I am interested in growing tomatoes, peppers and a small-sized lemon tree in containers. I do not know a lot about gardening. I want to start with plants instead of seeds. Are the varieties sold on the website suitable for growing in containers? In addition, what are some other fruits and vegetables suitable for growing in containers? I live in chicago, so I might have to move them indoors during the winter. Thanks,
Answer: Starting from plants is a good option for the beginning gardener. Since you are wanting to grow in containers I am also assuming you live in either a small home or apartment. Your choice of vegetable plants will be more limited, simply by the size of the mature plants. For instance, you might want to choose a tomato like the ‘Sweet Cluster’ variety that is a Semi-determinate type, meaning it won’t get quite as large or viney as an Indeterminate variety. Most all peppers adapt well to pots; just don’t plant more than one or two in a large pot. There are small bush variety zucchini and squash, like our ‘Papaya Pear’ summer squash that will do well. All of these require a location that is full sun during the summer growing season. When planting in pots you will need to check the plants daily to maintain proper moisture; or if you have the option, a drip irrigation system that waters them daily, preferably in the mornings, would be ideal.
Unfortunately, the vegetable plant season is over for this year. Watch for our new stock to arrive in the early spring, in time for planting. Chicago is in Zone 5, so you won’t be able to put young plants out until after your last frost date, usually early May. Make sure you use a light soil mix designed for pot growing. You want it to have good drainage but not dry out too fast.
For something to grow now, try leaf lettuce or spinach and start these from seed. Most herbs also grow well from seed. These will do well through the winter if you have a warm, sunny window. Each will have different preferred growing conditions. There are grow light set-ups to help with indoor requirements. In addition, Midwest homes are very dry during the winter, so you may want to have a tray of small stones that the plants can sit on and add water to the tray to increase the humidity around the plants.
Miniature lemon trees and other citrus plants have become wildly popular in the last few years and hybridizers have developed more and better varieties for all sorts of lemons, limes, oranges, figs, and even some dwarf apple trees. I have grown lemons, limes and orange trees and have had them live for years; mostly their demise was at my hands. They are a bit persnickety about indoor climates, with no drafts and lots of warm, sunny light. Keep the nighttime temps up in the low 60s. Most all citrus plants are very susceptible to an infestation of scale, a tiny sucking insect, when overwintered inside. You will know you have them when a sticky substance starts showing up on the leaves. Treating scale is another topic of discussion.
Good luck with your new gardening adventure. Try starting small until you’re more comfortable with gardening and don’t feel too overwhelmed. Once you get the hang of it you’ll be as addicted as the rest of us gardening nuts.