Container Kitchen Gardens

It’s not too late to consider container kitchen gardening this year. Many expensive-to-buy herbs and produce grow well in containers, right on your deck or patio. It’s very convenient to just step out of the kitchen to water as well as harvest your garden. I like the idea of planting edibles; they are just as pretty as flowers and if I'm going to water, why not have something for the table. Generous watering, however, is a must, sometimes twice a day in hot weather.  Nothing goes to waste because it's so visible and handy.  Our next-door neighbors on both sides have followed suit this Spring.
Our doorstep garden this year and from the last 2 years.
We like tomatoes, peppers, salad greens and herbs for our container garden. We plant a different variety in each pot, with the exception of herbs. I have to have 2 pots of parsley and chives to satisfy the demands of our kitchen. We also plant basil and sage. The chives and sage are cut back in the fall and left in their pots outside all winter here in Southern Iowa. They have come back each spring, even after a particularly bad winter this year. I cut the herbs in the fall, before the first frost, chop them, and combine them with softened butter, form them into logs, and freeze them for use all winter. This works just as well in small containers or freezer bags with olive oil. I just chip off what I need to season pasta, turkey dressing, vegetables or soups for that really fresh taste of the garden.
What can I say about tomatoes – I plant 3 varieties to minimize the effects of disease, and I don’t plant them all at once. We love peppers, and I tried a new variety (to us), Redskin, last year with great success. We also like both green and yellow peppers. We use at least 5 gallon pots or buckets for tomatoes and peppers. If I have (and I usually do) more tomatoes than we can eat fresh, I make my very favorite, tomato jam, and then tomato soup and spaghetti sauce. I use the basil and peppers in these too, and also freeze the remaining peppers.
Lettuce, spinach, radishes and basil grow very well in shallow boxes or window boxes. I keep mine on a outdoor shelf to defeat the neighborhood rabbits. Although lettuce will come back after cutting, it will get bitter and bolt when it gets too hot. I reseed lettuce and spinach in late August for another round of salads. I make pesto from the last of the basil and freeze it before the first frost – basil is very tender.
The other big advantage of container gardening is the ease of either covering them or moving them to shelter if we have a late Spring or early Fall frost. We had a frost on May 9 this Spring, and I just moved the 2 tomato plants I had started under my patio roof. The rest of my early garden, lettuce, radishes, spinach, and chives, sage and parsley, weren’t bothered by the light frost and will last longer in the cool weather. I don’t plant basil and peppers until after May 15th here.  I have also found it worthwhile to cover or move my garden pots for the first fall frost; I frequently get another 2 or more weeks before we get regular frosts.
The obvious last big advantage to container gardening is no weeding. The tradeoff is more watering. The payoff is fresh garden produce and herbs for the table all summer, right by your door.

7 comments:

  1. I love to container garden! I don't have the largest in ground garden, so I make up for it with a lot of containers. I especially like those self-watering containers that you just fill up and you are good to go. Of course, it doesn't get nearly hot enough during the summer to be watering twice a day...well maybe a week at the end of July it would be hot enough for twice/day waterings :-)

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  2. I am trying a few containers this year. Hopefully I can keep them watered enough!

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  3. I love this! I have decided to do a lot more container gardening this year, but I just have all the pots in my greenhouse and around the regular garden. Now I am going to have to choose some to bring up on my porch! I hope mine are as pretty as yours :)

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  4. Wow! Your plants look so healthy and beautiful!! I'm speechless!

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    1. I think that's one of the advantages of container plants - they are not as exposed to garden diseases and you can put them where you want them. I do wash and bleach my containers at the end of the year, and use fresh soil for tomatoes especially in the spring. When you have just a few that close, you can check for diseases and insects more easily too.
      I have usually had a raised-bed garden, but I still like herbs, especially, close to the kitchen, and either flower beds or containers have worked for us.

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  5. That photo of all those red peppers in the pot; can you tell me what kind those are? I've never had peppers produce so prolifically! Might be our east Idaho temps though.

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    1. The peppers were the variety "Redskin". I bought the started small plant - I haven't been able to buy them again. Next year I may have a good place to start seeds myself again. They were the best peppers I have ever grown - prolific, fairly good sized and they got red right away.
      A sister variety in yellow-orange is Mohawk - we planted those last year and although not quite as good, they were still excellent.

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