For The Answer
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Week of July 10, 2006
“Container Gardening for Fruits, Blooms, Herbs,
Are you interested in gardening, but do not have the space or inclination to build a raised bed? Consider container gardening. Flowers are easy and many area gardeners grow herbs in containers, but have you ever considered fruit or vegetables? How about attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your patio or balcony? It is easier to grow plants in containers if you have full or morning sun, but some plants do well even if their container must be placed in the shade.
Peppers are my favorite vegetable to grow in containers. They are relatively disciplined in growth habit and have attractive foliage and fruit. They make a nice plant in a five gallon or larger container. Fill the container with a high quality potting soil enriched with Osmocote (one cup) or another slow release fertilizer made especially for containers. The container for peppers and all plants must drain well so the container must have at least three, one-inch drainage holes in a five gallon container and seven, one-inch holes in a half whiskey barrel. The pepper can tolerate some shade, full sun is best, but morning sun is okay. Plant peppers from transplants now for the autumn, and again in April for the summer.
Tomatoes do best in a ten gallon or larger container. Use a tomato cage to keep the plant upright. Watch for the Surefire selection later this month. It is a relatively small plant that produces a quick crop in the autumn. Plant tomatoes again in the spring in April.
Onions, carrots, and lettuce also are good vegetables for containers. The foliage is very attractive. Plant carrot by seed. Onions and lettuce can be planted by seed or plant.
There are dwarf peach trees offered specifically for containers, but other than attractive foliage they do not have much going for them in my book. Several citrus selections on the other hand make outstanding container plants. The foliage is evergreen and showy, the blooms are beautiful and fragrant, and best of all you harvest considerable high quality fruit. Mexican limes, Meyer lemons, and satsuma oranges are the best choices. Plant the citrus trees in full sun in a half whiskey barrel. The citrus will have to be protected from severe cold in the winter (under 26°F), but they are sturdy otherwise.
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
One of the favorite uses for containers are herbs. Most require full sun, but chives, mint, and parsley can tolerate considerable shade. They all prefer the winter along with cilantro, and dill. Rosemary grows year around in full sun. In the summer in the sun, grow basil.
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 birds as 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.