Put it in a Pot
By Paul James
While sitting on my back porch and watching the rain soak everything in sight last Sunday, I got the bug to garden. But because working wet soil is one of the absolute worst things you can do, I decided to repot my houseplants and stick a few tasty herbs in pots. After all, putting all kinds of things in containers is something you can do regardless of weather – in the garage, on a covered porch or patio, even between downpours.
And while obvious choices include annuals, perennials, and tropicals, those are just the tip of the iceberg (yes, you can also grow lettuce in containers). In fact, there are very few plants you can’t grow in containers, whether plastic, clay, or concrete pots, grow bags, wooden or metal troughs, even an old kitchen sink or bathtub — as long as they drain well.
For example, darn near every vegetable — save asparagus and rhubarb — and culinary herb can be grown in containers. And in the case of mint and horseradish, I strongly recommend you do precisely that because both will spread like wildfire in a garden.
Leafy greens don’t require a deep container because their roots typically grow in the top four inches of soil. Ditto onions, radishes, and beets. Carrots, on the other hand, will need a deeper container to accommodate their longer roots. Patio and other indeterminate tomatoes can be grown in pots that are roughly 18” deep and wide (as can beans, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, and peppers), but determinate tomato varieties can get quite large and therefore require a much larger pot or container. I even know lots of folks who successfully grow potatoes in trash cans (Seriously. Google it.)
Thankfully, a number of seed suppliers offer vegetable varieties that have been specifically developed for growing in containers, particularly vining crops or those that ordinarily require lots of room to grow, such as cucumbers and melons, and it’s worth seeking them out.
Trees and shrubs — deciduous and evergreen — are great for containers, and they can be used in a number of effective and dramatic ways, from formal to funky. For example, to flank the entrance to your home, especially if the surrounding surface is concrete; to use in a spot where nothing will grow due to poor soil or drainage issues; to add a special decorative touch to a garden bed; and to draw attention to a specimen planting.
Practically any small- to medium-sized tree or shrub is a candidate for containers, in particular Japanese maples, conifers of all kinds, crape myrtles, dogwoods, and hydrangeas. But here are three things to keep in mind. First, realize that you’ll need to fertilize more frequently, because nutrients leach more rapidly out of containers. Second, be prepared to top-dress the container with a two- or three-inch layer of fresh potting mix every year. And finally, plan on repotting every three to five years, ideally in February or March.
And don’t forget ornamental grasses and bamboo, because they too grow and look great in containers.
But I must admit that I also like pots placed here and there in the garden with nothing in them, especially tall, amphora-style pots or those with colorful glazes. They can actually draw your attention even more than some plants.
And you don’t have to water them.
Happy gardening, ya’ll.
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