Container gardening may be the ticket

May 22, 2013

Malcolm P. McLean was a small-scale hauler in Hoboken, N.J., who wanted to simplify the constant loading and unloading of cargo from truck to ship to truck. First he began loading entire trucks onto ships, then just the truck trailers, and always looking to save space on board ships, finally just the containers. He called his company Sea-Land Inc,. one of the major shipping companies of its day and the pioneer in container shipping.

Containers can be the gardener’s answer to tight spaces too. If you want a vegetable or herb garden but don’t have a yard, you can have your garden in containers. Luckily, you don’t need a lot of space to grow herbs, and just about every herb does well grown in a pot. Greens such as lettuce, Swiss chard and spinach don’t need as much sunlight as flowering vegetables such as peppers and tomatoes, so you can grow greens just about anywhere.Try mixing edible greens in with marigolds and herbs all in one pot for a colorful edible centerpiece.

Pick just the outer leaves and you will harvest all summer long. Eggplants and okra bloom with exotic flowers and make decorative pots in their own right with the bonus of being edible.

In the garden, tomatoes can grow into long vines so for potted plants try varieties like Patio, Mountain Princess, San Marzano Roma, Yellow Pear or Rutger.

Since pepper plants don’t get nearly as big as tomatoes, almost every pepper does well in pots. Fiery red cayenne peppers make attractive centerpieces.

While you can grow most vegetables from seeds, you will save time with transplants. Use a good-quality potting soil that holds moisture, but drains well. Plain garden soil will often compact when used as potting soil. You can mix in generous amounts of compost and bone meal.

For large vegetables like tomatoes, pole beans and eggplants, use a pot or container that holds at least five gallons of potting soil per plant. Drainage is essential, so be sure the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom.

Because containers dry out faster than plants grown in the garden you have to water them more often than garden plants. This frequent watering washes or leaches the nutrients out of the soil. You can add slow-release or timed-release fertilizer into the potting soil or scratch it into the soil surface. Try spraying your vegetables with a good organic liquid fertilizer such as fish emulsion or kelp. Apply every two weeks during the growing season. Tomatoes that don’t get enough calcium are susceptible to blossom end rot. You can add calcium to your potted tomatoes with eggshells. Work finely crushed eggshells into the potting mix or scratch it into the surface of the potted tomatoes. You can also soak the eggshells in water for about a week and use the diluted water to fertilize your tomatoes. Set your potted vegetables where they will get at least six to eight hours of sun.

You won’t rely on container ships of distant produce, but instead have fresh vegetables from your very own containers. Ocean charts not needed.

  • Paul Barbano writes about gardening from his home in Rehoboth Beach. Contact him by writing to P. O. Box 213, Lewes, DE 19958.

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