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In the Garden

Pot Farming

by Nyssa

No, not that kind of pot!

This kind of pot farming! For those of you who don't have the room, time, or stamina to handle a full-bore vegetable garden, a garden such as this using a variety of pots is a viable and tasty alternative.

Assorted Vegetable Garden Pots image

Among the varieties of vegetables and herbs shown in this photograph are miniature carrots, a cherry tomato plant, chives, rosemary, mint, and dill. All of the pots are sturdy plastic that will last for years and were purchased for prices ranging from $1 to $6 each depending on size.

While terra cotta and ceramic pots may look lovely, keep in mind the added weight of the pot can make moving them around difficult once filled with soil mix and growing plants. Possible pot breakage can also be an issue of non-plastic pots to keep in mind. It would be inconvenient for a pot to break and necessitate re-potting in the middle of growing season.

Red Cayenne image

Most of the plants shown (except the mint and rosemary) were started from seeds indoors and transplanted outside into their permanent pots for the season once the weather had warmed up sufficiently. You can also choose to purchase plants at your local garden center, but you will have a more limited choice of varieties from which to choose than if you go the grow-'em-yourself route based on seed catalogue offerings.

There are many other vegetable items that can be grown with little effort in pots. No, you won't be able to grow your own fresh corn on the cob in a pot, but many other vegetables that would have been difficult to grow in pots previously now can boast varieties bred specifically for pot farming. These varieties can be found for cucumbers, miniature bell peppers, dwarf bok choy, and even a miniature eggplant that are happy in confined spaces as long as they get sufficient light, water, a bit of extra support for the tall or vining vegetable plants, and occasional side dressings of slow acting fertilizer for the heavier feeders.

New Red Fire Lettuce image

Good choices for pot farming include leaf lettuce, such as the New Red Fire leaf lettuce pictured, Adalaide or Little Finger carrots, Pot Pickles for cucumbers, most varieties of onions and scallions, and many varieties of small peppers such as jalapeños, tabasco, and paprika.

Larger varieties of tomatoes are not happy in pots and will have poor yields and will need frequent watering, extra support, and frequent feedings of extra fertilizer plus a much bigger pot.

Better choices are the cherry types such as SuperSweet 100, Jelly Bean in either the red or yellow variety, or medium sized tomatoes such as Roma or San Marzano are all dependable producers. Another option is Principe Borghese which is a popular tomato for dehydrating but is also tasty when used fresh. Keep in mind that during the hottest part of the summer, your pot tomatoes may need watering more than once a day, but will pay you back in better yields and better tasting tomatoes.

Browse a variety of seed catalogues or websites for other ideas of new varieties of your favorite vegetables that are recommended or bred for pot farming.

Jelly Bean Tomato image

Besides choosing the right varieties that are pot-friendly, the next most important factor is proper preparation of the soil you will use for those vegetables.

While most of the types of potting mixes offered in garden centers are a starting place for your pot farming, most will need to be amended with peat moss, time release vegetable fertilizer, and other materials meant to make your plants happy. Those commercial potting soils and mixes tend to compact over the season and don't have the extra moisture-retaining properties of the amendments that help ensure that your plants have the water handy that they need to thrive, so we need to give it a bit of help.

The mix I use for pot farming is comprised of equal amounts of commercial potting soil and peat moss, plus a generous handful each of vermiculite and perlite to help lighten the soil and retain moisture. Toss in a good handful of a slow release fertilizer meant for vegetables such as Scott's Vegetable Fertilizer which comes in a green bag. Mix well. I use a ten quart bucket for preparing the mix, then fill up the pots and make more mix as needed.The 12 inch diameter pots I use for tomatoes usually take at least two bucketfuls of mix.

Purple Cayenne image

If you have a source of compost handy, either from your own compost pile or from friends as an additive, that's even better since it gives your plants extra organic matter to make them happy. Use equal amounts of commerical potting soil, peat moss, and compost, then add in the other amendments as described above.

Add picking and eating to the need-to-do list too. Once the vegetables ripen, keeping them picked will keep them producing longer into the season making your efforts pay off for even more eating goodness.