seeds with Amrut Jal before sowing. We simply soak the seed in Amrut Jal for 24 hours before sowing. This helps in faster germination. Amrut Jal also helps in protecting the seed from fungal attack. However this step is not a must. You can alternatively soak your seeds in lukewarm water for 20-30 minutes before sowing. Even this step can be bypassed if you wish to.

It is always a good idea to fill up your pot in the day time with potting mix to warm the soil and sow the seeds in the evening in the warm soil. To sow the seeds make small holes of 1/2 to 3/4 inch depth with your finger or any blunt object like back of a pencil. Place one to two seeds in the hole and cover it with potting mix and compress the soil gently. Water thoroughly and you are done. Growing Long Beans in Containers is really simple, but you have to be a little careful during the germination period. Make sure that the soil is always moist and never becomes dry. If the sun is too harsh during day time cover the pot to protect the soil from drying during noon, but make sure that air is circulating well. Also don’t over water. It may cause the seed to rot. If it is raining continuously and heavily during this time cover your pots. If you just take care of these things, your seeds should germinate in 3-7 days time.

Growing Your Long Bean Plants in Containers

When your seeds have germinated all you have to do is water them regularly to keep the soil moist all the time. When the plant grows to around 5-6 inches of height mulch your pot with organic material. This will retain moisture and prevent weeds from growing.

When the plants have grown to around 5-6 inches, they are vulnerable to heavy winds. So you need to stake them til they develop their vines and start climbing. Use any small stick of about 10-12 inches of length for staking. Just lightly tie the plant to the stake near the tip with a soft string. We use jute string for skating as it is soft, natural and cheap.

When the plant develops vines it will automatically start climbing around the strings in your trellis. You may also train the plants manually to the nearest string. Make sure that there are not more than two vines on a single string. If there are any flower pods when the plant is not even 2 ft tall just remove them. Let the plant focus on growing first. When the side vines have two to three sets of leaves pinch the tip. Pinch the tip of main vine when the vine has climbed more than 6 ft. Pinching the tips is not a absolute requirement. But when you are Growing Long Beans in Containers, pinching tips at the right time will help in growing a bushier plant and give you more produce. However you don’t have to religiously do it. Just do how much ever you can.

Fertilization and Pest Care

long beans germination, flowers and pods
Long beans plant life cycle from germination to flowering and fruiting.

Asparagus beans and not too heavy feeders and will grow well from the nutrients in your potting mix. But to keep a good supply of nutrients and micro-nutrients in the soil and to keep the soil alive by providing enough microbial activity water you plants with a cow dung based solution like Amrut Jal or Jiwamrit every 5-7 days during growing period. When the plants begin to flower supplement your soil with good quality compost and additionally you can increase frequency of Amrut Jal watering. To apply compost remove your mulch layer. Loosen the top 1 cm of soil and add good quality compost. Add about half a liter of compost per plant. Put the mulch layer back again. When you loosen the soil you’ll notice that there are feeder roots even in the top one cm of the soil. Hence do not dig any deeper than 1 cm as you’ll be disturbing more roots if you do so.

Use Amrut Jal, Jiwamrit or Panchagavya as a foliar spray every 10-15 days before fruiting and every 7 days during fruiting. This keeps the foliage healthy and fruits become better due to direct absorption of nutrients.

Whether you are Growing Long Beans in Containers or on the ground, no matter what you do aphids will attack your plants. Ants will also attack your pods and flowers and will help the aphids to spread. Check each morning for signs of aphids or any other pests every morning. If the infestation is not too much then wait out for a day or two to see if ladybugs have arrived in your garden for feasting on the aphids. In case you don’t want to wait you can always wash the aphids off with a spray of water. If the infestation is towards the higher side then use neem spray once every 7 days and you’ll be okay. Just make sure that you spray it very early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Otherwise it may cause leaf burns. Drop some turmeric powder on young pod, flowers and vines to control ants.

Harvesting Long Beans

Long beans need to be harvested at the right time to get best taste and texture. Leaving them a little longer in the plant makes it loose it moisture and texture. Generally it takes about 9-10 days for the fruit to be ready after flowering. Your plant will flower and bear pods daily. So harvest your yardlong beans also regularly. Just pull them using your thumb and index finger gently and they will separate from the plant.

Plant your beans every 15-20 days throughout the season to get uninterrupted supply of healthy and fresh long beans. We also plant them with other vegetables like pumpkin, eggplants and tomatoes, so that while we enjoy the great taste of long beans they are busy helping other plants. Long beans belong to legume family of vegetables and they fix nitrogen deficiency in the soil. This helps other plants which feed on nitrogen from the soil.

Fun tips

At the start of this post I told you that Growing Long Beans in Containers is super easy and you are most likely to agree with me on that now. But here are some fun do’s that would make Growing Long Beans in Pots even more interesting for the entire family. One of the tings that you can do it to use the long bean plants as a decorative plant. Just design your trellis in a way that the support climbing strings for the beans make a great visual design. Keep the color of the string red of orange and when the green long beans plants start climbing on them, they do make a very pretty picture.

Another fun activity that you can do with the kids is to find the longest bean. Get your kids to do the harvesting while you are doing other important things like watering the plants. Kids will learn to differentiate between mature and immature pods when the harvest regularly. Then check who has got the longest bean pod. Declare her the winner for the day. You’ll notice how kids start to take more interest in garden with such activities.

I am sure with the information you have got from this post you’ll be successful every time you are Growing Long Beans in Containers. And I am also sure if you have never grown or eaten long beans you’ll now be roaring to go and plant your first long bean seed. As a further motivation I’ll be posting a simple yet delicious recipe with long beans in my next post. Stay tuned and stay blessed.

 

A beginners’ guide to growing vegetables in containers

My father has planted flowers in pots since as long as I can remember. Growing up it was always a pleasure to watch his flowers and other decorative plants add life to our home. In fact it was quiet inspirational at times. And I did pick up my brushes to create a few art works out of our garden. But generally he avoided planting vegetables as he had not been very successful in growing them. It was because of the low yields. In fact most times it gives no yield at all. The vegetable plants also did not grow well, needed more maintenance and were more prone to disease and pests.

Sounds familiar? Isn’t it?

Most of the people would tell you that growing vegetables in containers is next to impossible. In fact I’ll also say that it is impossible, if you don’t do the basics right. But if the basics are done right then container vegetable gardening becomes a child’s play and lots of fun. In this post I’ll explain how to go about planting a vegetable seed or sapling in a container. But before you go through the beginner’s guide to growing vegetables in containers, I would recommend you to consider these ten things before you get your hands dirty.

Choose the vegetable to grow in container

Most vegetables are seasonal. Growing an out of season vegetable in a container is not a good idea because, the climatic conditions are not suited for the plant to grow and produce. So always choose a vegetable which can be grown in the season that you are planting your seeds in. The other important consideration is the amount of sunlight available for the plants to grow in. If you get full sunlight then you can plant almost anything you like. But in case you get partial sunlight (4-5 hours a day) then you can consider growing vegetable like beets, broccoli, leaf lettuce, garlic and cauliflower etc. These plants do fine in partial sunlight condition also.

Choose Container

Size of the pot plays a very big role in the growth and yield of a plant. The roots of a plant need space to grow. The larger the space for roots the better is the growth of the plant. As a rule of thumb the bigger the container the better it is for growing vegetables. But in terrace gardening we aim to optimize space and get the best out of whatever space we have. So it is a good idea to do a little research and find out the correct container size required to grow your favourite vegetable.

Containers can be classified according to their volume, shape and material. Unglazed earthen pots are best for planting as they have micro pores which help aerate the soil. It also helps in absorbing excess moisture and maintaining soil temperature. But they need to be handled carefully as they can break easily. Recycled plastic buckets, planters are fine as long as they are not painted black or with any other dark colour in case you are in a tropical climate. This will heat up the soil and heat it up fast. Thermocol and wooden boxes can also be used to plant your veggies.

Check the volume of you pot before planting. Most of the common vegetable like tomato, eggplant and okra etc do well when planted in a container having volume of 20-30 litres. Peppers and chillies however can be grown in 10 litre containers also. Radish can even be grown in a 2 litre water bottle. But something like a pumpkin or a snake gourd will need a container that is at least 40 litres in volume for a good produce.  The shape of the container also plays an important role in growing vegetables. Some vegetable plants have shallow roots while some have deep roots. Check the rooting system and choose cylindrical type of containers for deep rooted plants, while shallow rooted plants like spinach and herbs should be planted in a box type container with more surface area.

Preparing Potting Mix for the container

Potting Mix
Use a well drained, moisture retaining and fertile potting Mix

Plants grow in the soil in the open fields. But in a container they have to grow in a restricted space. Hence the soil has to be much more fertile and full of nutrients in your terrace garden. Soil also should be well drained so that water logging does not take place in your pot. At the same time it should hold moisture well, so that your pots don’t run dry too soon. Moreover using just soil can make the pot quiet heavy and it can be stressful for your terrace. One needs to consider all these when preparing the potting mix for container gardening. Generally a mix of well decomposed compost, sun sterilized red soil, coco peat and cow dung manure works well as a potting mix. Coco peat retains moisture and also makes the mix well drained. Red soil provides strength to the mix. Compost and cowdung manure provide all the nutrition for the plants.

Preparing the pot

The pot should be cleaned well with a mild soap and sun dried well to remove any trace of harmful microbes. Provide a drainage hole at the bottom to drain out excess water. This hole should be covered with broken pottery pieces to avoid blockage of the hole. Then add a few stones, sand or other draining material like sugarcane waste to create a separation layer between the bottom of the pot and the potting mix. Now you can fill the pot with the potting mix and press down a little to compact the soil into the pot. Do not fill the pot till the rim. Leave about one inch space from the rim. Now your favourite vegetable is ready to be planted.

Planting

In case you are sowing seeds then its good to treat the seed for some time with a cow dung based solution like Amrut Jal or Bijamrit beforehand. To sow bigger seeds make a hole with your finger in the soil and place the seed in it. Then cover the hole with potting mix. In case of very small seeds it can be mixed with a little sand or vermi-compost and then sprinkled everywhere in the container.

For transplanting make a hole big enough for the plug of the sapling to go in. Then carefully take the sapling out and place it in the hole and cover with soil. Compact the root area slightly you’re your fingers and palms. While transplanting make sure that the sapling gets least root shock. Otherwise it will affect the growth and quality of the plant.

After sowing the seed or transplanting water your pot with a watering can and you are done. By the way it’s a good idea to plant in the evening.

Germination

germination
Maintaining right soil temperature and moisture helps in high germination rate

Germination depends on a lot of factor like seed quality, soil structure, soil temperature and moisture level etc. Overwatering will cause the seed to rot while underwatering will dry the seed out. So make sure you water judiciously. It is good to have some cover for the pots. In case of heavy rains or sudden high temperatures pot can be covered. When temperature is lower pot can be covered with a transparent plastic sheet to produce greenhouse effect which helps in germination. Some seeds germinate quiet soon while other take a little more time. So be patient and keep the conditions ideal for seed to germinate. If seeds are of good quality they will germinate.

Watering

When the seed germinates it is time to rejoice because life has been created by nature. And now it is your turn to take care of it. Watering is the most important activity in a garden after plants have emerged from seeds. Water when you plants need it. Over watering may cause some plants to show adverse effects. It is also a waste of water resource. So be just in watering. Avoid watering during day time. It is best to water in the morning and late afternoons. Watering in the evenings may cause the water on the plants causing fungus attack as it will not dry out. In summers your plants will require more frequent watering than in winters. During rains water only when there is no rains for 1-2 days and your soil dries out.

Feeding the plant in container

Your plants will need nutrition to grow and produce fruits. Most of the nutrition is actually taken up from the air and sunlight. Hence ensure that your plant is getting the sunlight required for it. Move your container to a different place if your current place is not getting enough sunlight. Your potting mix should take care of most of the nutrition required for the plant in the early stages. When your plant begins to flower more compost can be added to the base of the plants in the container. You should also feed the plants on a regular basis with organic manures like Compost tea, Amrut jal or Jiwamrit. These solutions will not only provide nutrients, they will keep the soil ‘alive’ by adding millions of useful microbes to your soil.

Plant Care and Pest Control

mulching and pruning
Mulching helps in moisture retention, controlling weed and in maintaining nutrition of the soil

A very simple yet necessary thing to do is mulching. Mulching is referred to the act of covering the soil to prevent evaporation and growth of weeds. When your plants are about 4-6 inches tall mulch your soil with some organic material like straw or crushed dry leaves. These organic materials will ultimately decompose and become part of your soil.

Some plants like creepers and climbers need to be trained onto a trellis or string. Its better to arrange for such structures beforehand itself. Timely pruning of plants helps them to develop a better canopy and give better harvests.

Spraying regularly with a foliar spray like Panchagavya helps plants to do better photo synthesis and develop pest resistance. Such preventive sprays take care of most pest issues. It is a good habit to check below the leaves of your plants for the sign of any pests every morning. If you find pests or eggs then it can be sprayed away with water. You can also remove such leaves and place them in kerosene to kill the pests. For most common pests like aphids, mites etc homemade sprays like neem spray, garlic spray also work very well. You must never spray these during day time. Because it can cause leaf burns. Use these sprays during early mornings or late afternoons.

Harvesting your container grown vegetables

And finally when the time comes to enjoy the fruits of your hard work don’t rush through it. In case you are using open pollinated or heirloom variety of seeds then its good to leave the first fruit to ripen and dry out on the plant. That will give you the seeds for the next season. While harvesting check whether the vegetable has reached maturity or not. If you harvest too early then you’ll get immature produce whose taste would not have fully developed. If you make it too late then the vegetable may over ripen. Some vegetables have short harvest period while some like tomato are easy to harvest due to their longer harvest periods. Do harvesting with a pair of garden shears or scissors. Harvesting with hand may cause the plant to be pulled and damaged.

With all these basics done right my father started getting great results with vegetables. Additionally doing container vegetable gardening has also helped him to gain a lot of valuable experience which has further improved the quantity and quality of his produce. Many people would tell you that you can only grow vegetables successfully if you have a green thumb. These are just ways to de-motivate people from taking up organic terrace gardening. I believe the term green thumb is just what it is; a term. You don’t need to have a green thumb to grow your own food. When you start growing your own vegetable in your terrace with basics done right you would have developed your own green thumb by default.