Growing plants in containers lets you have a garden even when space for one is limited or nonexistent. You can use containers to turn a tiny balcony, patio or roof garden into a leafy haven, filled with patio roses, herbs, even your own fresh vegetables. Some to try: 'Farmers Long' Japanese eggplant, peppers, small-fruited tomatoes such as 'Sungold' and leafy greens like chard and lettuce.
A few tips:
The site: Warm season vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers need at least six hours of sunlight per day and protection from hot drying winds. Shade lovers such as hostas and ferns will need protection from sun.
The container: Choose a color you like (ideally, one that pairs well with your outdoor furniture and paint colors). It should have a drainhole in the bottom (which you can cover with a piece of screening to keep soil from washing out), and a saucer to sit in that collects excess moisture. And it should be large enough to accommodate your plants when fully grown. Tomatoes and other veggies do best in containers about 14 to 16 inches diameter.
Potting mix: Be sure it's fast draining yet moisture retentive.
Water: Container plants need water more often than those grown in the ground. In hot or windy weather, some may need watering several times a day. Apply water over the entire soil surface until it flows from the pot's drainage holes.
Fertilizer: Apply a liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season, following the directions on the label. Or mix a controlled-release type into the potting mix before planting.
More great tips like this can be found in the Sunset Western Garden Book: The 20-Minute Gardener. Visit www.sunset.com/wg.