I LOVE fresh tomatoes. Seriously, there is nothing that tastes like a fresh, off the vine, warm from the sun, red, juicy tomato. Slice that baby onto some white bread with a little mayo, salt and pepper… Mmm…. Excuse me while I wipe the drool off of my face.
The one problem I face with my love of fresh tomatoes is that I live in a lovely little neighborhood where there is no real space for a garden. Sure, I could do raised beds but I’d have to take away some of the space where my kids run and play. My solution? I have learned how to successfully grow tomato plants in pots on my patio. Tomatoes, herbs, and flowers all find a happy home on my patio. You can do the same thing. It’s really not that hard.
Choose Your Pots Wisely – After a few years of trial and error, square pots are my favorite for patio gardening. The shape isn’t really as important as making sure you have a pot that won’t tip over in the summer thunderstorms that blow through. You can always buy a bag of rocks to help weight your pots. Put a layer of rocks into your draining pot before adding the soil. When planting tomatoes, I prefer one plant per pot. If I’m doing flowers or herbs, sometimes I like to use larger pots and group some together.
Use Good Garden Soil – I am not an entirely organic farmer because I used Miracle Grow Garden Soil. Choose whatever soil you like though. Make sure you get a little more than you think you’ll need. You don’t want to under fill your pots.
Read the Plant Labels – For patio planting, I don’t really do a lot of research on my plants. I use the labels in the store to help guide my purchase. I know that I like Better Boy Tomato Plants (it’s what my mom always grows in her ginormous garden), and always (ALWAYS) get 1 or 2 citronella plants. After that, I look for what herbs I might actually want to cook with or what flowers do best in the light conditions I have. Don’t stress, those little labels, and the people who work in the garden centers, are really helpful. If you’re looking for suggestions, here are my favorite plants for summer. None of these are making the spreads in Southern Living, but they make nice, normal people displays.
- Tomatoes – Better Boy, Patio Tomato, Sweet 100 Cherry Tomato
- Herbs – Sweet Basil, Peppermint, Citronella (Cilantro is easy and does well, but personally not a favorite.)
- Flowers – Mandevilla (Vine crawling flowering plant), Petunia, Vinca (full sun and doesn’t get too angry if you miss a day or two of water), Dahlia, Portulaca (aka Moss Rose)
- Weirdo Plant – Pitcher Plants (Carnivorous plant that attracts and eats flies. Pricey and hard to find, but AWESOME!)
READ: “Down in the dirt” mama
It’s NOT Too Late! – I know there were a lot of people out in the middle of April getting new plants planted for spring. I was not one of those people. Lots of life and crazy weather kept my green thumb twiddling until this past weekend. Here in Central NC, the first frost probably won’t be coming until at least the middle of October. My plants will have PLENTY of time to flower, bloom, and produce. Those handy little plant labels let you know how long your plants need to mature which is important for fruit bearing plants. As long as the fruit bearing and blooming is happening before the frost kicks in, you’re golden. Even better? Since prime planting time has passed a little, you can find some great deals!
My biggest suggestion? Relax and have fun. My boys and I got sweaty, dirty, and had a blast working in our “garden.” I even broke down and let them pick out little garden ornaments to add a little something extra. Who knew two boys would love two shiny pretend bugs so much? I don’t know if all of these plants are going to make it through the summer, but I sure hope so. If not, it’s okay. There’s always the Farmer’s Market and the experience of planting with my kids was worth it.