Planting Depth Revealed – You can Successfully Grow Herbs and Vegetables in a 6″ (Inches) Pot
The versatile 6 inch pot! You can find them everywhere; garage sales, second hand stores or garden centers. Probably even in your own yard, just waiting to be recycled into this year’s dill crop. Here are the things you need to know when growing herbs and vegetables with a container planting depth of 6 inches.
Consider the watering requirements that you will create with a planting depth of 6 inches. The smaller the pot, the more frequently it will need to be watered, especially on hot or windy days.
Expert container gardening recommend amending the potting soil with coarse vermiculite. Vermiculite not only loosens compact soil, but it also retains water and create enough space for beneficial bugs to thrive. If the plants dry out too quickly, add some perlite too, but don’t skip the vermiculite if you’re living in a hot climate as perlite has zero water retention.
The National Gardening Bureau in their post “Container Gardening: Anytime, Anywhere” suggests: “The deeper the pot the less watering it will need. Pots with a small soil volume will dry out faster and require more frequent watering. Unlike plants in the ground, plants in pots or hanging baskets in the yard, on a deck or on a windowsill are exposed on all sides to the drying effects of wind and sun. On hot, windy days you may have to water them more than once.”
Soil requirements are just as important. How much soil does your crop need to give you a good harvest? Choose a potting soil that will provide support for plants as they grow, and one that will help retain moisture. Look for a peat and perlite or vermiculite mixture.
Don’t use garden soil, which will be too heavy and compact, unless you want to amend it with some coarse vermiculite and organic compost to loosen it up.
As long as the soil is well aerated roots will colonize the entire container, so buy a prepared soil less mix for container growing. It should be free of weeds and can contains added nutrients to help plants grow.
How much sunlight exposure will your pots get? Consider placing your containers in an area that will get late afternoon shade. Create the shade by placing your containers under or next to your vertical gardening. Darker colored containers will absorb more heat, which can get seeds and transplants off to a faster start, but these containers will need more watering if they are in direct sunlight. Lighter colored containers may be a better option if you cannot shade them.
Plants that will be grown outdoors in full sun in containers can benefit from a layer of mulch on top of the soil. Mulching helps retain moisture in the soil, discourage weed growth, and protect your plants from the harshness of raindrops or watering from a hose or watering can. Sawdust, shredded bark, grass clippings and polymer crystals can act as mulches—choose one appropriate to the container and the plants.
And remember: Anything that can be grown in a planting depth of 4 inches can also grow in a 6 inch pot.
What Can You Grow in a 6 Inch Pot? A LOT!
Asian Greens, Basil, Bush Beans, Chervil, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Garlic, Lettuce, Mint, Nasturtium , Onion, Oregano, Peas, Pole Beans, Radish, Round Carrots, Shallots, Runner Bean, Spinach, Strawberries, Thyme and Globe Zucchini
Caring for Your Plants in 6 Inch Containers
It is easier to grow plants in containers as you’ll not have to worry about weeds, soil cultivation, and disease as you would with plants grown conventionally in a garden. Also, you have better control of the soil mix, nutrients, and moisture levels when growing plants in pots.
But container gardening poses its challenges. You’ll have to keep a close eye on moisture levels, nutrient levels, and hungry pests.
Watering Your Container Plants
Without water you don’t have photosynthesis and the plants may quickly die as they have no access to the food stored in soil. Also, good germs that help your plats thrive and stay disease free either go dormant or die when water is scarce.
Since in a 6″ pot you’ll have very little soil, losing water to evaporation can became a real problem when not paying enough attention. So make sure that every inch of the soil in your pots has enough moisture for your plants to grow.
The amount of water plants need depends on the size of the plant and outside temperatures. When it comes to herbs such as basil or oregano you don’t have to worry too much of a dry soil. But if you’re growing larger, more demanding plants such as tomatoes, peas or zucchini make sure that they have optimum moisture levels all the time.
How Much Water Again?
In early summer, watering your container plants once a day early in the morning should do the trick. But when the weather is really hot you may need to water mature plants two to three times a day, daily. This may be why, growing veggies in containers does not always pay off when it comes to the amount of work you’ve put in versus the end results.
But you can always invest in a good self-watering pot and keep an eye on the water reservoir to ensure that your plants always have water at their disposal. Over time, you could start guesstimate the amount of water each plant draws from the reservoir in a certain time frame and not check the reservoir daily.
Don’t fall for the manufacturers’ claims that their self-watering containers needs to be refilled just once a week. That largely depends on the size of the plant, temperatures, and several other factors. Self-watering container makers’ claims hold water (no pun intended) only when it comes to tiny, small growing ornamental plants.
That’s not the case with edibles. For instance a mature tomato plant (were not talking about dwarf varieties) needs around 1 gallon of water per day. Amending the soil with coarse vermiculite might help address the problem but you will still need to water mature edibles consistently in the long run.
If money is scarce there are countless YouTube tutorials on how to make your own self-watering pots.
As a rule of thumb, keep in mind that you should always shield your plants from recurring dry spells. When some of their leaves are already wilted, it means that their biological processes have been shut down and growth no longer occurs.
Don’t make a habit out of under-watering your plants, unless you want to compromise them irreversibly. Watering is maybe the chief challenge when growing edibles in containers, especially 6 inch pots or smaller.
You could invest in a handy moisture meter to have an idea of how moist the soil is at a certain depth (ideally one to two inches depth). If you’re going the self-watering way, get a container that has an in-built gauge that measures the amount of water left in the reservoir.
What’s more, via trial and error, you could swap any fancy gear with common sense and water the plants when the soil is dry below the surface. If self-watering containers is what works for you, keep in mind that if the soil gets dry because there’s no water left in the reservoir, any capillary action in the soil stops to full halt. You’ll need to water the from the top for the self-watering container to resume its thing.
Also, a good gardener doesn’t just “water” the plants, he or she should “tend” to the plants on every occasion.
So, when you’re watering or feeding your container darlings, don’t stop there. Trim any leaves or stems that need trimming, look for pests and signs of disease, and generally give the plant your undivided attention while hunting for potential issues.
Feeding Your Container Plants
After watering, feeding is the most critical thing for plants grown in an enclosed ecosystem such as a pot. No nutrients get in your 6″ pot by accident, so you’ll have to create a strict feeding schedule, especially if you’re growing edibles in your 6″ pots.
Also, make sure that the potting soil you start off with has enough compost and organic matter for the plant to thrive in the long run.
For tomatoes, eggplants, and other heavy feeders, it is best to fertilize them at the 6-week mark after transplantation, and then every other week since non-self-watering containers tend to lose valuable nutrients because they’re watered from the top. For herbs and less demanding plants, fertilization once a month is all you need.
Use organic liquid fertilizers or compost tea (tomatoes adore comfrey fertilizer tea as well). Use liquid feed as slow release pellets need to be worked in the soil which can be detrimental for the roots if you’re doing it in a 6″ container.
Related post: What can you Grow in an 8 inch pot?
Shared with: Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways
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This post was originally published on April 18, 2013, and was last updated in July 2020.