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Container gardens!

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Oh dear. I looked at the date and then realized I have been a total putz as far as keeping up with this. My apologies to me for this. I am sure anyone reading this has not even noticed the dates on the postings…..

I am writing this post without access to the internet. I can’t remember the philosophy I had developed for this blog. I do know that I have a couple of goals with this blog. One is to pass along any knowledge, insight and lore I can and at the same time hone my writing skills.

I am at my mother-in-law’s place. Her home is on Temperance Lake, just south of Athens Ontario. I just finished writing a post for my other blog and am going to allow some of that information leach into this post.

“You create your own universe as you go along.” – Winston Churchill

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else.” – Yogi Berra

We have a very loose plan for our gardens. We know we will put “colour” here or there. We know we want “upright” there, and perhaps get as specific as “paeonies” there. From that basic plan we can develop and move our gardens as we decide it needs to move. 20 years ago our back yard was in the blazing sun. Now with 20 years growth on trees is it sunny, shady and semi shady. The original ideas are still there, but the plants have changed as the sun exposure has.

The gist of all of this is we do not have a vegetable garden any more. I love having a veggie garden. Alas, no sun. So…..

Container gardens!

I plant a couple of tomato plants and a pepper plant in a container on my mother-in-law’s deck. She actually has several tomatoes on it and they are sizing up nicely.

I was bored one day and made a planter for our deck in Milton Ontario. I made it from a handful of 1×2, 1×4 and 2×2 SPF common lumber. I slapped it together for about $40 and it took me about 3 hours.

I have planted tomatoes, good slicing tomatoes for sandwiches. And some cherry tomatoes for salads and grilling. I also planted 8 peppers at one end. I used the space in front of the tomatoes and peppers to plant salad greens.

There are several of things think about when starting to grow vegetables in a container garden.

  1. Soil – what kind of soil are you thinking of using. Soil seems to be the downfall of many people trying to get “into” gardening. One thing you must remember is there are no real rules governing the quality of soils for sale in Ontario – or the rest of Canada as far as I know.

DO NOT DIG SOIL OUT OF YOUR GARDEN AND TRY TO GROW CONTAINER PLANTS IN IT. IT WON’T WORK. Sorry for shouting, I’m tired of cheap people trying to save a nickel in the wrong spot.

You are at the whim of the packager of the soil products. I have seen companies selling soil that especially made for container growing of vegetables and it is nothing other than their “regular” potting soil in a different bag. And then there are other companies that package a really good soil developed for vegetables.

I personally really like using Pro-Mix BX with Mycorrhizae. Mycorrhizae are specialized fungus that help a plant grow better. I will write a blog especially about mycorrhizae some time later. Pro-Mix is a soilless mix developed for the greenhouse industry. You will have do do your own research.

  1. Size and Drainage – Make sure the containers you are using are large enough to accommodate the plants roots in July, August and September. If it looks cute and well balanced when you plant in May its too SMALL! That tiny little tomato plant that is 4” tall in May will be 4’ tall in July!

Make sure that there are sufficient drainage holes in the container. Sitting water rots plant roots.

  1. Water – For goodness sake, water your plants. Properly. Allow the plants to dry out a little bit between watering and then make sure you put enough water on the soil so the soil gets completely saturated and about 10% of the water you add comes out the bottom of the pot. What this does is allows the water to leach out any excess fertilizer salts that may have accumulated. This also pushes all of the “stale” air out of the soil and introduces “fresh” air.
  1. Fertilizer – the word “Fertilizer” is not a four letter word. The proper use of fertilizers is important when growing plants in containers – especially vegetables. Most fertilizers you will find for vegetables at garden centres has a high level of phosphorous. If you went to visit a commercial vegetable farm they are likely using a fertilizer with a high level of potassium. Why the difference? Many fertilizer companies are marketing companies and not interested in the long term success of their customers’ plants.

Potassium is important as it is used within the plant to develop strong cell walls and therefore strong (and tasty fruit). And yes, a tomato is a fruit. So is a pepper. So is a cucumber. Lettuce is a leaf. A carrot is a modified stem. Getting the picture? It is a challenge fertilizing these different plant parts from the same package of fertilizer.

Ignore the fertilizer names

Look at ratios:

15-15-30 is a 1:1:2 ratio fertilizer. Perfect for most vegetables.

15-30-15 is a 1:2:1 ratio fertilizer. Good for flowering plants.

Whatever you decide to use follow the directions. Some person went into debt to send their kid to university to study and get a job writing directions on fertilizer packages. Have the decency to follow those instructions and LESS IS MORE! Never, ever, ever add extra fertilizer. It is unlikely you will kill your plant, although that can happen, it is more likely you will have a gigantic plant with no flowers and therefore no fruit later in the season.

I will write more about the containers later. I will talk to you about pruning and training your plants.

Happy growing!

As always, if you have any questions please contact us.

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