Despite the heat, we can still spend creative time in the garden. This would be a time to create a “fiesta garden”—a garden that displays fabulous reds, pinks, oranges, yellows, and other “hot” colors. You can create brilliant color and provide fresh summer flavor by planting pots with sweet and hot peppers in red, green, and orange; large and small tomatoes in red and yellow; aromatic herbs such as basil and parsley; and, the piece de resistance, bright red, pink, and orange zinnias to complete the picture.
Grab several 20″ diameter or larger pots and a few 10-12″ diameter pots to plant a garden that will add a festive flair to the patio later in the summer and into fall. Mexican salsa and Italian pasta dishes rely on several of the same ingredients that thrive in our summer heat. Who doesn’t like fresh tomatoes, peppers, and herbs made into salsa and pesto to celebrate summer?
To create this garden, purchase two quart or gallon size tomato plants, such as a paste tomato or a smaller salad tomato. Excellent choices would be Roma, Superfantastic, or Better Boy. For some spice in salsa or an arrabbiata sauce, choose jalapeno, serrano, or habanero peppers. To spice up an antipasto platter select snacking peppers or banana peppers. For added flavor, purchase a sweet or Genovese basil and a parsley plant. Pick up a packet of cilantro seeds. Add bursts of festive color in the pots with marigolds, profusion zinnias, or regular zinnias.
Choose a spot in the garden that receives four to five hours of sun—either because the pots are on the east side of the house or the pots get shaded by a wall or plant. Fill the pots to within a few inches of the rim with a mix of plain potting soil—no polymers or fertilizer—and compost. Mix some slow-release fertilizer into the soil before planting. At this point, you should have two to four pots filled with soil and ready to plant.
Place one tomato plant in each large pot. Then add either the one or two hot or sweet peppers. Don’t put the hot peppers and the sweet peppers in the same pot or you will have only hot peppers when you harvest. Tuck a few colorful flowers around the edge of the pot. Then sprinkle in some cilantro seeds and press them down gently.
In the medium pots, place one basil plant in each of two pots. Add a parsley plant and either a hot pepper or a sweet pepper. Tuck a flower or two in each pot.
Water thoroughly. Then check to be sure the soil has not settled below the plants’ root balls. Add more soil if needed. Water thoroughly a second time. If you have root stimulator, water the pots one more time with the stimulator. Otherwise in a couple of weeks, plan to fertilize the pots with a liquid fertilizer that is high in phosphorus (the middle number on the fertilizer label).
Check the pots every day or so to see if the surface of the soil is damp like a squeezed sponge. When it is dry an inch or so below the surface, water again.
In a few weeks, you will observe fruit forming as the plants begin to grow quickly. The tomatoes, peppers, herbs, and flowers will continue to grow and produce until a hard freeze sometime in October or November.
List of Materials
2 20″ diameter or larger containers
2 14″ or larger containers
1 large bag of potting mix with as few additives as possible
1 large bag of compost
1 container of slow release fertilizer
1 container of fertilizer that mixes with water
2 tomato plants
2 hot pepper plants
2 sweet pepper plants
2 basil plants
12 small flower plants
2 parsley plants
1 packet of cilantro seeds