Thomas J. Story
If you have a sunny space for a pot on your patio or deck, you have enough room to grow summer vegetables. The trick to success with warm-season vegetables in containers is to choose compact varieties or to train vining crops like beans on vertical supports.
CONTAINERS. Large containers, ranging from 18 to 24 inches wide and 12 to 16 inches deep, provide plenty of room for roots and don't dry out as quickly as smaller containers. That translates into healthier plants that yield more produce. At Sunset, we've achieved good results with containers made of plastic, terra-cotta, and wood. Half-barrels work well too, as long as they have enough drainage holes.
POTTING SOIL. Start with a premium potting mix and supplement it with 1/2 cup of controlled-release fertilizer for each container. Or, if you prefer to use an organic fertilizer as we do in our test garden, blend three parts potting mix with one part aged chicken manure.
PLANTING TIPS. Press soil firmly around each seedling. When you're finished, the soil level should be 1 inch below the container's rim; if the soil settles after you water, add more.
At planting time, set trellises, tepees, or wire cages in containers to provide support for vining crops―pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes.
Water as often as needed to keep the soil as moist as a wrung-out sponge. In our test garden, we also fed plants with fish emulsion every 10 days and added a handful of complete organic fertilizer to each container every month.