The Economics of Container Gardening

GrowPro

Farm Hand
Messages
25
Some veggies and fruits grow well in a container like spinach, onions, and strawberries. However, growing larger vegetables like tomatoes and peppers in a container never turns out that great. They'll produce some vegetables for the table, but they aren't as productive as they would be if they were planted in the ground. When you factor in the expense of buying containers, buying soil and replacing it year after year, and paying the water bill since container veggies need watered more often, I don't see how it's an economical option. What am I missing?
 

Birdie

Farm Hand
Messages
57
What am I missing?
Some people have no other option, like if they live in an apartment or have horrible soil or are physically unable to work the soil. Some people just want to grow edibles for the fun of it and aren't concerned about the ROI.
 

jjp8182

Farm Hand
Messages
52
Also a decent method of experimenting with different plants, and proximity between different types.

I've actually had really good luck in the past with tomatoes, peppers and even butternut squash in containers, just need to use a fairly large containers (e.g. 18"-24" in diameter - 15 & 25 gallon nursery pots) for each plant and use an appropriate soil(s) (potentially layering a water-retaining mix layered on the bottom under a lighter easily draining soil mix on top).

The soil and labor of swapping the soil in the pots every year can be a negative, but the lack of needing to weed since the soil can be weed-seed free and the top can be sufficiently above ground level (e.g about 18" to prevent weed seeds from blowing into the container) can offset some of that labor. So I'd say containers can be a great way to experiment with smaller quantities of plants (e.g. under 50-ish). Above that it probably makes more sense to switch to either in-ground or large raised beds which can be easier to sustain over the long term with the help of appropriate mechanization.

If legal to do so in your area, rainwater collection can also offset a fair amount of water to be captured and retained for irrigation purposes (depending on average precipitation rates for your region). In fact in some areas getting sufficient water storage capacity is the larger problem. For example the average precipitation is over 4 feet of rainfall annually in my area - however, most of it comes as winter rains.

So like most things related to agriculture, the ROI is going to vary by method, region and overall approach.
 

RichZ

Farm Hand
Messages
110
You can grow almost anything if the containers are large enough. Although we have plenty of room for gardens in our farm, my wife and I are using more and more containers, because we don't have to bend to garden. We buy old livestock water tanks at auctions. Stock tanks between 50 and 100 gallons can go for as little as $5 or $10 if they have holes in them.. We grow everything in them tomatoes, squash, just about anything, and we've had good success with them.
 

Almost Eden

Farm Hand
Messages
40
I maintain a few gardens at some local businesses and when you use very large containers or raised garden beds the soil doesn't get replaed each cycle. That especially true if the planting space doesn't have a bottom to it. You're right, it's not really economical to do so. Instead, the soil gets amended by digging in compost and other matter in order to keep it built up. The mulch, straw, or whatever you use to keep out weeds and retain moisture breaks down over time which also adds to the soil. Anyone can make compost at home so that shouldn't cost a thing and you can make compost tea for the fertilizer. I'm with @jjp8182 on catching rain water to water the garden. It helps! I have a fairly robust garden at the nursing home and it was done on a tiny budget.
 
 
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