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Fruits and Vegetables

(May 2009)

QuestionAll of sudden I've been reading articles in magazines and newspapers about growing blueberry bushes in a pot - Fruit in summer, colorful foliage in fall - Can you recommend a good bush to thrive in Hot Springs Village?


AnswerAlmost any edible vegetable or fruit can be grown in containers and blueberries are no exception.  I would definitely opt for the largest container you can manage to make watering easier.  Blueberries are not drought tolerant.  They like a rich soil with plenty of organic matter, at least 6 hours of sunlight and even moisture.  Hot Springs Village is known for its rocky soil, so raised beds or containers would make planting easier.  You can grow either the southern high bush varieties: Legacy, Summit or Ozarkblue; or the Rabbiteye varieties: Climax, Premier, Brightwell or Tifblue.  Remember you need at least two varieties to grow fruit.  They are beautiful plants with pretty white flowers in the spring, tasty and showy blue berries and outstanding fall color.

(April 2009)

QuestionI would like to try growing a tomato plant in a pot this year. Are there any special techniques I should try?  What about the soil?  What mix should I use? This will be new for me, as I've grown Big Boy in the past, in a small sunny area in my back yard. I had the idea from a co-worker that has limited space because of apartment living.


AnswerTomatoes are easy to grow in containers, but give yourself a break by planting them in large enough containers that they don’t need constant water this summer.  A minimum five gallon sized pot is best.  Buy a commercial potting soil, instead of using garden soil.  Garden soil tends to be much heavier and can contain contaminates like weed seeds and insect larvae.  If the site is in full sun, you may want to add some of the water absorbing polymers in with the soil to help it retain moisture.  Some potting soils come with these already added, but regardless, don’t get carried away with them—a little goes a long way.  You can grow indeterminate varieties like Big Boy, and use tomato stakes or cages just like in the garden, or you can grow the “patio” types which are really determinate varieties that have a stronger stem but limit the length of time you harvest.  Fertilize at planting with a slow release fertilizer then fertilize about every two weeks with a water soluble fertilizer.  You will need to fertilize tomatoes grown in containers more often than those in the garden, because you are watering more often, since container soils dry out quicker due to smaller volume and elevated status.  Watch for insects and diseases, but diseases are usually less of a problem because you are starting with fresh, sterile soil each season.  Mulching the pot after planting will also aid in moisture retention.  As with any tomato, give them a site that gets at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.

(June 2009)

QuestionI am growing three tomato plants in containers on my deck.  One of my tomato plant's leaves have a yellow tint around their edges.  The leaves affected are on the Northwest side of the bush.  The bush is either a Bush Early Girl or a Health Kick.  They may not be getting enough sunshine.  Do you think that is the problem?


AnswerGrowing tomatoes in pots gives you a clean slate every season, because you can start with fresh soil.  Therefore, diseases are at a minimum. I doubt lack of sun on one side of the bush would cause yellowing.  If no spots are involved, it could be nutritional in nature.  Fertility in plants grown in containers becomes more of an issue, since you are watering more frequently which leaches the nutrients out.  Make sure your plants are getting at least 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.  Fertilize with a water soluble fertilizer every 10 days to two weeks.  Monitor the plants and see what happens.

(December 2005)

QuestionI've been trying to grow Italian parsley in a pot to keep indoors over winter, and it will grow well for a few months and then the leaves start to wilt and curl up.  I'm an experienced gardener so I don't over water, and I use a professional potting mix that contains fertilizer, so I don't fertilize at all.  One variable here is that I allowed the Black Swallowtail caterpillars to feast on it and they pruned it down to the soil level, but it has grown back again.  Any suggestions?


AnswerYou would have been much better off planting the parsley outdoors than in.  It is a tad late to get it established outside, but if you can find a nursery still selling it, try.  Parsley thrives in cool weather--I usually plant it along with my pansies and violas.  It is a biennial, meaning it will only live for two years before blooming, setting seed and dying.  The warm indoor conditions with low light and low humidity will make it difficult to grow indoors. For best luck, give it a bright location and the coolest spot you can find inside.  Do not attempt moving your plant outside as it would not be acclimated to cold, and would promptly die.


QuestionWe had to give up a large landscaped house for a town house in Hot Springs Village. Therefore I have grown tomato plants directly in bags of soil on a sunny deck (with slits in the bottom of the sacks). What tomato variety do you suggest as the very best? Peppers have been successful, grown in bags of soil also; but what variety might you suggest as best? Has squash been successful?


AnswerYou could ask ten different gardeners which variety of tomato is best, and you would probably get ten different answers.  We all have our favorites.  Usually when we grow tomatoes in containers, which I would classify as the bag method, the bush type of tomatoes is easier to manage.  Tomatoes come as either determinate varieties--bush type, or indeterminate--those that keep growing.  The determinate ones usually have a stronger stem and don't require the rigid staking.  They are usually more manageable in size.  For peppers, almost all should perform well.  The banana type peppers may not be as nutritionally needy as the bell types, but with proper nutrition and watering, anything is possible. They sell space saving varieties of squash and cucumbers--more bush-like in habit, specifically for containers.


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