Planting and Maintaining the
Regardless of the size of your garden, there's
always room for some container-grown vegetables on a deck or
patio. In many cases, these outdoor spaces receive the best
sunlight in the yard so they are often the best places to mature a
tomato or eggplant crop. Here are some general guidelines
for container gardening and some suggestions for crops to try.
Use pots large enough to accommodate the
mature plant because you'll sacrifice productivity if you
don't give the roots room to spread. Many varieties will
need a 5-gallon container for each plant. Peppers and
cherry tomato plants can be grown in 12-inch pots. Side
drainage holes are preferable to bottom holes which can easily
get clogged. Raising the container off the ground will
help improve drainage. To keep mature plants from
toppling over, the pot should be at least 1/3 as deep as the
plant is high.
Use a sterilized, commercial potting mix
rather than garden soil to fill your containers.
Check the containers daily because during hot
weather they can dry out quickly. The commonly
recommended method of determining when to water is to stick
your finger into the soil to your second knuckle, and if it's
dry at that depth, it's time to water. That technique
may work fine for clay pots that evaporate water evenly
throughout the pot, but plastic and wooden pots can have a dry
layer on top and moist conditions below where the roots
are. With these types of pots, it's better to push a
pencil or popsicle stick down into the soil. If the soil
sticks to the pencil after you pull it our, it's moist enough.
If it comes up clean, the soil needs water.
a diluted liquid fertilizer about every
third time you water, to provide a constant supply of
nutrients to the roots of your plants. It's wise to
flush the salts out of the containers every month or so to
prevent salt buildup and subsequent burning of roots and
leaves. To do this, simply water the container until
water comes out the drainage holes. Wait five minutes,
then repeat the process.
These Container Vegetables:
You can imagine how well cherry tomatoes are suited to container
culture. Burpee's "Tumbler Hybrid" or the variety
"Tiny Tim" are also well suited to 12 inch pots.
Even larger full-size tomato plants can be grown in containers, such as plastic 25 to 30 gallon
garbage cans. (Avoid the tin models because they heat up and
can leach toxic metals.) After planting 2 plants per
container in soil-less potting mix, wrap the container with a
section of 8 foot tall steel reinforcing wire that has 6 inch
openings (to allow easy access.) (Measure the circumference
of your pot first, and add about 6 inches for overlap.
Most pots need a piece about 8 feet long.) Hold the ends in
place with small wire ties and secure the wire with tow 8 -feet
-tall steel fence posts or where plants receive at lease 6 hours
of direct sunlight a day.
If you've had trouble in the past growing
peppers in your garden, try growing them in containers. One
plant will grow well in a 12-inch-wide container, peppers grown
this way allows you to control the soil content (reducing the
chance of your peppers being killed by disease in your garden's
soil); and sunniest location. Later in the fall, your
ability to move the container can help you avoid cold
temperatures and even frost.
If you love to grow hot peppers, consider
growing them in containers. Hot pepper types, such as
habanero and serano, and even "False Alarm Hybrid",
which offers rich jalapeno flavour with the fire, as well suited to
containers. fill a 5-gallon container with potting soil and
plant one pepper per pot. Keep the plant well watered and
fertilized, and you'll be eating peppers all summer and fall.
Cucumbers love the warm soil a container
provides, so you can plant earlier in spring and harvest longer
into the fall. It's easier to keep an eye on the demanding
water needs of cucumbers when they're grown in pots on a deck or
patio close to the house. Choose bush varieties, such as
"Bush Champion", that produce both male and female
flowers (or you'll have flowers but no fruit.)
Radishes, carrots, and beets can thrive in
containers. Mix them with other vegetables to provide a
little shade during the hot afternoons.
Don't forget the herbs. Many--like
parsley, cilantro, chives, basil, thyme, and sage--grow well in
a container, such as a one-half whiskey barrel. Ensure
that your half barrel has adequate drainage holes.