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For The Garden

Edible Plants for Containers in the Low Desert

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: February, 2012, Page 106
Sweet Basil
(Ocimum basilicum)


Sweet Basil
(Ocimum basilicum)


Type: Annual

Best time to plant: March-May

Light: Morning sun with afternoon shade

Soil: Potting mix formulated for containers, which includes pumice, perlite or vermiculite

Water needs: Water regularly and deeply.

Maintenance
: Feed monthly with an organic fertilizer. Pinch off flower spikes to promote leaf growth.

Harvest: Cut leaves as needed, but no more than a third of the plant at a time.

Tips: Harvest just before using for the best flavor and highest nutritional value. Choose small-leafed varieties for pots.

Why we like it: An excellent culinary herb, sweet basil is easy to start from seed. Purple varieties mixed with green ones make striking container combos.



Strawberry
(Fragaria x ananassa)

Strawberry
(Fragaria x ananassa)


Type: Perennial

Best time to plant: September-November

Light: At least five hours of sunlight daily

Soil: Potting mix formulated for containers, which includes pumice, perlite or vermiculite

Water needs: Keep consistently moist.

Maintenance: Feed with an organic fertilizer. Pinch off early blooms in the first year to increase the plant’s vigor.

Harvest: Depends on type; generally spring or fall

Tip: Local gardeners recommend these varieties: ‘Camarosa’, ‘Chandler’, ‘Sequoia’ and ‘Tioga’.

Why we like it: Its aromatic bright-red fruit is tasty and adds a punch of color to the garden. The plant is a good choice for hanging baskets, window boxes and pots.



Rosemary
(Rosmarinus officinalis)

Rosemary
(Rosmarinus officinalis)


Type: Perennial

Best time to plant: March-April and September-November

Light: Full sun, with some shade in summer

Soil: Potting mix formulated for containers, which includes pumice, perlite or vermiculite

Water needs: Water only when soil dries out; avoid over-watering.

Maintenance: Feed monthly with an organic fertilizer. Prune to shape and promote more vigorous growth.

Harvest: For best flavor, harvest before the plant flowers.

Tip: Repot yearly to freshen soil.

Why we like it: This easy-to-grow, drought-tolerant herb produces aromatic leaves that can be used as a culinary seasoning. Its dainty springtime blooms add subtle color to the garden.



Swiss Chard
(Beta vulgaris)

Swiss Chard
(Beta vulgaris)


Type: Biennial grown as an annual

Best time to plant: September-February

Light: Full sun to part shade

Soil: Potting mix formulated for containers, which includes pumice, perlite or vermiculite

Water needs: Water when top 2 inches of soil are dry.

Maintenance: Feed monthly with an organic fertilizer.

Harvest: Cut outer leaves at their bases when they are 6-8 inches long.

Tip: If growing from seed, thin out to no more than 10 seeds per pot.

Why we like it: Highly nutritious, heat-tolerant and easy to grow, it makes an excellent ornamental plant. The ‘Bright Lights’ variety has stalks in shades of purple, red, pink, orange, yellow and white.
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