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Grow a Summertime Container Garden

No space for a traditional garden? Plant a container garden for fresh cucumbers, eggplants, peppers and tomatoes all summer long.

| May/June 2014

  • Enjoy fresh food this summer with our tips for a successful container garden.
    Photo by Veer
  • Fast-growing cucumbers are perfect for a container garden.
    Photo by iStock
  • Eggplants are some of the best plants to grow in a summer container garden.
    Photo by iStock/Yiap
  • Small varieties, which produce fruit more quickly, are perfect for container gardens.
    Photo by GAP Photos/Elke Borkowski
  • If nights are chilly, provide transplants warmth by covering them with plastic-bottle cloches.
    Photo by GAP Photos

Whether you don’t have garden space or you want a few mobile crops, planting in containers can be extremely fulfilling and productive. But which plants are best and what do you need to know to create a superb container garden? Read on for our tips on planting, crop selection and troubleshooting your summer container garden.

Container Planting 101

Your new pots are waiting. Your potting soil is ready to go. You’ve gathered seed packets and eager small plants. Now what?

When you’re ready to get your plants going, start by filling your containers with potting soil up to about 2 inches from the top, and water thoroughly. Now you’re ready to plant seeds or baby plants. Planting seeds directly is simplicity itself; just follow the instructions on the seed packet for depth and spacing. Thin extra seedlings with scissors once they sprout.

Moving transplants into containers takes a little more attention. Make sure the potting mix is lightly and evenly damp; thoroughly water baby plants and let them drain while you proceed. With your trowel, dig a hole about as deep as the small containers your seedlings were grown in. Slide out the baby plant and all its soil. Try to keep intact the soil ball around the transplant. If you see a mat of roots twisted at the bottom, untangle them and trim back the longest ones. Fit the plant and its soil ball into the hole, and fill with extra potting mix. Tamp the soil lightly, and move on to the next plant. When everything is in, water the entire container to help plants settle.

If possible, plant transplants when cloudy weather is forecast for the next few days; bright sun is hard on tender transplants.

Best Container Garden Crops

Some of the best plants for a summer container garden include crunchy cucumbers, creamy eggplants, colorful peppers and juicy tomatoes. Follow these tips for growing each warm-season treasure in containers.

8/6/2014 3:58:14 PM

Thanks for the article! I think some of the best advice (and advice I don’t often see), is to loosen/trim roots, and plant on cloudy days. I often buy seedlings that are marked down—so they’re often overgrown, struggling, etc. It’s important to spend a little time on the root ball before planting. Also, I don’t think a lot of new gardeners realize how harsh the sun is for new plantings. A gradual introduction to full sun conditions can be very important to the success of the plant. This raised planter from Nature Hills is a classy way to contribute to a container garden:

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