By Kathleen Duncan, Fort Gordon Garden Coordinator
Being a military wife and a gardener was NOT easy. As a mobile gardener moving frequently, I had to utilize large pots, co-planting for convenience and beauty. As I continue my co-planting journey, I prefer patio pots to have some plants grow vertically, others to grow wide and some to drape. Fresh vegetables and herbs are a love of mine, so I add them to pots for convenience.
Having colorful pots, at least 18 inches deep and 18 inches wide, with good drainage, a pan to catch water and rocks on the bottom to help with drainage is a great place to start. For the larger pots, you may want to consider wheeled trays. This will help in transporting the pots in and out of the sun as needed. There’s also the option of light-weight plastic pots which resemble clay-glazed pots. These can be found at the Exchange or any big box store. Being a mobile gardener requires lots of heavy lifting so eliminate as much as possible.
Deciding what type of garden you’d like can be a difficult process. Themed pots worked best for me. Two different options of themed planting would be a Pasta Garden in a Pot and Salsa in a Pot. Pasta Garden in a Pot can consist of one Roma tomato plant to grow vertically, a basil plant to grow wide and an oregano plant to drape. I’ve also added a green pepper plant to this themed pot when I use a wider pot. (Note: Basil and tomatoes are called companion plants because they help each other fight off bugs.) There are endless recipes you can create with these items, but adding pasta and a protein to this makes for a delicious entree. Salsa in a Pot can consist of one Roma tomato, a banana pepper and a jalapeno pepper – all grow vertically. Cilantro, although not a lengthy plant, grows wide. An idea I practice often is planting cilantro seeds at least a week apart in order to have a little fresh cilantro growing throughout the weeks. Nasturtium not only adds a nice peppery taste and decoration but drapes down as a piece of art. It’s a natural helper plant that keeps bugs
Over my travels I’ve had several of these big themed pots which has kept my family happy with homegrown dinner staples. I’ve hung some plants on patio rails, combining different annual flowers, herbs and vegetables. Peas make for lovely trailing plants as long as you train them early to drape and not to cling to your flowers. Lettuce comes in a variety of colors and makes a nice fill for vertical plants. Combining vegetables with herbs and flowers on your patio is a site to see as well as fruitful. And although I’ve not grown garlic or onions very often because of the inexpensive cost at times, both plants have lovely tall spikes that make interesting additions to your patio pots. For many mobile gardeners, patio gardens are a way to set down “garden roots” no matter where they happen to be planted!