Bountiful Containers

March 14, 2020

Growing garden-fresh veggies gets more popular every year. It allows us to experience truly vine-ripe tomatoes and other fruits harvested at the peak of perfection. Vegetables in the produce department are harvested before becoming fully ripe so that they can be shipped to a distribution center and then on to your grocery store.


Growing vegetables in containers makes small-scale gardening easy. It also allows us to take advantage of spots we might not otherwise use. For instance, we put pots on the HVAC pad which is in full sun on the side of the house.


Choices abound for the actual container. You may repurpose  wooden boxes or bushel baskets. I tried “grow bags” and found they wear out after one season. Light-colored vessels are better because dark colors absorb heat which may damage the plant’s roots.  


Speaking of roots, whatever vessel you use, make sure it has plenty of drainage holes. It is important that the container is large enough for the plant’s mature root system. For example, a tomato needs a five-gallon pot. Larger vessels hold more soil and thus retain moisture and nutrients longer. A good soil mix is one part compost to two parts potting mix. Learn from my mistake and never use soil from the garden. It will turn into a brick very quickly.


Container gardening does not work for large vegetable such as corn, okra, watermelons and pumpkins. As with flowers, group plants with the same light, water and fertility requirements together. For instance, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant are all heavy feeders. Bush and dwarf varieties are more readily available every year. These are perfect for use in containers.


Now is a great time to plant seeds of cool-season vegetables like lettuce, radishes and peas. As the weather warms up, these will be finished before it is time to set out warm weather lovers. Though the cool-season crops are not heavy feeders, add a balanced slow-release fertilizer to the container’s soil before replanting. During the long hot summer, you will need to apply liquid fertilizer every week or two following directions on the product label.


Dwarf fruit trees are another idea for container gardening. Although one can start with a smaller pot, the mature tree will need a 10-to-15 gallon home. Half barrels are a good choice. As with other containers, make certain there are sufficient drainage holes before planting the tree. Use top-quality potting soil. From the time the tree blooms in spring until fall, feed it every two weeks with liquid seaweed. 


Apples, pears, cherries, peaches and plums are all cold hardy here.  With apples and pears you must choose a self-pollinating cultivar or purchase one with two or three cultivars grafted onto the dwarf rootstock. 


Peaches flower early so may need some protection from frost at blossom time. Plums

are quite carefree in that they only need to have the fruit thinned. Maybe that fruit cocktail tree is just the thing for you this spring!


Ann Bartlett is a master gardener, and could probably make a fabulous fruit cocktail tree produce fabulous fruit cocktails. The Planet could not, in a past iteration, but as spring approaches and saps rise senses another coming on...

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