Plant a Container Garden of Cool Edibles

Lynn Coulter
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 strawberries

Beat the summer heat when you plant a container garden with cool, refreshing edibles. As long as you’ve got a spot with plenty of sun, you can grow your favorite fruits, herbs and veggies in almost any container, from a patio planter to a half whiskey barrel.

Grow Sweet Berries

Berries and other fruits make delicious smoothies, lemonades, and other treats. Strawberries are especially sweet when picked fresh and ripe from your own plants. Grow them in strawberry jars or other containers where they’ll get at least eight hours of full sun.

While they do best in slightly acidic ground, strawberries also thrive in pots or planters filled with good-quality potting soil. Choose from June-bearing types, which bear over a three-week period, or everbearing varieties, which produce fruit through the summer and into fall.

There are advantages to growing strawberries, as well as blueberries and dwarf raspberries, in containers, rather than in the ground. Your fruits are less likely to be spoiled by slugs and other pests, and it’s easy to cover them with netting or simply move them away if hungry birds are around.

Berries need to be well-watered, so check them often by sticking a finger into the soil to see if it feels dry below the surface. You may want to tuck a layer of compost and mulch around the plants to help retain moisture.

 

strawberry lemonade

Grow your own Garnishes

Containers are perfect for growing garnishes for your beverages and favorite dishes. Containers also corral mints, which have a tendency to take over the garden if left unchecked.

Look for mints that smell like peppermint, spearmint, orange, lemon and apple. You can also grow basil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, dill, cilantro, and many other herbs.

Keep the pots or planters in a sunny spot near your kitchen or outdoor grill, and snip fresh sprigs when you need them. They’ll flourish with regular watering.

You can even plant a dwarf citrus tree, such as a Kaffir lime or Meyer lemon, in a container, and overwinter it indoors if you live in a cold climate. Sliced lemons and limes brighten the flavor of many foods and drinks.

herbs

Grow container vegetables

Salads and cold soups whip up fast with fresh vegetables. Cool down with a bowl of gazpacho, a cold soup made from tomatoes, or create a soup base from chopped cucumbers and yogurt.

For a cucumber container garden, choose a bush variety, or plant a vining type in a large container that can hold a trellis to support the plant as it grows. Give your cukes six hours or more of sun each day. Since cucumbers are heavy feeders, use a potting soil premixed with fertilizer.

Water the plants regularly, and harvest often. If allowed to overripen, cucumbers become bitter, and the plants slow down or stop bearing.

Tomatoes also need large containers, such as five-gallon pots or buckets. Keep the plants moist, give them full sun, and feed with a balanced fertilizer if your potting soil doesn’t already have fertilizer in it.

Patio tomatoes are bred especially for containers, but you’ll also get delicious results from cherry or grape types. Read the tags on your varieties to see if staking is recommended.

Best of all, a container garden means you don’t have to cook when you’re hungry or in a hurry. You can munch on cherry and grape tomatoes between meals, pick cucumbers for quick salads, or pop handfuls of berries for nutritious, on-the-go snacks.

How To Plant a Container Garden of cool edibles:

  1. Read the tags on your plants to find their size at maturity. Bush and dwarf varieties are usually your best bets. Choose a container that’s big enough to hold them, especially if you grow more than one plant per container. Note: grow only one tomato plant per container.
  2. Choose containers with drainage holes, or drill some holes in the bottom. Optional: Add a layer of gravel or broken pottery to improve drainage.
  3. Move your containers into place before filling them. They may be too heavy to move later.
  4. Fill the containers 2/3 full with potting mix.
  5. Add the plants and gently firm more soil around their roots. Water thoroughly to settle them in.

Strawberry image: Shutterstock/happtotakephoto

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