Weeds. Watering. Space. Critters. Soil amendments. There are a number of factors that affect the typical backyard garden. A savvy idea is to plant your garden in pots. Not just for geraniums anymore, a pot can be planted with veggies and herbs to give you a decorative yet functional option to an in-ground garden.
Start with a large pot — one that fits your space and your needs. A patio cherry tomato plant like a Supersweet 100 paired with a dill plant, some curly parsley, and a purple ruffle basil plant will not only give you a nice culinary treat, but also a visually appealing patio pot that needs nothing more than some drainage rocks in the base, a good soil mix, water throughout the season, and some fertilizer while it sits in the full sun of your deck or drive. Little to no weeding will be needed and some pruning keeps it in nice shape.
Lettuce and spinach, which you can snip off with scissors and let re-leaf throughout the summer, does well in a patio pot along with a pepper plant and a Patio Baby mini eggplant. Under plant with thyme to creep out the edges and down the sides of the pot. Some bronze fennel adds color contrast, height and texture. Add a nasturtium for a peppery edible addition to your salad. A bright geranium in the center can help ground the whole pot and add color until frost. Root crops require a deeper looser soil. Carrots, beets, potatoes, parsnips, etc., all need a deeper system to accommodate their growth.
Any container, as long as there is drainage, can help you become a patio farmer. Large decks or patios can accommodate a hard side kiddie pool that may have developed a leak or two or even a plastic tote that has holes punched into the bottom. Add rocks for drainage in the bottom where you have knocked a few more holes and add soil. Plant veggies and herbs much like a raised bed. Peppers, tomatoes, herbs, eggplant, summer squash, greens, pretty much anything will flourish in your pool planter. Be sure to water frequently and keep in the sun for most plants. You can extend your planting season earlier in the spring and later in the autumn with raised beds, covering with a light sheet if the weather dips below 40 degrees. So get started and make a splash with a vegetable garden. In late March, grab those old kiddie pools in the shed or garage. But plan your summer salad garden now.
l For gardening questions call the Linn County Extension Hortline at (319) 447-0647.