Pot those veggies!

February 28, 2012

You can grow almost any vegetable in bags set on your patio or in flower beds.

Credit: Gardeners Supply Co.

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Last year, I dabbled in container vegetable gardening, due to shoulder surgery that prevented me from digging in the veggie garden.  Results were excellent, with one notable failure, and I’m encouraged to do more this season.

First, the fiasco.  Like many of you, I was intrigued by the upside-down tomato bags advertised on television, the Internet and in just about every magazine. I bought one; it came with two sheets of instructions on how to plant and care for the tomato.  The method for inserting foam collars and pushing the tomato stem through them was so complicated that I broke off two plant stems while trying to position them.  I managed to get a third plant inserted; although most of the leaves snapped off during the process.

Two weeks later the tomato died.

The fourth plant (Tumbling Tom) in the pack I purchased wasn’t going to be sacrificed to the “As Seen on TV” gods.  I planted it in a 10-inch pot, which I stacked on another one so the stems could drape over the sides.  I picked plenty of cherry tomatoes from that container plant, and it set fruit up until the first hard freeze.  I brought it indoors so the green tomatoes could ripen. Success!

Grow bags

I also purchased a number of grow bags including two huge ones designed for potatoes.  Each potato bag was filled with two cubic feet of potting mix, one cup of bone meal and one quart of composted cow manure.  The smaller bags were packed with the same mixture.

Potato plants exploded with growth in bags.  This is at 10 weeks after planting.  Photo by Doreen G. Howard

Russian Banana Fingerling seed potatoes went in one bag and All Red went in the other.  As plants grew tall, I mulched the stems with straw.  You can also cover stems with more potting mixture, but I prefer straw, as it’s easier and cleaner to harvest potatoes that form along the stems.  Each bag produced about 20 pounds of potatoes.

In smaller bags, I grew a ‘Purple Bell’ pepper plant, ‘Thumbelina’ ball-type carrots and various herbs.  I always have a couple bowls and boxes of various lettuces on my back kitchen step.  All plants produced sizable crops, tasted wonderful and were relatively pest free.  Only the lettuces were a problem, as rabbits love to nibble on them.  I solved that obstacle by elevating the bowls on plant stands and window boxes on bricks.  No nibbles.

By elevating bowls of salad greens with plant stands and piled bricks, rabbits and other munching critters couldn't nibble on plants.  Photo by Doreen G. Howard

New this season

I’m not the only one who is doing more potted vegetable gardening.  Plant and seed producers recognize the trend and are coming out with a number of vegetables bred for small spaces.  One I’m excited about is ‘Astia’ zucchini from Renee’s Garden.  The usually sprawling vines have been tamed and reduced to a small bush plant, perfect for 14-inch pots. 

I'm excited about growing 'Astia' bush zucchini this year.  Look how tidy and productive plants are!  Photo courtesy of Renee's Garden Seed.

Another I’ll be planting is ‘Chocolate Mini Belle’ pepper; it grows 18-24 inches high and produces an abundant number of sweet miniature peppers.

See the Almanac's list of best vegetable varieties to grow in containers.

Do you plan on growing edibles in containers this year?  If so, what varieties do you like?

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Doreen Howard has written for The Old Farmer's Almanac All-Seasons Garden Guide for 15 years and is the former garden editor at Woman’s Day as well as a photographer. She has grown more than 300 varieties of heirloom edibles and flowers in the last two decades.

In stores now!

Look for Doreen's newest book, Heirloom Flavor: Yesterday's Best-Tasting Vegetables, Fruits and Herbs for Today's Cook. Find in stores everywhere including Walmart and on the Web including amazon.com.

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Comments

this is not such a smart idea

By Sachin

this is not such a smart idea WHY? do you know from which material are leterts made of? from lead! and lead is not good for any living creature. It is not smart to contaminate your plants if you are going to use them later as food font do this! If that is going to be inedible then ok but higher levels of lead can damage a plant

I love love LOVE the pic of

By LoriLovesPink

I love love LOVE the pic of your zucchini pots!! It inspires me to try again... last year mine were a bust. I have learned 2 things with container gardening over the last 2 years... 1)drainage holes are NECESSARY, or your plants are subject to drown in weekly downpours, and 2) on account of the drainage holes, you will NEEEED to water your plants daily. So if you are going on vacation, call a neighbor, or you will come home to some french fried tomatoes. It's amazing what people will do for you in exchange for some homegrown tomatoes!!! Last year I tried out some 5-gallon buckets bought very inexpensively at Lowes, drilled a LOT of holes in the bottom, spray painted them, and they were perfect for growing bell peppers, basil bushes, and even a tomato plant! This year they just needed a little spray paint touch up and were ready to go!

I tried the plastic pots one

By Toots

I tried the plastic pots one year but they got to hot and nothing did any good.

There are lots of other types

By turtlewoman797

There are lots of other types of summer squash, besides zucchini, that grow more bush-like. Patty pans (scallop), yellow crookneck, and yellow straightneck squashes can be grown in pots. Eggplants grown in pots do quite well. Of course, hot peppers...especially the ornamental ones...do well, too. Some look beautiful as hanging plants, because the stems flow over the side of the pots. Determinate tomatoes (the ones that grow like little bushes) are great for pots, although by using a 5-gallon bucket and providing support, you can easily grow indeterminate varieties (the vining type). The same applies for pole beans. Also, there are bush-type cucumbers to be grown in pots. Stick a few garlic cloves in one, or grow some cutting celery in pots, along with many other herbs like basil, tarragon (buy French, as Russian loses its flavor on older plants), oregano, stevia, mint, etc. Even strawberries can be grown in pots. And did you know that there are even miniature blueberry plants intended for growing in pots? Antioxidants! And in the fall, you can grow collars, kale, broccoli, etc. These are ALL the types of things I grow in pots very successfully.

yes. we are planning to use

By Petra

yes. we are planning to use Aero Garden indoors for tomatoes and herbs, and EarthBoxes outdoors with casters for potatoes, peppers, onions and who knows what else? :)

Wow! What a great article.

By Pat Graham

Wow! What a great article. I've been growing various vegetables and flowers in containers on my patio for several years. This year I am concentrating on salad veggies and have two tomato plants waiting for the Oklahoma rain to stop...Sweet 100 and a patio tomato.

I live in a senior village and some of the residents sneak over and snatch a tomato once in a while. Makes me laugh.

Most of all my planting has

By Leigh Couture

Most of all my planting has been container, I even recovered and planted a potato that vined in the compost bin in an old cooler and got great potatoes later. This article had great tips and I will try them. Thanks!

Yes, I do! We are trying

By Kathy Sothman

Yes, I do! We are trying lettuce indoors in containers, and plan to try some tomatoes and peppers in containers, too! You've also inspired me to try some carrots...and maybe even cauliflower!

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