Archive for February, 2011

Complimentary Vegetable Garden Plants

 Companion planting can greatly enhance the productiveness of a gardenComplimentary or companion planting can be an important factor when planning a vegetable patch. Some crops offer protection from pests and disease to other plants, while others spread disease to neighboring crops and should never be planted near or in place of each other. Herbs and flowers can also be good companion plants, providing not only protection but also making the garden more attractive. Beans Beans are a good source of nitrogen, so any plant that grows in the same spot following the beans will generally benefit from this. As the bean plants die back at the end of the season, they replace any nitrogen used up by heavy nitrogen users like corn. Beans are a good companion for carrots, corn, celery, peas, potatoes and brassicas. Potatoes These are particularly good to plant near cabbages, peas, onions and corn. Planting horseradish near potatoes can provide a good general protection by increasing their resistance to disease. There are several crops that should absolutely not be planted near potatoes, however, including tomatoes as they can encourage blight and contaminate both crops. Sweet Potatoes As these are not in the same family as the regular potato, sweet potatoes tend to do well among root crops like beetroot and parsnip. Sweet potato are more of a spreading crop and so don’t fair well with squash, which will try to compete for ground cover. Summer savory is a perfect companion for sweet potatoes as it tends to repel the sweet potato weevil. Broccoli As a calcium loving plant, broccoli is happiest near plants that require little calcium. Nasturtium flowers are a good choice and can provide an attractive ground cover beneath the broccoli plants. The flavor of the broccoli can actually be improved by planting celery and onion nearby. Other complimentary crops are beans, lettuce garlic, radish and potato. Herbs Planting herbs can be incredibly beneficial to nearby crops. They can be used to deter pests from attacking and can improve pollination. Basil is good near tomatoes as it helps to prevent white fly. Lavender, marjoram, basil, coriander, thyme and mint are all very attractive to bees and therefore encouraging pollination, which can increase yield. Rosemary helps to repel slugs, snails and cabbage fly, and sage equally is useful as it also keeps away cabbage white butterflies. Flowers French marigolds are particularly important, as they seem to be good at deterring pests. They are especially useful near tomatoes for repelling white-fly, which hate the smell of marigolds. The only downside is that marigolds tend to attract slugs. Catnip can also be useful for driving away ants and weevils, although unfortunately this can also encourage cats to roll in it. Geraniums are able to deter cabbage worms and are useful when planted near tomatoes, pepper and cabbage.

Bean Teepee

Bean Teepee Make a cool, leafy hiding place! Somewhere in your garden, create a fun hiding place for kids to keep cool in the Summer! What You Will Need: 4×4-foot Garden Patch 8-12 Bamboo Stakes (at least 6 feet long) String, Scissors, Pole Bean Seeds (such as Scarlet Runner Bean or Blue Lake)

What You Do: When the weather warms up, find a spot in the garden that is about 4 feet on each side. Make sure the ground is ready to plant by digging up the soil until it is crumbly. Tie stakes together at the top and set them upright in the middle of your garden patch. Spread the bottom ends of the stakes out to make a circle. Leave an opening between 2 stakes wide enough for a “door” into the teepee. Soak your bean seeds overnight to promote germination. Plant 4 or 5 seeds one inch deep at the bottom of each pole. Keep the seeds watered while they are sprouting. Once the seeds begin to sprout, they should find the stakes themselves and climb upward. If not guide them to be certain they cover the poles to form teepee. By mid-Summer, your bean teepee should be ready to play in! Spread a tarp or old blanket on the ground inside and invite your friends over!

Additional Ideas and Tips: If you want more color on your Bean Teepee, plant flowering vines along with the bean seeds — Morning Glories make a colorful addition. Chart the growth of your bean sprouts — a great math lesson!

Tips for Raised Beds

I’m often asked about gardening in raised beds. Here’s my answer: It’s one of the best ways to grow productive and healthy plants and, given the option, I’d choose raised beds every time. They allow for better control of drainage, the opportunity to create custom soil, a defined planting area and a more user-friendly work area, just to name a few of the benefits. Although raised beds can be as simple as mounding up soil into a deep wide planting area, I’ll address those with physical borders for this discussion. Here are some things to consider when building your own: Materials Anything to retain the soil works, from scrap concrete to lumber to railroad ties, etc. Even composite wood, made of recycled plastic and wood fiber, is becoming more popular. I prefer a non-treated, rot-resistant lumber such as cedar. Pressure-treated wood is less expensive and readily available, but there is some debate around the safety of its use, especially if using these beds for edibles. Height I have had excellent success with beds that are 12 inches tall. This gives plant roots a great environment for expansion and growth. However, a six-inch bed height is adequate if your soil is well amended. Some raised beds are even a back-saving waist high to minimize bending over. As long as the soil is well amended, anything over six inches is a bonus. Length and width Length is completely optional and limited primarily to your physical space. Width, on the other hand, is more important. Beds should be wide enough to allow for at least two rows of plants. Three rows are desirable in many cases. However, don’t make the bed so wide that you can’t reach into the center. All the beds on the Fresh from the Garden set were 12 feet long and three feet wide. The plants grew well, and I was always able to plant at least two rows across. However, I think a bed that is four feet wide is ideal and provides even more planting options. Other considerations When using flexible material such as lumber, the pressure of the soil will cause the wood to bow out. You should provide staking halfway down the length and secure the wood to it to prevent this outward bowing. If using wood, build the frame so that the wood grain on all boards is facing inward. Otherwise, they may pull away and curve toward the outside as the wood dries and weathers. Not only is this unsightly, but it can also pull the screws or nails out as well, making your beds less secure. Speaking of screws, I prefer them instead of nails for securing the wood. Screws are forgiving if you make a mistake. But be sure to use all-weather wood screws with a length of at least three inches. To prevent splitting, it is a good idea to drill pilot holes first, especially toward the ends of each piece. Premade kits are now readily available that include connecting joints and hinges so you can configure your bed shape and height just about anyway you’d like. These devices make bed setup a snap, and no construction is required. When it comes to simplicity for raised-bed construction, these kits are ideal. You can find them through many catalog and mail-order garden-supply companies. If you really want to have a beautiful and productive garden, give raised beds a try. They’ve never been easier to make and the advantages for you and your plants are numerous. Even better, they’ll be there waiting on you season after season. What could be easier?

Growing Herbs

Alice May Brock, who inspired Arlo Guthrie’s famous ’60s song, Alice’s Restaurant, knew that flavor is key to culinary culture: “Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.”

For those who love the flavor of the Italian countryside, with its fresh vegetables and savory pasta, there is no better way to dabble in cuisine than by growing your own herbs. Dried remnants of a previous harvest can’t hold up to the fresh bunches from the market. But even the slightly wilted market clippings can’t rival the unique bite of freshly picked herbs.

The reason they’re so different? The moment you pick an herb, its aromatic oils begin to evaporate through tiny pores in the leaves. Even those bought at today’s farmer’s market will have already lost some of their punch.

If you’re a novice gardener or have just a little space, follow Brock’s advice and plant some oregano. It is the quintessential Italian flavor, derived from a tough perennial that will last for years. They’re also so vigorous they’re downright hard to kill, so even a rank beginner will find success.

Oregano is the herb for spaghetti sauce and homemade pizza. It’s a tough little ground-hugging perennial that goes by Oreganum vulgaris, which is hardy to Zone 5. Mediterranean in origin, it will tolerate a surprising amount of heat and drought. Don’t worry about soil, because these plants are native to dry rocky soils, so beware of overwatering, particularly in heavy clay soils. To ensure the highest oil content, oregano requires at least a half-day of direct sun daily, preferably more.

These plants spread underground stems. If you know someone with an established herb garden or patch, chances are he or she will be happy to dig you up a clump. Just replant in full sun and well-drained soil to start your own source. If you are given more than a single clump, spot the oregano into various places around your landscaping to provide a much larger source for cutting.

If you live in a climate colder than Zone 5, you can try a different approach with this fast-growing perennial. At the end of the season — after frost comes, but before the ground freezes — dig your oregano and pot it up to bring indoors for the winter.

Where it is hardy, oregano will die back to the ground with the first frost of fall. It remains dormant until spring temperatures rise enough to stimulate new sprouts from the roots. For this reason, many gardeners cut their oregano to the ground in late fall to harvest and dry the foliage.

While you can dry oregano by hanging it in upside-down bundles, it’s so short-stemmed this isn’t the most efficient choice. The best way is to use an old window screen. Take the freshly cut oregano pieces apart, then strip the leaves from the hard stems. Scatter the leaves on the screen in a single layer. Place the screen in a dark, well-ventilated place such as a garage or closet for a week or two. This allows the leaves to maintain their oils while slowly drying out. Drying herbs in the sun is tempting because it’s quicker, but much of the flavor will be lost to evaporation. Once it is dry, store oregano in an airtight container to prevent further evaporation of the oils.

Container Gardens

Gardening is a hobby that is becoming more and more popular for many reasons. Vegetables grown at home are less expensive, often more flavorful and the home gardener can control what chemicals come into contact with the food. While many Americans do not have the room for a traditional garden, most everyone can have a container garden. Here are some tips to help your container garden be more fruitful.

Containers that are used for vegetable or other gardening are more susceptible to drying out. Containers almost always need some amount of water each day, unless it rains. Many items exist to help with this process (such as timer run drip systems), but the standard watering pail will do the job just as well.

Another way to deal with the rapid dissipation in containers is to mulch the tops of the containers. While mulching an entire traditional garden can be quite a chore, proper mulching of containers for gardening is easy and requires little mulch. A layer of mulch on a container will help to keep moisture in the soil in the pot.

Ironically, containers are also more likely to be over watered than traditional gardens. Drain holes need to be present in the bottom of each container. Before planting, gardeners need to cover the holes with screen, loosely woven cloth or similar items to keep roots and other items from plugging the drain holes.

While sunlight is certainly needed, those scorching hot days of summer can be rough on plants. This is yet another advantage of container gardening, as the containers can be moved out of the sunlight for a few hours. A shade screen is another option and can be put up to limit the direct sun certain times of the day without having to fool with it each day.

Container gardens can result in earlier and later fresh vegetables at your home. While late spring and early fall often have warm daytime temperatures, one cold night can kill the plants in a traditional garden. Containers allow a gardener to move vegetables into a garage or inside the house and protect them from the elements. Container gardening allows an extra month or maybe two of fresh vegetables without dealing with indoor grow lights.

Tricks and Tips

I love gardening tricks and tips that save me time, money, or effort. I’ve collected 10 of my favorite tips for you.

Hair clips make great plant ties.

1. Use hair clips to attach plants to stalks. This works especially well with tomatoes and dahlias. Just make sure the ends of the clip don’t pinch into the stem.

2. Sprinkle a little baby powder inside gardening gloves to make them easier to get off. This works especially well for tighter fitting gloves like Atlas nitrile, and when it’s really hot out and hands get sweaty.

3. Use crumpled aluminum foil and water to get rust off small tools like scissors or hand-held pruner blades. Yes, it really works. No, I didn’t believe it either before I tried it.

4. Use sealable plastic baggies as containers for starting cuttings. Mix one cup potting mix and one-cup vermiculite into the bag, stick in your cutting (using a rooting hormone if desired), and seal the bag. Keep it in a warm, bright place but not in direct sunlight. The bag keeps in humidity and there’s no need to water. It’s also easy to see when roots sprout at which time the seedlings need to be transplanted.

5. Use a clothespin in one hand to hold a rose branch while pruning with the other hand. I remember struggling to prune them. No matter how sturdy my gloves were, I always got poked. This seems to make a lot of sense.

6. Use metal hangers as single-stem plant stakes. Keep the hook shape to hold the stem and straighten and/or cut the rest to stick in the ground.

Old sleds, whether metal or plastic, make it easy to transport heavy or bulky items.

7. Use an old shower curtain as a tarp. This is extremely useful for lugging heavy things around without needing to first lift them up into and then down out of a wheelbarrow, and it’s great to place underneath shrubs you are pruning and then drag all the clippings away without needing to rake. I’ve always used an actual tarp or an old plastic or metal sled for this, but this is an even cheaper idea!

8. If using leaves as mulch, oak leaves take the longest time to break down, and their bitterness deters slugs and grubs. For composting, maple leaves are the best as they break down the quickest.

9. Add salt to soap to more easily clean dirty hands. This also works to remove dye from hands.

10. Spray paint the handles of wood gardening tools so it’s easy to spot them. I recommend yellow or orange, but any bright color will do. I prefer fluorescent, but that’s because a friend of mine always has some left over for me from his model rocketry hobby, and I just love orange. If you’re spraying a brand new handle, the paint may not adhere easily unless you sand the wood first. This trick was a lifesaver when I was working, using multiple tools at once over a large distance.

    Pop Bottles to Protect Plants

  1. Cut the top 2 to 3 inches off clear 2-liter pop bottles and place over small seedlings when replanting in an outdoor garden. The plastic allows sunlight to reach the plant while protecting it from pests and high winds. The protected plants require less water, as the dome shape retains moisture like a greenhouse. Remove when shoots reach the top of the bottle.

    A New Kind of Scarecrow

  2. Vegetables attract produce-munching pests like squirrels, birds and rabbits. Lay old, unwashed socks around your vegetable garden; the strong human odor scares away rodents. Old CDs, when hung from a shepherd hook with string, sway and glint in the sunlight, frightening squirrels and birds that attack vegetable plants.

    Working with Small Gardens

  3. Maximize space in small garden plots by utilizing upside-down planters for vegetables like tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers. These planters are composed of a large bag of soil with a small hole in the bottom that holds the plant, and can be made at home with a few simple supplies from your local home improvement store. Hang upside-down planters from shepherd hooks to maximize your space.

Pipes full of strawberries

I enjoy strawberries and have grown them in the usual manner in the past. (I still have evidence from that growing as weeds in the yard.) I was always dismayed at the amount of space they took up and sought another way. I had heard of strawberry jars and thought about that and then I saw hydroponically grown strawberries and thought that if it they’ll grow in a jar with soil and a pipe with liquid, maybe they grow in a pipe with soil. This is my third year experimenting with this method and it seems to be working much better now.

I use about a four foot section of 6″ PVC pipe, capped both ends and drilled ten 1 1/2″ holes along one side. There is also a small 1/4″ hole drilled into one of the caps for drainage. The pipes are filled vertically. The growing medium is sifted compost and peat moss. I used bare root strawberry plants. I filled the tube up to the first hole, added a plant, then more soil to the next hole add a plant until all holes were filled. Then the pipe is topped off and capped. The caps are snug, not permanently glued.

I used concrete blocks to provide a stable support for them when laying horizonally, but plan to use another structure to create a larger wall of strawberries. I water when the soil is dry to the touch and let nature take its course. The plants have set out runners that I may try to root and use them to fill next years tubes.

The best thing is there have been zero slugs and no dirty berries!

Vegetable Gardening in Containers

 

If your vegetable gardening is limited by insufficient space or an unsuitable area, consider raising fresh, nutritious, homegrown vegetables in containers. A window sill, a patio, a balcony or a doorstep will provide sufficient space for a productive mini-garden. Problems with soilborne diseases, nematodes or poor soil conditions can be easily overcome by switching to a container garden. Ready access to containers means that pest management is easier. Container vegetable gardening is a sure way to introduce children to the joys and rewards of vegetable gardening. 

 

 

 

Growing Media

Any growing media must provide water, nutrients, and a physical support in order to grow healthy plants. A good growing media must also drain well. Synthetic or soilless mixes are well suited for vegetable container gardening and may be composed of sawdust, wood chips, peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite. These are free of disease and weed seeds, hold moisture and nutrients but drain well and are lightweight. Many synthetic soil mixes such as Jiffy Mix

 

are available at garden centers. Soilless mixes can also be prepared by mixing horticultural grade vermiculite, peat moss, limestone, superphosphate and garden fertilizer. To 1 bushel each of vermiculite and peat moss, add 10 tablespoons of limestone, 5 tablespoons of 0-20-0 (superphosphate) and 1 cup of garden fertilizer such as 6-12-12 or 5-10-10. Mix the material thoroughly while adding a little water to reduce dust. Wet the mix thoroughly before seeding or transplanting. Soil mixes are made up of equal parts of sphagnum peat moss or compost, pasteurized soil, and vermiculite or perlite. Composted cow manure is then added to improve the soil’s physical properties and as a nutrient source. Soil mixes tend to hold water better than soilless mixes.

Containers

Almost any type of container can be used for growing vegetable plants. For example, try using bushel baskets, drums, gallon cans, tubs or wooden boxes. The size of the container will vary according to the crop selection and space available. Pots from 6 to 10 inches in size are satisfactory for green onion, parsley and herbs. For most vegetable crops such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant, you will find that 5 gallon containers are the most suitable size, while 1 to 2 gallon containers are best for chard and dwarf tomatoes. Smaller container sizes are appropriate for herbs, lettuce, and radish crops. They are fairly easy to handle and provide adequate space for root growth.

Container materials are either porous or nonporous. Glazed, plastic, metal, and glass containers are nonporous. Regardless of the type or size of container used it must drain adequately for successful yields. Adding about 1 inch of coarse gravel in the bottom of the container will improve drainage. The drain holes work best when they are located along the side of the container, about ¼ to ½ inch from the bottom.

Seeding and Transplanting

Vegetables that can be easily transplanted are best suited for container culture. Transplants may be purchased from local nurseries or can be grown at home. Seeds can also be germinated in a baking pan, plastic tray, pot, or even a cardboard milk carton. Fill the container with the media described above and cover most vegetable seed with ¼ inch to ½ inch of media to insure good germination. Another method is to use peat pellets or peat pots which are available from nursery supply centers. Landscape cloth or screen in the bottom of the pot will improve drainage and invigorate plant growth.

Any well-drained container can become a productive mini-garden.

Green onions, radishes or beets can be grown in a cake pan.

 

 

The seed should be started in a warm area that receives sufficient sunlight about 4 to 8 weeks before you plan to transplant them into the final container. Most vegetables should be transplanted into containers when they develop their first two to three true leaves. Transplant the seedlings carefully to avoid injuring the young root system. (See Table 2 for information about different kinds of vegetables.)

Fertilization

Available fertilizers will be either time-release or water soluble. Time-release fertilizer is mixed with the potting media at planting time. Osmocote® is a pelleted time-release fertilizer with 14-14-14 formulation. Water soluble fertilizers, on the other hand, are added to water and used when plants begin to grow actively. Peters® 20-20-20 or Miracle Gro® 15-30-15 are two examples sold in most garden centers.

The easiest way to add fertilizer to plants growing in containers is to prepare a nutrient solution and then pour it over the soil mix. There are many good commercial fertilizer mixes available to make nutrient solutions. Always follow the application directions on the label. You can make a nutrient solution by dissolving 2 cups of a complete fertilizer such as 10-20-10, 12-24-12, or 8-16-8 in 1 gallon of warm tap water. This mixture is highly concentrated and must be di

Covering the seed flat with a clear plastic bag will hasten germination.

A “tube” or bag garden is an easy method to grow vegetables.

Table 2. Planting Information for Growing Vegetables in Containers

 

 

 

Crop

 

 

Number of days for germination

 

 

Number of weeks to optimum age for transplanting

 

 

General size of container

 

 

Amount of light* required

 

 

Number of days from seeding to harvest

 

 

Beans

 

 

5-8

 

 

 

 

Medium

 

 

Sun

 

 

45-65

 

 

Cucumbers

 

 

6-8

 

 

3-4

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

50-70

 

 

Eggplant

 

 

8-12

 

 

6-8

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

90-120

 

 

Lettuce, leaf

 

 

6-8

 

 

3-4

 

 

Medium

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

45-60

 

 

Onions

 

 

6-8

 

 

6-8

 

 

Small

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

80-100

 

 

Parsley

 

 

10-12

 

 

 

 

Small

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

70-90

 

 

Pepper

 

 

10-14

 

 

6-8

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

90-120

 

 

Radish

 

 

4-6

 

 

 

 

Small

 

 

Partial Shade

 

 

20-60

 

 

Squash

 

 

5-7

 

 

3-4

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

50-70

 

 

Tomato

 

 

7-10

 

 

5-6

 

 

Large

 

 

Sun

 

 

90-130

 

 

Be sure to keep plants watered and watch for insects that can harm them. Enjoy the fruits of your labors.

Crop Selection

Almost any vegetable that will grow in a typical backyard garden will also do well as a container-grown plant. Vegetables that are ideally suited for growing in containers include tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes and parsley. Pole beans and cucumbers also do well in this type of garden, but they do require considerably more space because of their vining growth habit.

Variety selection is extremely important. Most varieties that will do well when planted in a yard garden will also do well in containers. Some varieties of selected vegetables which are ideally suited for these mini-gardens are indicated in Table 1.

Table 1. Varieties for Container Grown Vegetables

Broccoli (2 gallons, 1 plant)

Packman, Bonanza, others

Carrot (1 gallon, 2-3 plants. Use pots 2 inch deeper than the carrot length)

Scarlet Nantes, Gold Nugget, Little Finger, Baby Spike, Thumbelina

Cucumber (1 gallon, 1 plant)

Burpless, Liberty, Early Pik, Crispy, Salty

Eggplant (5 gallons, 1 plant)

Florida Market, Black Beauty, Long Tom

Green Bean (2 gallons minimum, space plants 3 inches apart)

Topcrop, Greencrop, Contender, (Pole) Blue Lake, Kentucky Wonder

Green Onion (1gallon, 3-5 plants)

Beltsville Bunching, Crysal Wax, Evergreen Bunching

Leaf Lettuce (1 gallon, 2 plants)

Buttercrunch, Salad Bowl, Romaine, Dark Green Boston, Ruby, Bibb

Parsley (1gallon, 3 plants)

Evergreen, Moss Curled

Pepper (5 gallons, 1-2 plants)

Yolo Wonder, Keystone Resistant Giant, Canape, Red Cherry (Hot), Jalapeno

Radish (1gallon, 3 plants)

Cherry Belle, Scarlet Globe, (White) Icicle

Spinach (1 gallon, 2 plants)

Any cultivar

Squash (5 gallons, 1 plant)

Dixie, Gold Neck, Early Prolific Straightneck, Zucco (Green), Diplomat, Senator

Tomato (5 gallons, 1 plant)

Patio, Pixie, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Toy Boy, Spring Giant, Tumbling Tom, Small Fry

Turnip (2 gallons, 2 plants)

Any cultivar

Growing Cucumbers, Peppers, Squash And Tomatoes In Containers

When garden space is limited, certain cultivars of cucumbers, peppers, squash and tomatoes can be easily grown in large containers with plants still producing the same amount as garden planted varieties.

In order to be successful you must first choose those varieties suitable for growing in containers. These varieties generally have a reduced growth habit and will not grow too large for a container. The seed packet information should include whether or not the cucumbers and squash varieties are suitable for container gardening. Most varieties of peppers and tomatoes are suitable for containers.

The biggest advantage to container growing is that you can grow them just about anywhere in the yard providing they get at least 8 hours of sunlight. They can be easily moved as needed and fruit can be harvested with ease. The disadvantage to container growing is that you have to watch the watering more closely as they are above ground and dry out quickly.

Type of Container

A standard type pot, the same height as diameter, with a diameter of at least 12 inches is recommended. A plastic pot will not dry out as rapidly as a clay pot and will require less watering. It is essential to have drainage holes in the bottom or root rotting will occur. Place a round fiberglass screen of the same shape and size as the pot in the bottom to prevent soil from washing out of the holes and to bar the entry of pests into the pot. Half whiskey barrels, black plastic pots and bushel baskets can also be used.

Starting the Plants

Pepper and tomato seeds can be started indoors in individual pots or in peat pellets as early as mid-March to April. You can also purchase already started plants in May. Cucumber and zucchini can be planted directly into the container as they are more difficult to transplant. These seeds can be sown early to mid-May.

For a fall crop, plant cucumber and squash seeds in early July. This produces a September harvest when the earlier plantings are beginning to decline. The potted plants can be moved into the garage during frosty fall nights extending the harvest into November.

Soil Mix

Because these plants are being grown in containers, you can mix the soil to the exact requirements, giving you better growth and production. They require a loose, well-drained soil generous in organic matter. A good mix consists of one part each of potting soil, perlite, sphagnum peat moss and compost. Garden soil should be avoided as it is likely to be infested with soil pests. When using compost, make sure temperatures during the composting process were high enough to kill pest organisms. Add a slow release fertilizer by following label recommendations to each pot. This provides additional nutrients slowly over a longer period when there is active growth and fruit production.

Water holding gels or hydrogels have been introduced recently to help reduce the watering requirements of container plants. These gels are either separate and can be added to the soil mix or can already be included in the mix. The gels help to retain moisture in the soil until it is needed by the plant.

Staking the Plant

Depending on the growth habit of the plant, it may be beneficial to stake it. Be sure to place the stakes in the pot before filling the soil and before you plant. There are several types of staking systems to use depending on the plant.

A good type of staking system to use with cucumbers is a teepee form that allows the plants to grow up the stakes. Tomato cages or stakes can be used to support tomatoes and peppers. Squash may or may not require staking, depending on plant growth habits.

Planting

Fill the container three-fourths full with the soil mix. Select stocky, vigorous plants and position the plant close to the stake and fill in the soil mix around the plant. Water thoroughly; if the soil settles, add more soil until it comes to within 3/4 inch of the top of the container.

For direct-seeding squash and cucumbers, fill the container close to the top and plant five to six seeds in the center of the pot, covering with 1/2 inch of soil mix. Water and keep the soil warm. After germination, cut off the seedlings except for the two largest to avoid overcrowding. After they reach a height of 8 to 10 inches, cut off one, leaving only one plant per container. Avoid pulling out the seedlings as this disturbs the roots of the remaining seedlings.

Growth

Place the container in a site with full sun and protection from the wind. Check the plants daily for watering needs. By mid-July, begin to use a fertilizer solution for supplemental feeding. Once a week give each plant a good watering with a water soluble fertilizer such as Peters 20-20-20 or Miracle Grow 15-30-15 at the recommended rate. Do not fertilize when the plants are dry-water them thoroughly first. Check plants daily for signs of insect and disease infestation. Keep mature fruits harvested to induce continued fruit formation. Refer to HYG-FactSheets 1608, 1618, 1620 and 1624 for individual, specific, cultural requirements.

Suggested Varieties

Cucumbers

  • Salad Bush Hybrid
  • Bush Champion
  • Picklebush
  • Spacemaster
  • Hybrid Bush Crop
  • Midget Bush Pickler

Tomatoes – Most varieties will grow in containers.

Peppers – Most varieties will grow in containers.

Squash

  • Burpee’s Butter Bush
  • Burpee’s Bush Table Queen
  • Bushkin Pumpkin
  • Bush Crookneck
  • Bush Acorn
  • Hybrid Jackpot Zucchini
  • Black Magic Zucchini

Growing Cucumbers In Containers

When you are ready to plant, be sure the weather consistently reaches 70 degrees. Then sow your cucumber seeds directly into the pots. Plant 6 or 8 seeds in a cluster about a half inch deep. When you see two sets of leaves on the seedlings, choose two or three of the seedlings that look strongest, and thin the rest. Do not pull the seedlings out of the soil, as you may damage the roots of the ones you wish to keep. Just cut or pinch the others off at the soil line.

The best things you can do to ensure successful cucumbers is to water very consistently, and to use a lot of fertilizer. Cucumbers grow very quickly and very well if tended properly. Cucumbers should be given a good, balanced fertilizer about once per week, and make sure their soil never, ever dries out completely. Dry soil will stunt their growth and make them bitter and hollow, so it is extremely important to keep them well-watered.

If you need help keeping the soil moist, you can spread a layer of peat moss or a light mulch mixture over the top of the soil in the container. This will help keep moisture in the soil longer, and will also help protect delicate surface roots.

You can raise four to six cucumber plants in a single 20-inch container if you have a four foot trellis set up behind the container. Cucumber plants do remarkably well when trained up a trellis, and doing so will help keep them off the ground and help maximize your space. Allowing the vines to grow on the ground not only takes up a lot of space, but puts the fruit at ground level, making them much easier for animals to steal.

It is important to harvest your cucumbers on a regular basis. You should pick them when they are fairly small. If you wait too long, they will become bitter. Not only that, but cucumber vines that have too many cucumbers reach full maturity will shut down production and will not produce any more cucumbers for the season! So you can see it is important to keep on top of your cucumber harvesting. The more often you harvest, the harder the plant will work to produce fruit, thus getting you maximum harvest from your plants.

Here are a few recommended varieties for growing cucumbers in pots:

Salad Bush – These cucumbers is small, only growing to about 8 inches in length. The vines are relatively short, making them ideal for growing in containers.

Suyo – This is a lovely Japanese variety that has very few seeds, and grows very long and crisp. The flavor is extraordinary, and they are very easy to grow. The do need a very strong trellis for support, because they grow quite long and large, sometimes over a foot in length!

Sweet Success – This variety is very popular because they are self-pollinating. The fruits are virtually seedless, but a few small seeds will form inside most of the fruits. If you harvest them early, there will probably be no seeds at all. The fruits typically reach about 10 inches in length, and they do require a good trellis because of their size and weight.

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