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Sunday, August 07, 2011

Have you ever tried gardening from your back porch?

Over the years I have learned that you don't need a plot of land to grow fresh vegetables. Living on post, I found it difficult to plant a garden (the soil is sandy, or the pH isn't correct, or there are fungi that lives in the soil), so I have taken up "container gardening". Many vegetables are pretty easy to grow in pots or containers. Vegetables that take up little space, such as carrots, radishes and lettuce, or crops that bear fruits over a long period of time, such as tomatoes and peppers, are perfect for container vegetable gardens.

I wanted to try something easy and knew I would eat. So what I did was plant a tomato, a cucumber and some parsley all in a large (24-30") container. They grow well together and have the same water and sun requirements. So here are some items you will need to think about: pick a container, and make sure it has proper drainage. I have found that containers for your vegetable gardens can be almost anything: flower pots, buckets, bushel baskets, wooden boxes, window planters, washtubs, plastic bags, large food cans, or any thing that can hold items that won't degrade into the soil. Next you need to think about drainage: No matter what kind of container you choose for your vegetable garden, it should have holes at the base or in the bottom to permit drainage of excess water.

Here are some items that you can consider:
Most carrots require a long growing season and tending to a container of carrots can be tedious. It would be easiest to choose a fast growing round or baby carrot, like 'Babette' or 'Paris market'.

Cucumbers that grow in a clump, rather than a long, sprawling vine, are considered bush varieties. They can still spread out several feet, but they should not require trellising and grow well in large, wide containers.  Here are some names that you can look for such as 'Salad Bush Hybrid', 'Spacemaster', or 'Bush Pickle'.

Peppers are actually tropical perennial plants and if you bring your potted pepper plants indoors for the winter, they will continue setting fruits. Large peppers will require staking. Some sweet peppers to try include: 'Cubanelle' 'Gypsy', 'Jimmy Nardello', 'Marconi' and 'Sweet Banana'. Hot peppers tend to be smaller and more prolific. Some good choices for containers include: 'Cayenne', 'Fatalli' 'Hot Cherry', 'Jalapeno' and 'Robustini'

I have learned that Squash plants can be either "bush" varieties or long vines. You can grow either in a container, but bush varieties make the better choice, remaining much more compact. Most summer squash plants are bush types.

Growing a full sized tomato plant in a container will require a large pot, a strong stake or cage and lots of water but it can be done.  The ones I have tried are 'Tiny Tim', 'Tumbling Tom' and 'Small Fry'. I have seen my grandparents grow tomatoes on their back porch when they got up in age and couldn't grow a full size garden. However I tried the topsy turvy and it got really heavy and broke my tomato plant.

Just remember that items planted in containers or pots always require more frequent watering than plants in the ground. As the season progresses and your plants mature, their root system will expand and require even more water. Don't wait until you see the plants wilting. Check your containers daily to judge the need for water.

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