Some good vegetable varieties for containers:
• Beans: Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder, Fortex
• Cucumber: Bush Whopper, Salad Bush, Patio Pickle, Spacemaster, Bush Champion
• Eggplant: Fairy Tale, Bambino, most standard varieties
• Muskmelon: Minnesota Midget, Sweet ‘n Early
• Pepper: any
• Squash: Golden Nugget, Gold Rush, various zucchini hybrids
• Tomato: Patio, Pixie, Orange Pixie, Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Tumbling Tom, Mountain Belle, Mountain Glory, Carnival, Sunmaster
• Watermelon: Sugar Bush
— Partial listing from K-State Guide MF-2873: Growing
Vegetables in Pots
So spring came and went, and the magnificent garden you were planning went by the wayside.
This was going to be the year — lush tomatoes for BLTs and fresh salsa, delicious sweet corn, and cool, crisp cucumbers straight from garden to table.
The good news is you can still have a garden! In fact, although we often get in a rush to plant in the spring, now is a great time to plant sweet potatoes, sweet corn and winter squash. Tomatoes, peppers and other popular garden veggies can also still be planted.
A container garden is an especially good choice this time of year because soil preparation is not required and it will likely be easier to water. All you need to get started are a couple of large containers (16-inch diameter or larger is preferred), potting mix and a few plants.
A quick trip to local garden centers this week confirmed that a good variety of plants is still available — I picked up two tomatoes, two peppers, an eggplant and a variety of herbs. The tomatoes and peppers remind me of my first container garden because they were the only things I planted in that first go-round.
I like to think I was container gardening before container gardening was cool — I was just looking for a creative way to produce some of the fresh vegetables I was missing.
For containers, you can use anything from recycled items to high-quality decorative pots. Just make sure they are large enough (again, 16 inches is the minimum preferred diameter) and that the containers have drainage holes. If you find some sort of container without holes, drill or punch holes in it. Plants rarely have success in containers that lack drainage because the tips of their roots tend to stay constantly wet, which leads to disease.
Unglazed ceramic pots may require more watering than plastic, glazed and other finished pots, but this can be good if you tend to overwater. Other than that, any material is fine. Just remember: The smaller the container, the more often you will have to water.
Fill the container(s) with good quality potting mix. Do not put rocks or other materials in the bottom of the container as they raise the water table in the container and make it harder for your plants to grow. Also, resist the urge to use garden soil — potting soil is made for containers and will give you the best chance for success in this endeavor.
Pick out what vegetables you want to grow and transplant them into the pots. Judge the number of plants per pot based on the plants’ mature size. For example, a normal tomato plant prefers a whole 16-inch pot (or larger) to itself. For compact tomato varieties, you might be able to plant two plants per pot, or combine one tomato plant with a few herbs.
Water the newly transplanted plant(s) until water runs out the bottom of the pot to ensure uniform moisture. They may need water daily or even twice daily, but be sure to check soil moisture and only add water when needed. Since the top layer of soil will dry out first, check below the surface for moisture with a finger or trowel. If the soil is moist at all, wait until it dries out to water again.
To take a look at some container plantings and a raised bed vegetable garden (ideas for next year?), stop by the Master Gardener Demonstration Gardens at 2110 Harper St. There are also lots of ornamental gardening ideas if you are more interested in flowers.
After a few weeks of watering and care, you will be able to enjoy the fruits of your labor and call yourself a vegetable gardener!