Saturday, April 13, 2013

Container gardening for vegetables

When I think of container gardening, I see geraniums in my mind, and that is all. But you can grow a wide variety of herbs and vegetables in containers. I started growing basil in a flower pot on my porch every summer, at the recommendation of a co-worker. Having herbs ready-to-pick near the kitchen has been handy. Before that, I used to go to the garden while cooking dinner, and come back to, what my husband referred to as "Farmer Brown" dinner. I would get side-tracked with weeding or picking other stuff.
With all the rain we've been getting, planting in containers is about all we can do this weekend. 
Courtesy of
 Herbs and greens grow well in containers according to Bonnie Plants of Union Springs, Alabama. All greens - including collards, lettuce, mustard, Swiss chard grow well in pots. You can mix them with flowers for an ornamental touch. Pick only the outer leaves to keep the harvest going.
Other vegetables that can be grown in pots include eggplant, peppers and tomato varieties-cherry, patio, Bush Early Girl, Bush Goliath and Better Bush.
Squash and zucchini can be grown in half barrels.
If you are limited on time and/or patience, buy tomato, eggplant and pepper transplants from a greenhouse. Greens, herbs and squash are easy and quick enough to grow from seed.

Tips on container gardening from

1. Use a premium quality potting mix. Don't skimp here. A quality mix holds moisture but drains well; giving plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, and stability to grow a great harvest. Read bag labels to look for quality ingredients like: aged (composted) bark, perlite, lime or dolomite, and sometimes moisture-holding crystals. Quality potting mix stays fluffy all season long. It does not contain actual dirt that would compact with frequent watering.
2. Pick the right pot. It should be affordable to buy and fill, but large enough to accommodate your plants as they mature. Almost anything can serve as a container– flower pots, pails, buckets, wire baskets, washtubs, window planters, even large food cans. Larger veggies, like tomatoes and eggplants, will need a larger container, at least 5 gallons for each plant. When in doubt, bigger is always better, the plants will look better and last longer because the roots will have more room to grow. Be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom. And consider color: Dark colored containers will absorb heat that could possible damage the plant roots. If you must use dark colored pots, try painting them a lighter color.
3. Feed your plants. Even if your potting mix came with fertilizer already mixed in, you may need to feed your plants. Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. Add timed-release granules or try a soluble fertilizer such as the “little green jug” of Bonnie Plant Food for quick results. It’s organic in nature, environmentally friendly, an excellent food source for beneficial organisms in the soil and helps support healthy soil and overall plant growth. One jug of concentrate makes 64 gallons of product.
4. Put pots in a sunny spot. At least 6-8 hours is best. The sun drives energy for production and for making sugars, acids, and other compounds responsible for the fullest flavor. Make sure pots on a deck or porch get enough sunlight and move them to a sunny spot if shade encroaches. Without sun, the fruits will not ripen and the plants will be stressed.
5. Water regularly. Vegetables are at least 90% water. To produce well, they may need daily watering in hot weather since you can't always rely on rain. Water plants at soil level and be sure to water before the sun goes down, leaves will need to dry before nightfall.

Be on the look-out for key words like: bush, compact, patio, baby, dwarf and space saver in their name, they’ll be a good bet. Just because a plant is bred to be small doesn't mean the fruits will be small or the yield will be less.

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