The Ultimate Guide on How to Set Up Your Own Edible Container Garden (2024)


The Ultimate Guide on How to Set Up Your Own Edible Container Garden (2024)

The Ultimate Guide on How to Set Up Your Own Edible Container Garden in the Tropics (2024).

The Ultimate Guide on How to Set Up Your Own Edible Container Garden in the Tropics (2024).

This post will teach you everything you need to know about starting a garden. Starting a container garden can be difficult with all the decisions that have to be made and mistakes that have to be avoided. After container gardening for 8 years here’s how we would go about it if we had to start all over again. This is also how we help our clients set up their gardens. Make sure you have a plan and let this guide be a major part of your plan to improve your chances of success.

Container gardening enables anyone, even with limited space, to grow bountiful fruits, herbs and vegetables right outside their door or in their balconies. With the proper setup and care, containers can produce nutritious and flavourful crops year-round in tropical climates.

The Ultimate Guide on How to Set Up Your Own Edible Container Garden in the Tropics (2024).

Choose the Right Containers.

Selecting suitable containers establishes healthy root zones.
  1. Pick containers with drainage holes or drill drainage holes to prevent waterlogged soil and root rot.
  2. Elevate pots on stands or bricks to improve drainage underneath.
  3. Go for durable, lightweight materials like plastic.
  4. If accessible use UV-resistant plastic to prevent cracking in sunlight.
  5. Match container size to mature plant size. Bigger plants need more root room.
  6. Most plants that produce fruits will need big pots, however leafy greens like lettuce and herbs can survive in relatively small pots especially if you harvest often.

Prepare the Ideal Soil Mix.

A well-draining soil blend retains moisture while providing nutrients.
  1. Humous soil is usually the best for planting.
  2. Blend in compost, up to 30% of total volume.
  3. Add sand, perlite or vermiculite, about 20-30%, to improve drainage.
  4. If available you can use coconut coir to help absorb and hold moisture.
  5. Mix in worm castings or composted manure for nutrients.
  6. Optional: Test and amend pH to 6.0-7.0 range suited for most edibles.
  7. Fill containers leaving 1-2 inches from rim for easy watering.

Select Plants Suited to Containers.

varieties suited to container culture and the tropics.
  1. Most crops grow well in the tropics, however plants like broccoli that require cool weather can be grown but with limited success.
  2. Grow leafy greens like ewedu, shoko, green, lettuce and spinach for quick results and early harvesting.
  3. Herbs like basil, mint, cuban oregano, thyme, cilantro, chives thrive in containers.
  4. Radishes, carrots, spring onions work well in pots.
  5. Avoid sprawling plants like melons, squash, corn that need more space.
  6. Check sun/shade needs and match plants to container location, for example lettuce will do better with some shade as opposed to full sun.

Nature knows best! Strategically pairing plants can benefit both parties. Plant basil near tomatoes to repel unwanted pests. Marigolds deter harmful nematodes when grown alongside root vegetables. Research companion planting combinations that work best for your chosen edibles and watch your tropical garden thrive in harmony.


Start Seeds or Use Transplants.

You can start from seed or use transplants.
  1. You can sow quick growers like lettuce, radish, beans directly into containers. Note that most root vegetables prefer to be directly sown.
  2. Ensure to keep you seeds moist and not wet until the sprout.
  3. Crops like tomatoes and peppers are better to start using a seedling tray and then transplanting after a few weeks into it’s permanent location.
  4. Use purchased transplants to skip germination time.
  5. Stagger plantings for continual harvests.
  6. If you are starting from seeds always follow seed packet instructions for planting depth and spacing until you figure out what works best for you.

Space Plants Properly.

Proper spacing prevents crowding and allows good growth.
  1. Leaf lettuce – Space plants 8-12 inches apart.
  2. Head lettuce – Allow 12-16 inches between plants.
  3. Tomatoes – Use one plant per 5-gallon container.
  4. Peppers – Plant one per 5-gallon pot, or 2-3 per 10-12 inch pot.
  5. Herbs – Space plants 6-12 inches apart depending on mature size.
  6. Radishes – Sow 1-2 inches apart, thin to 2 inches.
  7. Green onions – Space 2-4 inches apart.

Note that this is only a guide, as you get more familiar with your garden you can begin to customise to suit you needs.

Water Well After Planting.

Consistent moisture prevents issues like blossom end rot.
  1. Water at soil level to avoid fungal diseases on leaves.
  2. Check soil daily, water when the top 1-2 inches become dry.
  3. Water slowly and deeply to saturate soil. Once you see water coming out of the drainage hopes you know water has gotten to the bottom of the pot.
  4. If you used plant saucers and the plant is sitting in it, ensure you remove any excess water. The roots shouldn’t be sitting in water.
  5. Adjust watering frequency and amount as plants grow.

Rain showers might keep things lush, but irregular downpours can leave your plants thirsty one minute, drowning the next. Check soil moisture regularly, especially during dry spells. Clay pots dry faster than plastic, so adjust accordingly. Remember, overwatering is a common enemy – allow excess water to drain freely to prevent root rot.

Fertilize on a Schedule.

  1. Container plants rely on you for nutrients with confined roots.
  2. At planting, add some manure or/and compost to nourish the soil.
  3. Add worm castings, manure or compost as a nutritious top-dressing as the plants continue to grow.
  4. Use fish emulsion or compost tea every 2-4 weeks to feed plants.
  5. Reduce fertilizer for herbs and greens prone to undesirable flavors.
  6. Increase fertilizer for fruiting plants like tomatoes and peppers.
  7. Adjust fertility based on label directions and plant response.

Even fertile tropical soil needs a boost to nurture your edible dreams. Organic fertilizers are your tropical garden besties. Opt for composted manure, worm castings, or fish emulsion. Apply diluted solutions regularly, following package instructions. Remember, less is often more – overfertilization can burn delicate roots so be careful.


Provide Support Structures.

Some plants benefit from physical supports in containers.
  1. Install stakes and twines at time of planting for straight stems.
  2. Trellises allow vining plants to grow vertically.
  3. Use items as simple as branches, sticks, binding wire, ropes etc to support your trailing plants.

Monitor for Pests.

The humid tropics invite pests - be vigilant using organic methods.
  1. Check under leaves for aphids, mites, caterpillars.
  2. Apply neem oil or insecticidal soap sprays as prevention and early treatment.
  3. Remove all affected leaves
  4. Row covers create physical barriers against flying pests.
  5. If you have access to this you can introduce beneficial insects like ladybugs and lacewings.
  6. Diatomaceous earth deters crawling pests like slugs.
  7. Remove diseased plants immediately to avoid spreading.

Don’t let uninvited guests crash your leafy party! Tropical climates attract their share of critters. Be proactive with natural pest control solutions.


Arrange Containers Artfully.

Design your edible container garden thoughtfully.
  1. Group pots together based on watering needs.
  2. Use trellises and varying container heights for visual interest.
  3. Include ornamentals like trailing plants among edible pots.
  4. Arrange containers near entertaining spaces for convenience.
  5. Site sun-loving plants in full sun areas, shade lovers in dappled light.
  6. Allow adequate access to tend and harvest the plants.

Follow this complete tropical container gardening guide for a beautiful and productive container garden! Remember, even the most seasoned gardeners have mishaps. Don’t get discouraged by a wilting leaf or a missed watering. Learn from your mistakes and adjust your gardening routine.

Container gardening is a journey of discovery, a dance between sunshine, soil, and your green-thumbed passion. Celebrate the successes, learn from the hiccups, and keep the container gardening spirit alive!

Leave a comment to tell us if this information was useful or if you have any question.

Happy Gardening!

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