Dealing with container vegetable garden problems

Outdoor container gardening provides first time gardeners and expert gardeners with a place to grow vegetables. Planting and nurturing the vegetables through to harvest can be a rewarding experience as the bounty of your own labors is placed on the dining table. Container gardening, however, is not without its problems.


Vegetables need at least eight hours of full sun for optimal growth potential. The heat from the sun hitting the sides of the plant container causes the soil to dry out faster than ground-grown vegetables. Subsequently, you may need to water container plants daily and in particularly hot, humid situations, maybe twice daily watering is needed. Watch for leaf wilt, which can display as limb leaves, as indication that water is needed.

Reduce the potential of wilting from insufficient water by using the proper size plant container. Mulch the soil with wood chips or leaf mold.

NOTE: Wilting container plants can also be the sign of too much water. Stick your finger into the pot. If you feel moisture 1 inch down, no water is needed.


Some of the same bugs that attack ground-grown vegetables can also attack outdoor garden containers. On the surface, you may only see the damage (holes in the leaves) left by the bugs. Turn the leaf over and you may see the bugs dining from the underside of the leaf. The picture above shows various sizes of green aphids on the underside of a radish leaf.

Large caterpillars can be picked off by hand or for the bug-queasy like me, the leaf can be snipped off and dropped into a bag for disposal.

A blast of water from the hose may also get rid of bugs, a process that works on aphids. Alternatively, an insecticidal soap, available at garden centers, can be used. For a homemade insecticidal soap solution if a blast of water does not work, almost fill a one quart spray container with tap water. Pour is one teaspoon of liquid dish soap and gently swirl the bottle to mix; do not shake, which can cause the soap to bubble. Spray ONE leaf and then wait a day to make sure the plant is not harmed (turns yellow) by the soap mixture.


Weeds can rob nutrients and water from the soil. Weeds are easy to get rid of; just pull them out of the plant container. Using mulch can help prevent wind-born seeds from reaching the soil surface to take root.


Disease on vegetables grown in containers may display as yellow or dead leaves, or leaves with spots. Cut out and dispose of the diseased leaves. Make the cut into the healthy part of a stem to increase the odds of removing all the infection. If the disease returns, a fungicide spray specifically designed for vegetables may help.

NOTE: Yellowing at the base of the plant can be an indication of insufficient nutrients, a condition that may be corrected with fertilizer. Yellowing at the base may also be caused by overwatering.