For The Answer
Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD,
SAWS Water Resources Director, and HorticulturistSaturday,
July 8, 2006
If you garden in containers, you do not need much land to have a fun and satisfying experience. The more sun you have the more opportunities that exist, but even in shade, a patio or balcony can have a garden. Flowers are the most obvious plants that work well in containers. Herbs are also common, but vegetables and fruits even work.
Beginning with fruits, consider citrus trees. My three favorite selections are Mexican lime, Meyers lemon, and satsuma oranges. The foliage is attractive on citrus even in limited sun, but the more sun that you provide the more fruit that will be produced. Citrus blooms over a long spring and summer season. The blooms are very fragrant. Harvest fruit in the late fall and winter.
A half whisky barrel filled with high quality potting soil and liberally laced (two cups mixed throughout) with a slow release fertilizer like Osmocote will do the job. A key is to make sure that there is adequate drainage. I like seven, one-inch holes drilled in the bottom. The Mexican lime and Meyer lemon should be protected when temperatures are forecast to be under 30°F for an evening. Protect satsuma at forecasts under 28°F. All the plants can survive lower temperatures than those described above, but forecasts are not always accurate and it is better to be safe than sorry. Cover the plants with cloth or plastic over cloth.
Blueberries can tolerate any cold that our winter has to offer,
but they require acid soil and even better drainage than citrus.
Area nurseries offer Tifblue blueberries, they seem to be the
most self-pollinating selection and tolerate
Tomatoes work relatively well in containers. One plant will fill a ten gallon container or half whiskey barrel. The larger the container, the easier it is to keep it adequately watered. During hot weather, water every day and fertilize with a soluble fertilizer like Peters or Schultz every week. A wire tomato cage placed in the container helps to keep the vine upright. Plant tomatoes for the autumn in early August. Plant for the spring crop in early April. Tomatoes require full sun.
Other vegetables that do well in containers are peppers and eggplant. Onions, leaf lettuce, and carrots all have attractive foliage, and can tolerate more shade than the bush crops.
If your whole patio is in the shade they are some blooming plants that work well. Firespike grows well in deep shade. It is also a great hummingbird plant. The blooms in the autumn are almost as attractive to the migrating dynamos as the sun loving firebush. Begonias, impatiens, and pentas can tolerate considerable shade. Pentas are especially desirable because they come in red, pink and lavender, and are one of the best butterfly flowers. Hummingbirds also love pentas.
For summer blooms in containers in full sun, consider zinnias, purslane, vinca, moss roses, Chinese hibiscus, and bougainvilleas in addition to the hummingbird attracting firebush.
It is difficult to think of cool weather now, but for the winter, replace your shade loving blooming plants with primula and cyclamen. Both are spectacular. For the sun, use pansies, stock, snapdragons, and petunias.
One of the favorite uses for containers are herbs. Most require full sun, but chives, mint, and parsley can tolerate considerable shade. They prefer the winter along with cilantro, and dill. Rosemary and lemon grass grows year around in full sun. In the summer in the sun, grow basil. There are many choices of basil.