Hot Weather Container Gardening

by Ragtimelil

My first year gardening in a hot climate and the delight of two seasons

I moved back to Texas a little over a year ago. I had lived in New England for about 40 years and that included all of my gardening years. Gardening in hot weather is very different from the New England gardening I had been doing for the past few decades. I feel like I am starting from the beginning.

Small Steps with Lettuce and Swiss Chard

 I didn't do much gardening last fall since I was getting situated and feeling my way around. I did buy a few tomato plants but mostly waited for spring to start really gardening.Where I'm living now we are not allowed to plant anything in the ground, but we can do whatever we want with container gardening. In fact, the landlord encouraged me to plant and offered me the use of unused pots and even gave me some worms to start a composting bin.
tower garden
I didn't get too much in at first. I made some stacked soda bottle rows (see article on container gardening) for lettuce and Swiss chard. Building the stacks took a bit of time. It would have been much faster to hoe a row in the ground but now that they're in I can keep using them.
The lettuce started really well and I still am picking a few leaves although most of it has bolted by now. I would say the lettuce was very happy in this arrangement. The Swiss Chard started well  in the bottles but is a little stunted now and the leaves have turned red. I think they needed bigger pots.


strawberriesI put a couple of strawberry plants in a 3-gallon bucket. It produced some strawberries and even has more blossoms but some of the leaves are turning brown. I suspect the drainage isn't as good as it could be. I may enlarge some of the holes for a second time and see if that helps. In New England, I would have just stopped watering it so much, but I can't afford to do that here. The plants need the water, but don't always like wet feet.

To Water or Not To Water?

 My biggest challenge here is to figure out how much to water. Not enough and the plants will die. Too much and the plants drown.

The best section of my garden is the Swiss chard and carrots growing in a cloth shoe bag. I can really soak it with water without worrying about it collecting in the bottom. I'm going to be on the lookout for more cloth bags to plant in.



Shoe Bag Garden
Shoe Bag Garden
Carrots and Swiss Chard in Shoe Bag
Carrots and Swiss Chard in Shoe Bag
Huge Swiss Chard
Huge Swiss Chard
Pretty Good Sized Carrot for a Container-Grown
Pretty Good Sized Carrot for a Contai...
I repurposed my shoebag, but there are some available for mini gardens.
The Urban Garden-vertical planter, ha...Mini Living Wall Planter (works indoo...

 I've got other things like onions, garlic, pineapple, and a mango in pots. I just got a canopy so some of the plants are getting some shade and not burning up.
 I have some potatoes growing in a big barrel-sized pot. I only put a layer of soil in the bottom and I'm adding hay as it grows. These all seem to be doing well.



Tomato Woes

 I have not been able to have a healthy tomato plant since I moved here. They shrivel up and wilt and the tomatoes are the size of a dime. And, no, they are not cherry types. I suspect it's a wilt or some such disease. I've been researching it and just sprayed them with a baking soda/oil mixture in water. I'll see how that works.

I noticed a neighbor had some wilted tomato plants too. The last summer I spent in New Hampshire many people got hit with a blight that was airborne. It traveled from garden to garden on the breeze. It originated from diseased plants brought in from other areas and sold at garden centers. It wiped out the largest tomato crop I had ever planted.

I'll be trying tomatoes again and trying to figure out why they won't grow. There are some that are more resistant to blight. I might give those a try.

Season Two

 The exciting part of gardening in Texas for me is that it has two seasons. In New England I was always struggling to get tomatoes ripened before a freeze, no matter how early I started them indoors. I ripened plenty of them in paper bags. Some vegetables I couldn't grow at all because the season was too short. Now I'm going to be starting seeds for my fall garden - in July.

 I'll be starting some broccoli along with the tomatoes for setting out in July. I can start some lettuce and more chard now and plant every two weeks for a good rotation.

One list says I can plant squash and beans in a couple of weeks. That is just going against everything I learned about gardening in the north. Another list says I can even plant eggplant and cantaloupes this month. I'm going to get some seeds and get started.
Updated: 06/29/2013, Ragtimelil
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Ragtimelil on 08/04/2013

I don't know much about growing sweet potatoes. I know they need a long growing season so I could never grow them in New Hampshire. I'd do some searching online about growing them in greenhouses. Might work. (You can find how to do more than you ever wanted to know about stuff on Youtube. Not all of it accurate, however)

frankbeswick on 08/04/2013

Sweet potatoes! My daughter loves them, and I would like to grow some for her. But I need to know what climate conditions they require. I am in the North West of England. We are temperate and damp. But would they grow in greenhouses?

Ragtimelil on 08/03/2013

Sorry about the pear tree. Nothing like tree ripened pears and peaches. Good to have an expert in the family. At least you know why they aren't producing.
I wish I hadn't killed my potatoes. I forgot to water them during one of my times away from home. But it's the first time I've ever grown sweet potatoes so I'm pretty excited about that.

frankbeswick on 08/03/2013

I have had a really good crop of potatoes this year.In fact the crops have been generally good My problem is the pear tree, which is producing weakly, which is, as my son, who is a fruit tree nurseryman says, due to the cold spring that Britain has had. Pears will not catch up, even if the summer is warm, as it has been.

Ragtimelil on 08/02/2013

I lost all my potatoes but my sweet potato is HUGE. I do have to water it a lot but it is a hot weather item. I just planted some veggies for my fall garden and they're doing great so far. I want to plant more in grocery bags, maybe this evening. My Swiss chard is still growing like mad.
My garlic didn't do well this year either. Not sure why. All my onions are re-grows. They look good so far.
Keep the water flowing and happy gardening.

Ragtimelil on 07/10/2013

Yeah, a bit hotter and a LOT dryer. Harder on the plants. While the humidity makes us suffer, it's better for the plants. Sometimes the only water is dew but it does keep things green.

PeggyHazelwood on 07/10/2013

I am in Arizona (even hotter than Texas, I think) and feel your pain. Right now, it's plain too hot. I just broke off the three tomato plants I'd started from seed. They can't stand the 110+ days. I'll try again in the fall. Very bassackwards to me, too!

Ragtimelil on 07/09/2013

You have a good eye. Yes, that is a sweet potato. It's my first attempt ever since we couldn't grow them in NH. I think I managed to kill off my other potatoes by forgetting to water them during a week away. The sweet potato is growing like crazy though.
Wow. Interesting about purslane. I have read about it but never found it in the wild. I'll check into it again.
I've been trying to root some rosemary but not having much luck. I have some cuttings to try again.
Thanks for the tips.

cazort on 07/08/2013

Is that a sweet potato plant in the main picture? I don't see you mentioning them in this page, but I've actually had very good experiences with growing them in containers. I find them (a) exceptionally easy to root from cuttings (b) fast growing (c) surprisingly tolerant of low-light conditions and even able to be grown indoors. I do find they dry out fast though when grown in containers in hot weather, which can be an issue.

If you want a drought-tolerant green, try purslane. It's incredibly nutritious, and usually easy to find for free growing as a weed--and it can be grown easily from seed or cutting. Purslane is a succulent that stores water in its leaves and stem, allowing it to survive prolonged periods with no rain. It's also super high in omega 3 and Vitamin E.

I've also found certain herbs really thrive in Texas. Rosemary is one of them! I've grown it in PA which is much colder, and it does well in the summer, but cold winters often kill it off.

Ragtimelil on 07/08/2013

Yes, the weather can really mess up the best laid plans. We haven't had any rain in weeks! I can water, of course, but it makes it hard if I have to be away. I was lucky the last week I farm-sat. I could come home every couple of days to water. It's trying to rain today but it's just teasing us I think.
Yes, let's do compare notes! That would be fun.

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