Enjoy summer vegetables grown right outside your back door
By LINDA STEPHENS-URBANIAK
Mercer Island Reporter Columnist
May 19, 2009 · Updated 2:53 PM
Vegetables are on everyone’s mind this year, but few gardeners want to tear up their back lawn to plant a whole, big garden. For the joy of fresh, organic vegetables with a lot less work, consider planting your vegetable garden in pots.
Pots are great for some vegetables and can be planted out to be every bit as attractive as those planted solely with flowers. It is important to start with large pots at least 14 inches across the top for the best results. Fill them with good potting soil augmented with a balanced organic fertilizer as recommended on the box or bag. Organics will slowly release during the growing season and will not burn the roots of the plants. Around the end of June, fertilize again with a liquid organic fertilizer such as Tetracycle Plant Food, enhanced with worm casings. Keep the pots in sun and remember to water regularly.
For drama, start with a large 18- to 20-inch pot and an artichoke or three; add the soft gray of sage or one of the variegated sages. Fill in with a prostrate rosemary to spill over the edge of the pot. For a bright burst of color, add three to five calendula. Their orange-to-yellow flowers will last all summer if kept cut.
Eggplants can be purple, white or even pink and have flowers attractive enough to be grown for them alone. They do well in pots placed in full sun, especially if you can place them where a wall will reflect heat. Peas can be planted near the rim of the pot to trail over the edge, and beets can add their glossy dark red leaves for contrast. The peas will be done by the time the eggplants start to produce their fruits, but by then the beets will provide color. Nasturtiums can also be planted for bright reds, oranges or yellows.
Pepper plants can grow red, yellow or purple bell peppers, the ripe colors of the green peppers found in markets. You might also decide to experiment with some of the hot peppers, usually narrower and more pointed than the bells. No matter which you choose, the ripe fruits can provide as much color as any flower. For foliage contrast, you might try culinary thyme or one of the variegated thymes like lemon thyme. Place the pot where it will get as much sun and heat as possible.
For a pot that will do well with somewhat less sun (but at least six hours a day), try planting a large pot with mixed lettuces surrounded by a double row of carrots or parsley. The contrast of textures of the wide-leafed lettuces with the frilly tops of the carrots or parsley is quite eye-catching.
If you love cooking with fresh herbs, a pot near the kitchen door and planted out with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme can’t be beat, especially if chives are added to it. Chives and thyme combine well and will live for many years. Both the rosemary and sage are also perennial and will eventually get to be about two to three feet tall, so you might want to put them in separate pots. Parsley is a biennial, growing strong leaves one year and flowering the next.
Herbs are the exception to fertilizing well for best production. They grow best with less fertilizer and somewhat less water to increase the oils that produce flavor. Do not fertilize again in June.
You can’t get more flavorful, healthier food than that which you grow yourself. Even a small patio can give you that reward with a pot or even several. What could be easier?
Linda Stephens-Urbaniak can be reached at Lindagardenlady@speakeasy.net.