Most recipes just aren't complete with the flavors of fresh pepper and tomato. You chop them up, you throw them in, and voila! You're a master chef. They're the co-stars in so many summer dishes, like salsa, or barbecue kebabs. The best part? You can grow them in your own garden easily.
Nothing beats a fresh tomato off the vine, and you may very well have grown tomatoes before. Peppers may be a different story since they're a less common vegetable to plant in your garden, but they're not too difficult to grow. Peppers are also chock-full of flavor, from sweet to hot, sure to satisfy any palate. With a little bit of love, both of these veggies grow wonderfully in containers! Here's how:
You can typically start seeds inside for 4-6 weeks or so before moving them outside. But as spring nears its end, your best bet at this point is to buy some starter plants with some leaves on them already to fast track your way to harvest.
For tomatoes, no matter if you're using starters or growing seeds, plant them deep in the soil. Most varieties grow to be around 3 feet tall, and they require about 12 inches of soil below them, so make sure your container is deep enough. Tomato plants can grow roots from the stalk pretty quickly and they also tend to get leggy. To avoid them falling over on you, mound dirt at the base of the plant to reinforce it and assist with strong root growth. Pepper plants don't have this problem, so no worries there.
-We don't advise you grow peppers and tomatoes in the same pot. The two plants grow in similar conditions, but like two dogs from the same dish, they will compete for resources in the same container. This will end with some stressed out plants and a less tasty yield. Plant these veggies apart, and limit yourself to two plants per pot. This gives you sufficient room for their roots to flourish.
A rich soil with proper drainage and a good balance of organic compost will help any kind of vegetable, especially in a container. Your tomatoes and peppers are no different. If you have a composter, go to town!
Both tomatoes and peppers are hefty vegetables that need tons of sun, and plenty of water to boot. Place the plants in a sunny area, water them well. Adding a bit of mulch to keep the ground full of moisture doesn't hurt either.
As we just mentioned, tomatoes and peppers are thirsty plants. Make sure your soil is damp about an inch deep into the ground. When choosing a container, you want one with large drainage holes so water doesn't sit too long and drown your plants' roots. Better to err on the side of underwatering.
Time-release fertilizer spikes helps keep soil nutrient-rich, replacing all the nutrients your plants absorb. Be sure to pick up a fertilizer suited for vegetable gardening, and follow the label directions carefully. Avoid fertilizers with lots of nitrogen, as they help with leaf growth but not flower growth. You need the flowers in order to grow delicious tomatoes and peppers!
Let's get your patio planters started right! These varieties of tomatoes grow great in pots:
Bushsteak - A smaller, beefier variety
Patio Princess - Built to grow in pots, patio princesses pack a lot of flavor
Marglobe - Average-sized tomatoes that are good all-arounders
Baxter's Bush Cherry - A tougher variety with a thick skin
Sweet 100 - These cherry-sized tomatoes are fabulous in summer salads
Are you sold on growing your own peppers the season? You'd do well to give these varieties a try in your containers:
Confetti Hybrid - Like their namesake, these peppers come in a spectrum of beautiful colors, and they're delicious
Tangerine Dream - They look like habañeros, but they're actually quite sweet and mild
Serrano chilies - Turn up the heat with this variety. They're great stuffed or dried
Jalapeño peppers - Jalapeños are a great tickle of heat in salads and dips
Bird's beak chilies - These slender ornamental peppers will definitely kick the spice up a notch
Habañero peppers - Are you chasing after some killer heat? Habañeros might just do it for you. They're particularly amazing in a mango summer salsa.