Try starting a container garden for a few beautiful, edible treats
Growing vegetables in containers is becoming very popular, in part due to the many advantages over traditional vegetable gardening. Container growing makes it easier for you to control the soil, light, water and fertilizer. It also saves space and once planted, vegetables in containers are easy to care for and harvest. Dwarf varieties of many vegetables are becoming available as the container trend continues to grow.
Another advantage to growing vegetables in containers is that you can grow throughout the year. David Nagel, vegetable and home garden specialist with the MSU Extension Service notes that “there is a revolution in the vegetable world. We’re no longer growing plants just to eat, but we’re growing plants that are attractive to look at too. Okra is a member of the hibiscus family and has beautiful flowers. Chard used to only come as green leaves with white midribs and petioles. Now it comes in red, orange, pink and yellow.”
So, let’s get started. First, choose a large container. The larger the container, the more you can grow and the longer it will take to dry out. Place the container where you will see it daily such as by your front or back door, or on your porch, deck or patio. This will remind you to water and also make it easy to pick your harvest as you head into the house.
Make sure the container will have at least six hours of exposure to the sun. Second, use a potting mix made for containers or blend your own mix with equal parts of peat moss, potting soil, and vermiculite, perlite or clean sand. Add some compost if you have it on hand. As always, spread a little mulch over the top to help with water retention.
What to plant — As always, it is best to mix plants that have similar needs for water and fertilizer. Good combinations are beans, carrots and squash or beans and eggplant. Tomatoes work well with onions and basil. Lettuce works well with herbs and spinach works well with chard and onions. The Mississippi State University Extension Service recommends the following plants for each season:
• Spring — strawberries, squash, sweet peas, Swiss chard, kale and mustard.
• Summer — keep the strawberries and add okra, eggplant, squash, sage, basil, tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers.
• Fall — broccoli, cabbage and other greens.
• Winter — Swiss chard, mustard, onions and strawberries.
The last step, sit back and enjoy the harvest!
Karen O’Neal is an Adams County Master Gardener.