Container gardening makes it possible to have a garden where plants wouldn't otherwise take root and gives those of us without a "real" garden a chance to flex our green thumbs! A balcony or deck can be easily transformed into a lush oasis. We've all seen spectacular displays of flowers overflowing pots but now it's time for vegetables to take center stage. Don't think vegetables can be attractive? You'll be surprised! Not only will you have a striking garden you'll have some delicious produce as well.
Here are a few tricks to keeping your container garden healthy:
- Choose large pots. The sun can heat the edges of pots potentially damaging the roots. Larger pots give roots more room as well as keeping the soil moist longer.
- Paint a clear varnish over clay pots to keep moisture from evaporating through the sides. (Once you start you may find want to get creative with touches of color and patterns.)
- If you're using plastic pots the soil can become quite warm. A great solution is to place a smaller pot within a larger one leaving at least half an inch between them. The outer pot will become a heat shield by providing shade.
- One summer I decided I'd had enough of mosquitoes and went to the hardware store and bought some screen mesh and built a simple frame. When I was done I found myself with extra mesh. It turned out to be a great way to keep small bugs from crawling into my potted plants through the drainage holes at the bases. Fifty-cents worth of mesh was all it took to keep those pesky sow bugs from taking up residence! Cut out a piece of mesh at least twice the size of the drainage hole. Add small rocks on top as usual for drainage.
The Best Edible Plants for Containers
You can find plants that will grow to all heights, shapes, colors and sizes. It is a good idea to choose some sort of pattern employing any of these elements. This will keep your garden from looking like a jungle of haphazardly placed plants. You may decide you would like to arrange plants from low to high making a gradual step from one end of your deck to the other. Or you could have low-, medium- and tall-sized plants within the same container.
Great ground cover plants include basil, oregano, parsley, mint, thyme, purple sage, and garlic (garlic often begins sprouting from the bulbs-check out your local grocer you're bound to find one with a green shoot). With the exception of basil all of these are nearly indestructible.
Strawberries, violets and pansies are sweet choices. Yes you can eat violets and pansies-they are often candied and used to decorate special cakes. Ounce for ounce, violets have more Vitamin C than oranges!
Medium-sized plants that take well to containers are beet, chamomile with its delicate white and yellow flowers, and everyone's favorite-tomatoes! The great thing about growing tomatoes in containers is that you can prevent rain from falling on the fruit and causing blight if you position your container beneath an awning.
Tall plants will lend an exotic look to your garden. Choose from blueberry (it grows to approximately 3 1/2 feet and the foliage turns a deep red in autumn) green, yellow or Italian beans or Snow peas wrapped around a pole, sunflowers or even corn. Sounds strange but when you see corn outside of a field it is quite striking.
If you want to add more color to the great shapes and displays of vegetables you can add flowers. Tried and true varieties include Gerbera daisy, pink and purple wave petunia, begonias, Calla lilies (great if your space is partially shaded) fragrant heliotrope and stock.
By Lisa Harrison (firstname.lastname@example.org)