DODGE CITY — Many people are looking for ways to expand their fresh food options.


Growing vegetables in pots could be a great option for everyone, even for homeowners with limited space.


The first step is to choose a location that is in an area that is accessible, get good light and is in a location that you can enjoy. Vegetable are sun-loving plants. Leafy vegetables can tolerate some sun, while root crops and fruit-baring plants like peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplant like fun sun.


Those plants should receive six hours of sunlight during the day.


However, plants in pots are subject to higher temperatures and dry out severely. They might also be exposed to more wind. You will need to be able to water your pots easily and sometimes daily.


The next step is to get a big enough container. A large pot, from 16-24 inches in diameter will go a long way toward ensuring gardening success.


Larger pots are able to hold moisture longer and might not tip over in the Kansas winds. I would not recommend using a pot with less than a 12-inch diameter.


Other factors to consider include the depth of the pot, weight, durability and drainage. Plastic, clay, ceramic, fiberglass and wood are popular choices. All have advantages and disadvantages. If you choose to use wood, avoid treated lumber.


An important aspect of container gardening is fertilizer. Make sure you fill your container with a good potting soil and some organic matter.


The nutrients most important for container gardening are nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Choose a slow-release fertilizer when preparing the containers. Try to find a fertilizer with a 3:1:2 ratio.


In general, fertilizers that are high in phosphorus should be avoided for vegetable containers.


High rates are simply not needed for good production, and if there is runoff, it could contribute to surface water pollution.


Most of the standard garden varieties of vegetables will grow well in containers, but there are some cultivars specifically bred for small spaces. Herbs are also a great choice either alone or mixed in with other vegetables. Just like in the garden, you can start most plants from seeds. Tomatoes start best from transplants.


Plants in containers will dry out much faster than those in the ground and will likely need daily care during hot periods of summer. Before watering, a great rule of thumb is to stick your finger into the soil for moisture and only water the container when the soil feels dry.


To learn more about gardening or with other horticulture questions or issues, contact Andrea Burns at aburns@ksu.edu.