As part of my design service I’m often asked to include large raised planters for vegetables made of brick or landscape blocks with garden soil and irrigation included. My next three questions sometimes change the request. The first question I ask is, “How long has it been since you grew vegetables?“ and the second is, “Are you willing to spend a couple of thousand dollars to build the planter?” My third question, “Are tomatoes and peppers all you really want to grow?” The usual answer is yes. OK, now we’re in touch with reality.
Let’s consider container gardening. Container gardening requires large containers, and they can be expensive. A planter that measures 24” across the top is a good size for tomatoes. You can grow peppers in containers a little smaller, more in the 18” range.
My favorite containers are galvanized horse troughs that can be purchased at the farm stores. These containers have a drain hole already installed, so there is no need to drill holes. You may want to use this same container for a water garden or a bathtub for the dog someday, so don’t drill holes unless you have to. In both types of containers, you can put down a two-inch layer of gravel and cover it with weed barrier or a layer of coffee filters to prevent the gravel from getting clogged up with the garden soil. Fill the containers at the location where they are to remain because they’ll get too heavy to move after the soil is added. Set the pots in a location that gets at least five hours of sun each day. Arrange the containers on the patio close to where you can run drippers from your existing irrigation system, or you can set up a separate system that uses a small battery-operated timer to water the plants. This type of timer just attaches to the faucet.
Yes, it is very hot right now. But you can start several vegetables in containers for fall, and wait until spring to grow your tomatoes and peppers. If you start in August you can grow beets, Swiss chard, wax bush beans, carrots, leaf lettuce, and, as it cools, spinach. Plant as soon as possible or the first freezes at the end of October could damage your production.
This is a great alternative to the large, permanent and expensive raised bed planters. If in the future you decide that you’re not really a vegetable gardener, these same containers can be used for flowers, perennials or herbs. If you think that there’s a possibility that you may not be an urban farmer, consider spending a little more and purchase some of the beautiful glazed pottery from Indonesia and use them as decorative pieces on the patio.
Mike Dooley is the designer and owner of Dooley Landscape Designs. Visit his website at www.dooleylandscapedesigns.com. He can be reached at 505-400-0257.