Contain your affinity for fresh produce; fresh produce possible without full-sized gardens

Tuesday, June 17, 2008 | 4:00 p.m. CDT; updated 4:54 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Do you love the taste of a tomato freshly picked from the vine? What about sweet corn and watermelons? All of these tasty treats can be yours even if you live in an area that doesn’t support a regular garden.

Anything that can be grown in a garden can be grown in a container. With the variety of vegetables today, you’ll be able to find anything you want in a compact size. Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, green onions and even squash can be grown in containers right on your porch.

For a good harvest, your vegetable garden will need at least six hours of sunlight every day. If you live in a shaded area, you can move the containers around to where they’ll receive more sun, which is an advantage of container gardening.

Be sure that whichever containers you pick have adequate drainage.

Watering will have to be done on a regular basis because plants grown in pots tend to dry out faster. If it’s a really hot or windy day, the plants may need to be watered more often.

Protect your plants from very high heat reflected from the pavement by moving them to a cool spot or try to shade them during the hottest part of the day. Plants should be moved to a sheltered location during severe rain, hail or wind and for protection from early fall frosts.

Another point to remember is to fertilize frequently because with all that watering, the vitamins will be flushed out of the potting mixture quickly.

Vegetables grown in containers can be attacked by a variety of pests and diseases common to any garden, so plants should be inspected periodically. By checking them frequently, you will notice any bug problems before they get out of control. If you do see bugs, you can either pick them off by hand if there are just a few, or you can rinse the plants with soapy water.

The following is a partial list of the vegetable varieties that can be grown in containers. They are “compact” or “bush” varieties and are genetically predisposed to growing small and taking up less room:

Tomatoes: Patio, pixie, tiny Tim, Claudette, small fry.

Peppers: Yolo wonder, Keystone resistant giant, canapé.

Eggplant: Black magic hybrid, Jersey king, Slim Jim.

Squash: Dixie, senator, gold neck, diplomat.

Green onions: Beltsville bunching, crystal wax, evergreen bunching.

Leaf lettuce: Tom thumb, baby Bibb, Fordhook.

Green beans: Topcrop, Kentucky wonder, greencrop.

Cucumbers: Bush champion, salad bush hybrid, victory.

Sweet corn: Golden bantam, kandy korn, precocious.

Watermelons: Bush baby II hybrid, bush sugar baby, golden midget.

These are just a few of the many vegetable varieties that can be grown in containers.

A fun thing to do if you have children is to plant a “salad pot” or a “salsa pot.” Plant a large pot with lettuce, a bush cucumber, radishes and leaf lettuce. The different shapes and textures all in one pot give beauty to the container. For a salsa pot, plant bush tomatoes and peppers and surround them with scallions and cilantro. At harvest time, chop everything coarsely, and you have great homemade salsa.

When it’s time for harvesting, be sure to harvest the vegetables at the peak of their maturity when the full flavor has developed. This will give maximum pleasure for you from your vegetable garden.

For more information about growing vegetables in containers, check out “Moveable Harvests: The Simplicity and Beauty of Container Gardens” by Chuck and Barbara Crandall or “The Edible Container Garden: Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces” by Michael Guerra.

Barbara Michael has been a Master Gardener since 1993, and serves as the Master Gardener’s liaison to the Community Garden Coalition as well as serving on its board. She enjoys container gardening and houseplants. She can be reached at

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