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Nothing says summer like fresh veggies. Slice a deep red and beefy tomato, toss in some home grown basil and a good mozzarella and you’ll have the perfect summer salad. Few things compare to stepping outside and picking the tomato yourself with a snip of herbs on the way back inside.

Unfortunately a vegetable garden requires yard space, may interfere with landscaping or just be difficult to maintain. This is where the container garden steps in. Most any summer veggie can be coaxed into growing in the proper pot and the bounty can be delicious. Watering becomes easier, fertilizing is simple and they can actually add to the beauty of a patio or deck. So if you want the privilege of the backyard side dish there are lots of plant varieties that love the container.

I Say Tomato!

The granddaddy of the summer garden and the number one pick of all vegetable growers the tomato is very happy to be contained. A full size plant need a container with a soil capacity of at least 20 quarts and a water capacity of at least a gallon or more to keep up with this water lover. Patio varieties are also available for smaller spaces and produce smaller but just as yummy fruits. Buying tip: You may be tempted to buy large plants at the garden center with blossoms already set. Avoid this and buy smaller plants with dark green leaves and few or no blossoms. Blossoms can be a sign of stress in a plant that sits in a tiny pot. Give a small plant a big home and you’ll get a happy plant.

Wouldn’t You Like to Have a Pepper, Too?

Green, red, yellow, orange or even purple. Sweet, spicy or fiery. Large, small or just decorative. Pepper plants come in all kinds of delightful varieties and are well suited for containers. They love heat and consistent moisture and some varieties are compact enough to grow well in medium containers or even mix with other small plants in a larger one. Growing tip: Peppers need lots of light and heat so don’t be discouraged if they take a while to get going.

Lettuce Entertain You!

Lettuce is a fabulous container vegetable with almost as many choices for color, texture, size or taste as stars in the sky. They need constant moisture so a self-watering container is ideal. And because they are an early season plant that won’t tolerate summer heat you can use the container again for flowers after your lettuce season ends. Leaf lettuces are wonderful for “cut and come back” harvesting as you can cut the whole plane an inch above the soil and it will grow a new set of leaves.

Cukes Are Cute!

Cucumbers from the garden are a world away from the waxed and dry variety from the supermarket. They need heat, a consistent amount of food and lots and lots of H2O so this make them great for containers that can be tended just outside your door. They’ll need something to climb so if you don’t want that to be your patio furniture provide them with a trellis. Make sure your container is deep enough to sink support stakes into to secure the trellis as the vine can become heavy. Harvest when they’re smaller then the store variety as they will taste better. Beware of powdery mildew and cucumber beetles.

Squash Isn’t Just a Sport.

Summer squash is actually a bush rather than a vine so they can be grown in containers without invading your patio or everywhere else. Plant in the largest container you can manage, self-watering if possible, and deep. Like cucumbers summer squash in the garden should be harvested well before the size you see in the supermarket. Whether green zucchinis or yellow banana yellow squash you’ll be pleased with how well these container plants taste.

Herbs Are Well Seasoned.

Don’t forget the huge and wonderful varieties of herbs that can be container grown. Basil is the champ with colors from dark green to vivid purple and widely varied in taste. Rosemary is a wonderful, pungent Italian herb with a smell that will follow you anywhere once you’ve brushed against the silvery leaves. Thyme, sage, oregano, chives and parsley offer many choices of color and flavor. They can be planted together or separate and add a lovely foliage complement to annuals and perennials. Sneak a pot of chives into the house for the winter and clip the leaves as needed.

If you’ve never planted vegetables or herbs in containers you’ll be amazed at how easy it can be. And it can truly be a pleasure to step out of the kitchen on a lovely summer evening, collect a fresh selection of edibles and serve them for dinner. Entice your guests at a patio party with tiny orange peppers, striped tomatoes and edible nasturtium flowers in a fresh salad at the table.

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