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Reap benefits of container gardening

Gardening in containers is much like gardening in the ground; think of it as gardening a small plot. You don’t need an acre to enjoy your own garden of edible delights.

I’ll be doing a workshop about all you need to know to grow vegetables and herbs in containers every Saturday in February at 8:30 a.m. at the Springs Preserve at 333 S. Valley View Blvd. You’ll also create your own container of plants to take home. The workshop also will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Sundays.

Here are some of the positive aspects of growing vegetables and herbs in containers:

■ It’s perfect for all kinds of people: kids, physically impaired, college students, renters, novice gardeners or any gardener wanting to cut back, downsize and save time.

■ Container growing takes less time than conventional gardening.

■ You control growing conditions such as soil, water, sunlight and nutrients.

■ It doesn’t require much money or tools.

■ All vegetables are just as easy to grow in containers as in the garden.

■ You eliminate complaints such as shade and poor-quality soils.

■ You can fit containers to your location: balcony, deck, stoop, concrete pad or any part of your yard.

■ In the spring, you’ll get an earlier start.

■ You can grow plants vertically to save space and use your exterior walls.

■ Digging or tilling isn’t an issue.

■ Weeds and soil-borne diseases won’t be a problem.

Eleanore Lewis of the National Garden Bureau came up with some wonderful theme combinations for growing vegetables and herbs in containers.

She suggests creating your container garden in large barrels or at least 24-inch diameter pots to make displays more effective. Grow the ingredients for your favorite sauces or vegetable dishes in one of her gardens.

Salsa garden: Plant a bush-type tomato, jalapeño pepper and cilantro. Sow cilantro seeds around the edges of the container.

Pesto pot: Plant basil, garlic, chives, and parsley.

Rainbow planter: Plant red patio-type tomato, a purple or white eggplant, a couple of decorative yellow, orange or purple sweet peppers. Plant green and purple-leaved basils around the container edges.

Fine herbs box: Plant tarragon, chives, parsley, thyme and chervil.

Bouquet garni bonanza (bundles of aromatic herbs tied together to flavor soups): Plant chervil or parsley, thyme and marjoram around a centered sweet bay tree.

Stir-fry selection: Plant Chinese (narrow) eggplant, any hot pepper, cauliflower and bok choy. Sow snow peas and bok choy now and again in the early fall for a late harvest.

Salad bowl: Plant a patio tomato and sweet pepper in the center of a container or at each end of a rectangular one, two cucumber plants, near the edge to spill over, without support, and radishes, onions and colorful leaf lettuces in vacant spaces.

Soup mix: Plant lemongrass, thyme, parsley, chives, chervil and scallions.

Seasonal garden: Plant colorful varieties of leaf lettuces followed by beans on a tepee when you plant lettuce. Sow colorful Swiss chard while lettuce is still growing to provide it shade. Sow beans in late summer where lettuce was and while beans continue to produce.

Kids’ garden: Plant radishes, a tomato plant, bush beans, basil and carrots. Set the tomato plant in the center. Alternate clumps of basil and bean seeds in a circle around the tomato. Sow mixes of radishes and carrots seeds together around outer edge; they will harvest radishes before carrots need more space to grow.

I can’t stress enough the importance of planting cool-season vegetables now. Our summers are so devastating that waiting to plant in April will drastically reduce the quality of your produce.

On average, March 15 is our last frost date. Seed packets will tell you to plant the following vegetables four to six weeks before the last frost: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kohlrabi, beets, carrots, turnips, radishes, rutabaga, potatoes, parsnips, lettuce, parsley, spinach, mustard greens, collards, Swiss chard and endive.

Vegetable containers must be big enough and at least six inches deep to support fully grown plants. Use barrels, baskets or different sizes of boxes. Place trailing plants around planter edges to soften the view of containers. Also, use lightweight planting mixes from your nursery.

Watering becomes your chief task now. Because of the small amount of soil in the containers, they will dry up quickly. Put in a drip system to lighten that chore. Nurseries have a wide range to select from.

Linn Mills’ garden column appears on Sundays. He can be reached at linn.mills@springspreserve.org or 822-7754

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