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HomeGrown for June 16, 2011

Container Gardening
by Carol Dunn
HUERFANO- Most of us have seen container gardens of flowers. But growing vegetables in containers is also an option for people who don’t have space – or the energy – to plant a typical garden. With containers, you can move your plants to take advantage of the best sunlight or shade, you can avoid damage from burrowing pests, and you can move the pots to a sheltered place in the event of hail or an early season frost.
Some vegetables are more suited to container gardening than others. For instance, tomatoes, lettuce, herbs, peppers and cucumbers will all produce a crop when grown in pots.
The container you use must have holes in the bottom for drainage, with a layer of broken pottery or small rocks on the bottom obscuring the holes but not blocking them. If the drainage is not adequate, your plants will end up drowning in waterlogged soil. Porous containers, like terra cotta, will dry out faster than nonporous containers, like plastic. An ideal container is a glazed ceramic pot, because the glaze keeps it from drying out so fast. Avoid using containers made from treated lumber, because the chemical will leach into the soil and ultimately into your plants. Remember that small pots will need to be watered more often than larger pots.
The best soil to use in containers is a mix of garden soil with potting soil. Water retaining crystals can be added to help hold moisture and release it slowly to the roots.
For planting in containers, choose plants that are described as dwarf or bush-type. These will adapt to growing in containers better than standard varieties.
After you have planted your container, make sure it gets watered regularly. In our climate, this often means daily. And if it is particularly hot or windy, you may need to water twice a day. Check the moisture in the soil by pushing your finger into it about an inch deep. The soil should feel cool but not make your finger wet. When watering, apply the water at the base of the plant, not only on the leaves. Add water until it begins to run out the bottom of the container. The best time to water the container garden is in the morning or evening. Fertilize the container garden two weeks after planting and about every two weeks after that.
The web site has a useful Guide to Container Gardening that lists which vegetables do well grown in containers. With a little planning and regular attention, even on a small scale, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

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