OUT IN THE YARD — Consider container gardening for produce

Published 12:06 am Thursday, March 19, 2020

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Do you dream of salad with fresh, homegrown tomatoes?

Do you live in an apartment with a sunny patio that gets 6-8 hours of sun a day? Is it difficult to bend down? Do you want to grow a garden but lack time and energy for a large garden? If yes is your answer, then container gardening is for you!

Choose a new pot or you can reuse an older pot. To reuse an old pot, you should wash out the soil, disinfect the pot and let dry.

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Many pot choices are available. Half-whisky barrels, foam ice chests, 5-gallon paint buckets, wheelbarrows, ceramic pots, and a bag of soil cut with openings for plants are some suggestions.

Clay pots are porous and dry out quickly as do small containers. Be creative and look for containers around your home. All pots need a minimum of four holes drilled in the bottom. Useful side holes drilled ¼-½ inch from the bottom for additional drainage can be done. Without drainage, the plant roots will rot.

Always use good quality, new potting mix inside your pots. Diseases and weed seeds hide in the heavy garden soil. Potting mix is lightweight, drains well and has disease- and weed-                 free properties. When using larger pots, fill the pot where it will grow. It will become heavy when filled with the mix, so rollers used on the bottom of the pot are useful to move it.

Line the bottom of the pot with a coffee filter or used fabric softener sheet to keep the potting mix from washing out. Small rocks covered with landscape cloth can be placed in the larger pot to help with drainage. Slightly moisten potting mix to repot. Add a bottom layer of the mix adjusting to support the plant’s roots. Put the plant in the pot and fill in around the sides packing the soil lightly. Leave a 1-2 inch headspace in the pot for watering.

A 6-10 inch pot is good for growing green onions, parsley and herbs. Smaller pots are appropriate for herbs, lettuce and radishes. Plant dwarf tomatoes and chard in 1-2 gallon pots. Use 5 gallon pots for tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. Cucumbers can be planted in 5 gallon containers but need an additional place to grow as a vine.

Minimize disease by only watering your soil, not the leaves. Pour water in the soil until the water runs out of the drainage hole. Water your pot when the top ½ inch of soil is dry. If you live upstairs, place pots on gravel lined, trays to catch overflow water. Your downstairs neighbors will appreciate you.

Reach Jefferson County Master Gardener, Eileen Slater, at jcmgenslater@gmail.com or call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service at 409-835-8461.