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Space-saving containers allow for plenty of garden variety

Master Gardener Marilyn Lloyd is pleased with how well vegetables grow in containers. (Susan Mulvihill)
Master Gardener Marilyn Lloyd is pleased with how well vegetables grow in containers. (Susan Mulvihill)

If you’ve always wanted to grow a vegetable garden but just don’t have the space, container gardening is an ideal solution.

It was three years ago that Marilyn Lloyd embarked upon this form of gardening. As a WSU/Spokane County Master Gardener, she primarily gives talks on organic gardening but was looking for a more relevant topic to share with a senior ladies group.

“I suddenly thought of growing vegetables in containers,” she related. “I went online and found people were growing all sorts of things in containers. I soon realized that if I’m going to talk about this topic, I’d better do some.”

She and her husband, Doug, live on a large piece of property on Spokane’s South Hill. In addition to her container gardens, Lloyd has seven raised beds where she is growing vegetables and herbs.

Container gardening has some attributes she is particularly appreciative of.

“For one thing, there are no weeds at all and you can control the soil conditions,” she said. “And it’s much easier to control pests in the containers.”

When choosing pots, they should be large enough to accommodate what you want to grow. The general rule of thumb is one plant per gallon, although plants like tomatoes and zucchinis should be grown in large containers. They also must have good drainage.

Some of the veggies she is growing in pots this year are tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, pole beans, cucumbers, cabbage and potatoes.

There are also some unusual container plants in her garden. A grafted Indigo Rose tomato is thriving in a large pot with a sturdy cage and already has several tomatoes on it. Lloyd is also trying out Monrovia Nursery’s new Brazelberry line of dwarf thornless raspberries and compact blueberry bushes, and all are doing well in their containers.

 “With berries, you need an acid mix in the soil to keep them happy,” she said. “I applied a tablespoon of sulfur around the outer edge of the pot and then put some fertilizer over that. It really made a difference in how they’re growing.”

A new feature of the container garden is an automated drip-irrigation system.

“This is the first year we’ve had a drip system and it’s very important for successful container growing,” Lloyd explained. “The system is on a timer and runs every other day for about 25 minutes. Now we can go away for a few days at a time and not worry about the garden.”

Between regular watering and Lloyd’s gardening expertise, the container plants are productive and growing beautifully. You would never know she has challenges to deal with.

“My biggest problem is light,” she said. “I’m in a pine forest, and this area of the yard is about the only place that gets six hours of sunlight each day. But it’s also protected in here by the fence so it stays pretty warm. I think that’s why I can get away with less than ideal light conditions.”

She has heard of other gardeners overcoming this problem by putting their pots on rollers and moving them into the sun. No matter what, Lloyd feels container gardening has a lot of potential.

“There are people in condos and apartments who would love to have fresh vegetables,” she said. “There are no boundaries for doing this. There will come the day when Doug and I won’t want to mess with our regular garden anymore. I can see us growing vegetables in containers as a viable alternative.”

Susan Mulvihill can be reached via email at

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