Tips for Planting a Summer Container Garden

The lazy days of summer have officially arrived – the sun is shining, the children are out of school and people all around are leaving their air-conditioned offices to enjoy time outdoors. While planting a garden may seem so last season, it’s not too late to enjoy homegrown (literally) produce!

Don’t let space or temperature be an issue. If you’ve never tried gardening, planting a container garden is an easy way to start.

1. Choose your containers. 

Start with a large container or pot that is at least 15 inches deep and wide. If you are a beginner gardener, bigger is better because you can hold more soil and lock moisture in longer. Large flowerpots, barrels, baskets, planters or any large container will work – get creative!

The container or pot must drain well. Ensure there is at least one hole in the bottom, like the holes in the bottom of ceramic pots,  for water to run out. If your container does not have drainage holes, use a drill to create 4-6 holes throughout the bottom.

Choose one vegetable or herb for each container, especially if this is your first time gardening. It’s important not to overcrowd the pots!

2. Place container in appropriate area.

Choose an area that receives about six hours of sunlight a day. You may need to move the container throughout the summer depending on the weather (heat, wind, etc). If you live in warmer areas of the country, you may need to elevate your container from the hot concrete. Try placing it on a small cart or wooden box.

3. Plant!

Purchase potting mix designed to retain moisture well, along with quality plant starts or seed packets from your local garden store. Fill the base of the container with an inch or two of small rocks or pebbles to help drainage and to prevent mold or mildew.

Add soil to the container, leaving about two inches of space from the top. Thoroughly water the soil and let drain for a few hours before planting the seeds or starter plant.

For seeds, plant according to package directions. For starter plants, dig a hole deep enough for the soil to reach the same level they were growing in their pot.

4. Water your new plants.

Maintain moisture levels. The soil should feel moist about 1-2 inches below the surface. Depending on the climate you live in, you will likely need to water your plants multiple times per week. (In the intense Arizona sun, I oftentimes find myself watering twice a day to maintain optimal moisture.) Watering in the morning is preferred to the evening because it helps the plants stay hydrated during the heat of day.

Summer Vegetable / Herb Chart

What to plant from a plant start (with fruit already on the vine):

  • Tomatoes: Bush types are best  for container gardens. Make sure to stake or cage them. Add to fresh salads or make your own marinara sauce served with chicken and noodles (zucchini noodles).
  • Peppers: Most pepper varieties thrive in the summer heat. Enjoy fresh peppers with hummus or tzatziki sauce for a summer snack.
  • Basil: One of the most bountiful summer herbs, basil adds a kick to many recipes: make your own pesto or add basil and lemon to ice water for a refreshing beverage.

What to plant from plant seeds:

  • Beets, cabbage, carrots, cucumbers, edamame, green beans, lettuce, melons, peas, sage, snap peas, summer squash

Whether you’re a novice or seasoned gardener, planting a container garden can be an easy and rewarding experience. I hope this article inspires you to get your hands dirty and play with your food!

About the Author:

Cassie Story Headshot

Cassie I. Story, RDN, is a dietitian who has been working with bariatric patients for the past 11 years. She also has her own food blog, www.WLSDailyPlate.com, to help inspire healthy eating following bariatric surgery. She enjoys cooking, hiking and spending time with her two daughters in Arizona. 




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