Compost is one of the gardener’s best helps for growing tasty and nutritious vegetables in almost any sized garden space, including containers. Here are some time-tested ways that compost can help you grow vegetables – as well as growing, flowers, grass in your yard and whatever else you’re planting this spring.
Loamy, crumbly compost contains most of the nutrients required by most vegetables. That makes compost an ideal part of the container gardening soil mix. It’s common to see recommendations for container vegetable media mixes with 50 to 75 percent compost and the rest garden soil or a soil-less mix.
High-nitrogen compost, sometimes called green compost, can even be used as a standalone media for growing vegetables in containers like the EarthBox. If you decide to try using 100 percent compost in your
vegetable containers, keep in mind that many container gardening guides suggest adding supplemental fertilizers. That’s because compost may release nutrients more slowly than many vegetables crave. There are both organic and synthetic products available to provide container-grown veggies with all the additional nutrients they may need – especially nitrogen.
Besides the media mix, you’ll also need vegetable plants or seeds and water to grow vegetables in your containers. Crops like tomatoes and peppers are popular with container gardeners. Look for varieties that are designated specially suited for growing in containers. Herbs are also popular for growing in containers, and most herbs have lower nutrient requirements than “heavy feeders” like tomatoes. That means many herbs could easily adapt to a 75 or even 100-percent compost container mix. Many flowers also love compost-rich containers; take care when using high-compost mixes to grow plants with special growth or nutrient needs, like plants that prefer a more acidic soil or plants with special micronutrient needs.
You can buy vegetable seeds at many different kinds of stores this time of year. Look for varieties rated well for your growing zone, and follow instructions on the seed packet for planting depth. Vegetable plants are also easily planted into containers; keep the container growing media well-moistened, but not oversaturated. If you’re keeping your container on a surface that could stain – like a patio or deck – be sure to have a base under the container to catch excess moisture.
Compost is not just the ideal addition to all your containers; it is also an important addition to all your garden beds, providing flowers and shrubs with much-needed organic matter. Compost is also the perfect soil amendment when reseeding or patching spots in your lawn. Grass will feed on the nutrients released from compost throughout the year, and compost will help build soil tilth and drainage capacity. When it comes to gardening and yard care, compost may be the most valuable tool in (or in this case, outside) the garden shed.