Now is the time to get planting if you want to enjoy fresh produce from your deck/back yard this summer. As a city dweller I’m lucky to have a very sunny deck that’s ideal for container gardening. I usually plant around 10 pots each summer with a mix of vegetables, herbs, and flowers.
My favorite (and most successful) veggie is definitely cherry tomatoes. I always plant at least two large pots. Even with plenty of sun, good soil, and regular watering these plants don’t produce as many tomatoes as they would if they were planted in a regular garden because of the restriction on their roots. I don’t find this to be a problem and still get lots of delicious tomatoes from my plants. My problem is I think they look so cute on the vine that I don’t always harvest them in time and sometimes they start to get funky.
I’ve also tried growing different lettuces, arugula, kale, peas, and green beans in pots, but haven’t found them to be as successful as the tomatoes. After five growing seasons on my deck I’ve narrowed it down to my cherry tomatoes and lots of herbs. This year I’m growing mint, basil, rosemary, and dill. I like to grow herbs that have strong flavors so I only need to cut a small bit to have the taste of fresh herbs in my cooking. I’ve tried growing parsley and chives, but found I basically needed to harvest the entire plant to have enough chopped herbs for certain recipes.
I also mix in pots filled with flowers to keep things bright and cheery. My favorites for long-lasting blooms are geraniums and begonias. Remember to keep cutting off the flowers when they die (so the plant doesn’t focus its energy on making seed pods and instead makes more flowers) and keep them well watered. I don’t often cut them for indoor arrangements, but you certainly could.
This year I also added a meyer lemon tree after I got hooked on lemons (see Lemon Brussels Sprout Pizza to learn more). I plan to bring the lemon tree indoors this winter to keep it protected from the cold. Supposedly once it gets large enough it will bear fruit all year long. We’ll see!
Finally, I keep a small pot of succulents in the center of our table on the deck. Succulents and cacti look good all summer long and can tolerate hot sun and limited water. Plus they are just so cool looking.
A few other things to keep in mind —
Only use organic potting soil and fertilizer for anything you plan on eating. I like the brand Coast of Maine. They make seaweed potting mixes and fertilizers that work really well.
Try to water your plants in the morning while it’s still cool so they are protected from wilting in the heat of the day. I water while my oatmeal is cooking in the morning.
Think about natural compost or fertilizers you can add to your pots throughout the summer. I often collect some seaweed at the beach or come home from VT with a bag of horse manure to spread in my pots. Your plants will thank you!
Gardening and working in the dirt is also good for you. Besides the obvious – stretching and working your muscles – there is research that shows working in the dirt improves your mood. I’m not totally sure of the science behind this, but I certainly find that it’s true. I always feel good after tinkering with my plants for an afternoon and getting some dirt under my fingernails.