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How to Create Container Vegetable Gardens, with Carol Allen

Hot off the camcorder, Behnkes has a fabulous new video by Horticulturist Carol Allen about planting up vegetables in containers.  Here are the highlights (and times indicated for selective viewing), for people who, like this blogger, have short attention spans (or are just busy).

Or for regular, patient, less hurried gardeners, enjoy the whole video, embedded below from Youtube.


–  To create a Salad Bowl of Chives, Parsley, Thyme, Lettuces and Radishes, Carol recommends a container like the one shown above.

– Her favorite planting medium is Fafard Complete Planting Mix (Fafard now calls the mix Ultra Outdoor Planting Mix), shown above.  It provides good drainage, which is key.

No need for packing peanuts or stones at the bottom of the container to improve drainage – it won’t.  And anyway, that excellent planting mix (Fafard) is what creates great drainage.

– Fill the container 2/3 to 7/8 full with the potting medium.

–  Starting at 3:16 watch Carol put the tiny plants (“starts”) into the medium, first spreading the roots apart so they’re not rootbound.  (She calls it “tough love” and it’s best seen!)

– She places the plants and potting medium so that it comes to about 3/4″ from the top of the container.  That’s important so that water doesn’t run out of the container, but stays and seeps down to water the roots.allen6

– Carol slips the plant tags into the soil along the sides – out of sight but right where she can find them to remember the variety planted.  (Photo right.) At the end of the season they’re still there and can be removed for one’s garden journal.

– Having planted the “starts” around the edge of the container she next plants lettuce and radish seeds in the middle – starting at about 8:00.  They’ll grow really fast, germinating at about the same time.

– The larger plants around the perimeter will be harvested first, then ones started from seed in the middle.


– Beginning at 9:30 Carol demonstrates watering using a regular watering can but recommends using one with a “rose” on the end – shown below right.dramm rose

– Carol then turns to a preplanted Early Girl tomato, the indeterminate type that keeps on growing.  Starting in July she’ll be pinching it back to encourage fullness, and removing the suckers, too.

– Insert a tomato cage into the pot and then stakes to hold the cage in place (connecting them with a twist ’em).  Tomatoes in containers need the extra stakes because the cages aren’t be anchored as deeply in them as they are in open garden space.

– Throughout the season water thoroughly and deeply, but only when the surface of the medium is dry.  This potting medium changes color when it’s dry, which is very helpful.   At home Carol uses a hose to water containers.

– For feeding vegetables in containers Carol uses Espoma Bio-tone to start, then switches to Plant-Tone or Tomato-tone later in the season.  With those slow-release organic products, you don’t have to worry about polluting the Bay.

Posted by Susan Harris.

Stephanie Fleming was raised at Behnke’s Nurseries in Beltsville. Her Mom, Sonja, was one of Albert & Rose Behnke’s four children. She was weeding from the moment she could walk and hiding as soon as she was old enough to run, so many weeds, so little time. Although she quickly learned how to pull out a perennial and get taken off of weed pulling duty.

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