How to grow plants in pots

Q. I have had to move from my house to an apartment, but I still want to raise vegetables because I have done this from my youth. Someone suggested container gardening and I really do not have any knowledge of how to start. Give me some help.

— D.H. of Fairview Heights

A. Once you get the experience, you might start wondering why you didn’t do this in the first place. You will probably want to raise the vegetables to eat freash rather than getting carried away with canning. But you can freeze any of the extras.

1. Consider your health and physical makeup. Start with the height at which you feel comfortable working. You might not want to bend over as much as with a garden. You could grow everything on a sturdy table or something similar that can hold many containers.

2. Consider the container that you want to use. It can be plastic or clay pots, half of a whiskey barrel, washtub, hanging basket or window box. The container should be at least 8 inches high for a good rooting depth. It also should drain well and have someplace for excess water to run to prevent a mess.

3. You may consider using a soil-less mix, which will cut down on weight. But you will have to think of fertilizing the plants as the media usually does not provide any. You can use a liquid fertilizer while watering. Just remember to cut back by at least half the suggested rate. You can always add more if the plants look a yellowish green, but once the plant has picked up the fertilizer by the roots, plants do not have kidneys to excrete excesses the way humans do.

4. Watering requirements will vary. You will have to check the moisture in the media at least once a day. As the days get longer and hotter, you might have to water two times a day. The more you find the plants wilting from lack of water, the more stressed they are. If you let the media dry out too much, it is hard to re-wet and the water will run straight through without helping the plant at all.

5. Selecting plants, either vegetables or flowering plants, can be a challenge. First select plants that are considered compact so they will not take up as much space or need as much care as the normal-size plants. You can find mini-cultivars and dwarf varieties in the mail-order catalogs and at garden centers.

Q. There seems to be a lot of pollen produced this year. What is the reason? I have pollen almost every day in the morning on my car. It seems nature is just throwing globs of it or a fine dusting all over everything.

— L. K. of Fairview Heights

A. Trees distribute pollen by releasing it in the air to fertilize the flowers of the same species of tree. Since the trees rely on the wind do spread this pollen, the trees’ flowers produce large amounts. It can be spread very finely in a light breeze or it can be blown in large amounts that stick together in wind gusts.

This pollen causes allergies and results in sneezing. Some people are allergic to specific pollens and others are affected by any type of pollen.

Some years the pollen is released over a longer period, and other years the trees release in just a few days.

Charles Giedeman is a local contributing writer. Send your gardening questions to Features Editor Patrick Kuhl, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to

Do it now

ROSES: Apply fungicide sprays to prevent black spot.

HOUSEPLANTS: You can take cuttings now that they are growing faster and the stems are easier to root.