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Peppers and tomatoes that grow well in containers

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Q. I will like to know where I can purchase different kinds of hot pepper seeds and other plants, and which plants I can leave in pots so that when the weather gets cold I can just bring them in. Also, do you know what tomatoes I can plant indoors in the cold season? -- Nike A.

A. Many seed companies that provide vegetable varieties for the home garden carry seeds for container vegetables. Some cultivars are marked as patio or container varieties, and others are just more compact in their growth habit and work well in containers.

You can grow many varieties in containers as long as you have the right size container for the plants and provide adequate sunlight, nutrients, water and temperature. If you plan to move the plants as you suggested, it would be wise to grow compact varieties that will continue to flourish in small containers and can be easily moved.

To answer your first question, many hot pepper varieties will grow well in 2-gallon to 3-gallon pots, if they receive enough sunlight and proper care. Some hot peppers that have been grown successfully in pots include 'Cubanelle,' 'Cherrytime,' 'Jalapeno,' 'Apple (Hot),' 'Red Cherry' and 'Red Chile.' Other larger (milder) peppers that have been grown successfully in containers include 'Sweet Banana,' 'Lady Bell,' 'Gypsy,' 'Crispy,' 'New Ace,' 'Bell Boy' and 'Sweet Chocolate,' which ripens to a rich brown color.

Some tomato varieties grow very well in containers and are more adaptable to smaller containers. Many of these smaller varieties can be grown in 3-gallon to 5-gallon pots. Some of the varieties that have been developed for containers include 'Patio,' 'Pixie,' 'Small Fry,' 'Sweet 100 Patio,' 'Tiny Tim,' 'Tumbling Tom,' 'Saladette,' 'Toy Boy,' 'Stokesalaska,' 'Gem State' and 'Patio Prize.'

Some varieties adapted to very small pots include 'Florida Basket,' which produces 1-inch fruit for hanging baskets; 'Floragold Basket,' which produces cherry-sized tomatoes for baskets or small pots; and 'Micro Tom,' which is an extreme dwarf tomato that will grow in a pot as tiny as four inches. Some medium to large tomatoes for containers include 'Jetstar,' 'Celebrity,' 'Early Girl' and 'Better Boy VFN.'

With proper pruning, many tomato varieties can be grown in containers. It is wise to grow determinate cultivars that stop their growth at a certain point, in comparison to indeterminate varieties that keep on growing.

There are many seed companies that provide a number of the vegetable cultivars listed above, including Stokes Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, Tomato Growers Supply, Seeds of Change, Burpee Seeds and Territorial Seed Company.

Peppers and tomatoes perform best in full sun. If you plan to grow these plants indoors, select a location that receives maximum sunlight throughout the day. Light conditions can vary significantly from one house to the next and from one window to another. If you have inadequate lighting, the plants will struggle and produce little or no fruit. Some gardeners provide supplemental lighting to enhance production.

Q. I noticed some kits in the store that would attach to my mower blade and dethatch the lawn. Do these work, and do you recommend them?
-- John T., Piscataway

A. I do not recommend the dethatching kits that attach to mower blades. They are very dangerous and could hurt people, pets or property. I know several people who have purchased these kits and have had the metal dethatching tine detach and fly through the air. The metal tines are spinning at a very high speed with the mower blade and if you hit a root or an area of hard compacted soil, they can break off. I would recommend that you rent a machine specifically designed for dethatching lawns. Dethatching is best done in the late summer or early fall so that cool season grasses will recover in cooler temperatures.

Resources: For more information on plants and gardening, visit njaes.rutgers.edu or ifplantscouldtalk.rutgers.edu.