We love to garden and that includes fresh vegetables and herbs in the summertime. After years of trying to keep the deer out of my vegetable garden, I switched from trying to raise vegetables in the ground to containers. Not only did that solve the deer problem, but it allows me to overcome all sorts of problems with soil-borne diseases and poor soil conditions. A patio, deck, or balcony will provide sufficient garden space for a productive vegetable mini-garden.
Most any vegetable that grows well in the ground is suitable for a container garden. Large containers ranging from 18 to 24 inches wide and 12 to 16 inches deep are best for vegetable gardening as there will be plenty of room for their roots and the containers won’t dry out as quickly as small containers.
Over the years, I’ve had good luck with half barrels (make sure they have enough drainage holes), plastic, terra cotta, and wood containers. Fill the containers with a good potting soil and start a regular fertilization program from the day you plant, following the directions on the package.
You can also hang your vegetables-wire hanging baskets are best as they hold more soil than redwood or plastic hanging baskets. Use 14-inch diameter baskets for most vegetables; 16-inch or larger for watermelon and zucchini. Line the baskets with sphagnum moss, or use pop-in liners that you can buy at the nursery.
Fill the lined baskets with a good potting soil and 2 tablespoons of controlled-release, all-purpose granular fertilizer per basket. Once planted, hang the baskets from your patio structure, from the rafters, or balconies in full sun, or where they will get a minimum of four hours full afternoon sun. To promote even growth, rotate the baskets every two or three days (swivel hooks makes this easy).
Choose compact varieties and at planting time, set trellises, teepees, or wire cages in the containers to support the vining crops-cucumbers, pole beans, and some tomatoes. You can start from seeds, or for quicker results, buy seedling plants at the nursery.
Here’s some suggestions for a Salad Bowl Garden:
Beans: Both bush and pole beans work in containers. Try bush – or pole-type ‘Blue Lake’.
Cucumbers: ‘Lemon,’ ‘Liberty,’ and ‘Early Pik.’
Eggplant: ‘Ichibaan’ (small Oriental), ‘Bambino’ (walnut-size fruits), and ‘Black Beauty.’
Herbs: basil, chervil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, tarragon, and thyme.
Peppers: ‘California Wonder’ and ‘Sun Bell’ sweet peppers; ‘Jalapeño’ and ‘Habañero’ hot chile peppers.
Radishes: ‘Cherry Belle,’ ‘Scarlet Glove,’ and (White) ‘Icicle’.
Salad Greens: ‘Red Oakleaf,’ and ‘Salad Bowl Oakleafs,’ ‘Deer Tongue’ romaine, ‘Lovina’ frilly-leafed lettuce, arugula, Italian dandelion greens, mustard greens, and nasturtiums.
Summer Squash: compact bush types such as ‘Eight Ball’ or ‘Spacemier’ zucchini or train climbing types like Zucchetta Rampicante’ on a trellis.
Tomatoes: Patio, ‘Pixie,’ ‘Tiny Tim,’ ‘Black Krim,’ ‘Sun Gold,’ ‘Sweet Million,’ and bush-type Roma.
Watermelon: ‘Garden Baby’ and ‘Yellow Doll.’
Keep to a watering, fertilizing, and harvesting schedule to keep your Salad Bowl Garden growing and not bolting (going to seed) over the summer. On hottest days, watering is especially crucial and may be needed twice a day. During hot, windy weather, move hanging baskets out of direct wind, and water immediately.
There’s no excuse for dull salads this summer. Grow your own designer salads and reap the benefits of your work-delicious, fresh vegetables always at hand and the added benefits of gardening (exercise and a stress reducer) on your blood sugar levels.