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Get it Growing: Consider planting in containers
By Judy English
In March, the Master Gardeners participated in the annual Soroptimist Gala Garden Show in Sequim, presenting a seminar on “Container Gardening” as part of the larger topic of “Accessible Gardening.” As a vocal advocate of planting in containers, I’d like to share with you what has transpired during the intervening three months.
Success! accurately sums up the experience. We planted the transplants, put them on a north/northwest facing deck and kept them watered. No other special treatment.
Three different types of lettuces were planted — red and green romaine, iceberg, and red/green leaf. All produced and at this writing continue to provide lettuce for the salad bowl! It is a matter of taste and texture preference as to which is better; all have grown and produced very well. Leaf/plant size is comparable to lettuce grown in the open garden. The leaf lettuces have a softer ‘softer’ than the romaine; the iceberg is between the two in texture. All seem to be tastier than grocery store-bought varieties.
Easy to grow; very successful. Delicate and tasty.
Again, delicate flavor, good texture. Plants grown in the open garden grow to a much larger size. For use in salads, the smaller ‘“container grown” size has worked very well. If the intent is to sauté or steam kale to eat as a stand-alone vegetable, the more aggressive growth in the open garden yields more kale.
The flowers added color while on the deck and now add color and a very slight peppery taste to the salad. Again, they were easy to grow and productive.
The artichoke has been transplanted into a larger container and is growing steadily; it is too early for it to produce.
There are four tomato plants in containers and all have dark green leaves and blossoms. All are in tomato cages to provide support. They are unprotected from rain (wet leaves can be susceptible to fungal diseases). It will be interesting to see if they have any fungal issues and if they produce earlier since they are located closer to the house in a warmer area (than the open garden).
What kinds of containers were used? The lettuces are growing in 7 inch by 12 inch by 5 inch deep, clear plastic spinach boxes (from the grocery store). Holes were drilled into the bottom and sides to ensure good drainage. The tomatoes are growing in about 20-inch diameter, 15-inch deep black recycled pots from the nursery (the size used for small trees or large shrubs). These too have extra drainage holes drilled in the sides and the bottom.
Potting soil can become compacted and retain too much moisture if drainage is inadequate.
Pros and cons
What are the advantages of container gardening?
Containers can be moved — if you are renting and plan to relocate, your gardens moves with you! If the plant requires more hours of sun, it can be moved to “follow the sun.”
Smaller size planting area – it is easier to plant a container (or several containers) than an entire garden. Less digging and preparation, easier watering.
Location – having your salad greens near the kitchen door is definitely an advantage. Also, vegetables are “cleaner” since they do not get the splatter of dirt from the garden path.
Impact on others – HUGE! Friends of all ages – oldsters to youngsters — have found it fun to help pick lettuce, kale and onions from the container garden right outside the kitchen door.
Judy English is a Washington State University-certified, Clallam County Master Gardener.