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Finding the Right Plants for a Container Garden

Jul 15, 2008
Container gardening is so convenient that it's surprising that more people don't take it up. A wide variety of vegetables, herbs and fruit can be grown in pots. Herbs are the most popular, followed by vegetables. People don't choose to grow fruit in containers as frequently as the other edible plants, perhaps because it's considered to be too difficult.

However, strawberries are an excellent choice for a container garden, and they grow very well in an assortment of different pots. This is a very resilient plant, and is sometimes grown in "grow bags" made just for that purpose, which can be hung up just about anywhere outside.

Another fruit that lends itself well to container gardening is a dwarf fruit tree. A number of small citrus trees develop well in large pots, and if you trim them frequently they can make a gorgeous addition to your interior decor. Quite a few varieties of dwarf berry bushes will also grow quite successfully in containers, including raspberries and blueberries. One drawback is that they typically weigh a lot and can't be moved around very easily.

Herbs are the first choice for container gardens because they do so well in this environment. Popular choices include parsley, basil and chives. Cilantro is another herb that takes well to being cultivated in a container. Indeed, most herbs thrive in containers.

The trick is to select a container that's not too small for the variety of herb you're growing. Some herbs, because of their smaller size, are better suited to a small pot, for example chives, parsley, and basil. But many herbs grow much larger. For instance, sage needs a large container because it's a bush. Another space consuming herb is oregano, so you'll need a larger pot to grow it.

Even though it's actually a fruit, most gardeners include tomatoes in their vegetable plot. And there's no reason not to add them to your container garden, as well. Great tasting tomatoes are hard to come by. The tomatoes you buy in the store are harvested when they're green and become ripe through artificial means so that they can be transported with less risk of damage and extend their shelf life. Many types of tomato take well to being grown in a container, particularly small varieties such as cherry, grape and roma tomatoes.

Other veggies that are frequently planted in containers are carrots, peas, beans, cucumbers, lettuce, squash, radishes, peppers and scallions. Even potatoes and corn have been known to grow in a pot! In fact, almost all vegetables can be planted in a container if you maintain them properly.

You can start your plants from seedlings that can be obtained at the local nursery, but some people like to grow their own starter plants in small pots inside, transplanting them into a larger container when they've matured sufficiently. Another option is to plant seeds directly into a full sized pot, but there's a chance you might damage the fragile seedlings while you're thinning them. It's simpler to just buy a seedling and plant it, but you might find more pleasure in starting from scratch.
About the Author
Sarah Duke is publisher of The Vegetable Patch, where you'll find lots of great advice for growing your own vegetable garden.
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