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Get creative with containers

Vegetables and flowers dont have to grow in the ground


by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Jerry Anderson plants vegetables and flowers in almost anything he find.With all the options for small-space gardens, excitement may be hard to contain.

If you have a balcony, windowsill or doorstep, you have enough space to garden.

Jerry Anderson has been gardening for decades, and works at the Washington County Fairgrounds demonstration gardens as a member of the Tualatin Valley Garden Club and Master Gardener.

Anderson loves getting creative with containers.

Bags, barrels, baskets, troughs, jugs, window boxes -- they’re all homes for plants.

“It’s all about figuring out how to recycle and reuse without spending a lot of money,” Anderson said.

Containers aren't merely a solution to a lack of space. They can be a conscious stylistic choice for drab areas that bring, along with accompanying foliage, structure through pottery and a funky vibe through boxes and bags.

Sun-loving plants can follow shifting shade; those prone to wilting can be moved into shade during the heat of the day; cold-sensitive plants can be moved indoors or into greenhouses during winter; drought-intolerant plants can be moved to a water source.

Most containers are also higher off the ground, reducing bending for those with limited mobility.

Anderson grows tomatoes and peppers in fabric bags. They help keep the roots compact and the plants smaller, he said. Also, when the season is over, dump the soil out and fold up the bag -– no storing a bulky container or moving heavy pots.

by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Anna Stubbs tends this table top garden, which is ideal for those who have difficulty bending or need support. Almost anything works to grow in, but never use wood that’s been treated with creosote or pentachlorophenol.

Anderson grows everything from artichokes to sunflowers in containers, but chooses varieties that will grow well restricted. He is especially fond of dwarf and miniature varieties.

This year, he’s going to try cabbage, baby bok choy, baby carrots and dwarf cucumbers. Gonzales cabbage reaches only four inches in diameter. Rocky and Alibi cucumbers, and Carrot Mignon, bambino and Little Finger carrots and are miniature varieties small enough for patio gardens.

Anderson will also plant bib lettuce, which he crowds so it can’t get too big. Little Gem lettuce is also a good miniature choice. Eggplants can also grow well in containers and are a good option for those who want to try the vegetable out in smaller portions, but they do need a lot of sun. Thompson & Morgan Seed Co. offers a patio mix packet of eggplant seeds, claimed to be ideal for pots on the patio. The company’s Pot Black eggplant variety is also a good size for containers.

Rambling Red Stripe tomatoes are not only tasty, but eye catching as well.

Don't forget the herbs -- many are great container growers. Parsley, catnip, mints, rosemary, sage, basil, oregano, lemon verbena, lemon grass and German chamomile are all great choices.

There are many varieties suited to container growing not mentioned here, so pick up a seed catalog and peruse even more options.

Healthy plants start with healthy soil, and container garden soils require a little different setup and maintenance.

Digging up soil from the ground to fill a pot will not work — it will be too heavy and soggy, Anderson said. Containers require a fairly light potting mix. To make your own mix, mix one part peat moss, one part garden loam, one part clean and coarse builders sand, and the recommended amount of slow-release balanced fertilizer. Adding lime will increase the pH of the soil.

Anderson fills his pots and troughs with one-third compost, one-third potting soil, and one-third vermiculite or perlite. He refreshes the top half of the soil mixture annually. by: NEWS-TIMES PHOTO: STEPHANIE HAUGEN - Jerry Anderson uses recycled chimney parts with wire on the bottom to contain his mint plants.

Container soil dries out faster than outdoor soil, and small pots tend to dry out faster than bigger ones. Watering twice a day in the heat of the summer may be necessary. Water until it runs out of the drainage holes (drainage holes are important). Overwatering can cause plants to drown.

Add more water-soluble fertilizer eight to 10 weeks after initial soil mixture, and apply every two to three weeks after that according to label directions. Over-fertilizing can burn or kill plants.

Anderson will teach a workshop on Square Foot Gardening, another space-saving method at the Forest Grove Senior & Community Center, 2037 Douglas St., from 2 to 3:30 p.m. on May 11.



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