The ground in Western Washington is still cold from the wet spring, so wait a few more weeks to plant heat-loving plants such as tomatoes, cucumbers, geraniums, zinnias and especially tropical plants like coleus.
You can plant in containers now as potting soil is warmer than the soil in the ground and plants in pots are more protected.
Make this the summer you harvest crops from pots. Growing edibles in containers is often easier than in the ground as potted plants require less weeding — but more feeding, and you do need to water more often.
The easiest-to-grow edibles for containers in our climate are hardy herbs such as oregano and thyme and leafy greens such as Swiss chard, spinach, lettuce and kale. Bushy or compact vegetable varieties such as cucumbers, squash and bush beans also do well in containers. My vote for the best crop in a pot has got to be tomatoes. If you have a hot and sunny patio or porch, pot up a tomato plant. The small size tomatoes are sometimes called patio tomatoes and varieties such as the yellow pear, Sweet 100and Sweet Million are perfect for beginners.
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BUSHELS OF BERRIES IN TUBS
Blueberries love to grow in containers: A container the size of a half whiskey barrel is large enough for a blueberry bush to thrive about 7 years without repotting. You’ll get a lot more berries if you have at least two types of blueberries (give each their own pot) that flower at the same time for cross pollination.
Local nurseries carry the best blueberry varieties for our area, and many are now compact or dwarf varieties perfect for pots. Blueberries love acid soil. Add 30 percent peat moss to regular potting soil and feed each spring with a rhododendron and azaleas food made for acid loving plants. Blueberries thrive in moist soil and need at least half day of sun, but full sun produces the most bountiful harvest.
Raspberries made for pots: The new raspberry varieties that are dwarf or more compact such as ‘Raspberry Shortcake‘ will allow even balcony growers to enjoy fresh picked berries. You will need to prune out the old growth each spring as raspberry plants bear fruit on two-year-old canes. The advantage of growing raspberries in containers is that you won’t have to deal with all the underground roots trying to spread out and take over your garden bed.
Strawberries can dangle from your patio: The everbearing strawberry varieties ripen twice in the summer so you can enjoy fresh fruit all summer long. Hanging baskets of strawberries take up little room, and as long as you give them sunshine and remember to feed and water, you too can be an urban farmer. I suggest buying strawberry baskets already planted from a local nursery that are already in bloom or starting to form berries. That way you’ll know you are buying the correct variety for our climate and that they are growing in the proper type of soil and in a pot the right size to produce fruit.
Marianne Binetti has a degree in horticulture from Washington State University and is the author of several books. Reach her at binettigarden.com.
10 a.m., May 20: “Weed Wars: How to win the battle without upsetting Mother Nature.” Windmill Gardens, 16009 60th St. E., Sumner. Register at 253-863-5843 or binettigarden.com. $5 fee.