Thrillers, fillers and spillers

        How fun is this asks Linn County Master Gardener Claire Smith… my thirty-something daughter has decided for the first time in her adult life to plant (albeit small) a vegetable garden.  It’s for “the kids” (?)  She told me that when she and her brother were kids how they liked to eat things right out of the garden.  She says she liked peas and her brother ate radishes and onions until we caught them and made them come to the house to wash what they had picked.  They don’t seem to be the worse for wear now, though.  And, then we remember putting cages around our tomatoes, not to keep them upright, but because the Golden Retriever loved ripe tomatoes!  Oh!  Those were the good old days. 

       Those of you who don’t have much space for gardening may be interested in the following article from Master Gardener Gloria Johnson on Combinations for Vegetable and Flowering Containers.

        Gloria says:  With the right size container, adequate sun, and consistent watering and fertilizing, many vegetables and flowering annuals and perennials can be grown in pots.   Pick a color theme, culinary theme, or a nonsensical theme and let your imagination run wild. Combinations created in container gardening can be refreshing and magical.  For a great combination remember to have a “thriller” (a tall dramatic plant), a “filler” (a middle size plant), and a “spiller” (a plant that drapes over the sides) in each container.

        Tomatoes make great thriller plants for a container.  Insert the largest and heaviest metal cage you can buy (I attached mine to the deck railing for extra sturdiness).  A great cherry tomato is the “Sweet 100” and it does very well in a container.  For a larger tomato, the “Big Boy” or “Better Boy” does well.  I use my containers on the deck to try out some of the heirloom tomatoes which occasionally require some extra attention.  I have had good luck with “Brandywine” and “Mr. Stripy”.

      For the filler, I use herbs such as chives, basil, cilantro, and bush celery.  I have added annuals such as marigolds, straw flower, and miniature zinnias to brighten and add color to the container.

      For the spiller, I have used trailing herbs, nasturtiums and petunias.  It is beneficial to use plants for the fillers and spillers that can tolerate dry conditions.

      I only put one tomato plant in a container and I do not combine tomatoes and peppers in the same pots.   For the pepper pot, I would use the pepper plant as the thriller and then a complimentary herb as the filler and a flowering annual as the spiller.

     A salsa garden of Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño peppers, chives and green onions or an Italian garden with Roma tomatoes, basil, oregano and chives make great combinations.  Or, how about a pot full of mints such as Pineapple Sage, Mint Julep (for that afternoon iced tea), spearmint, orange mint or chocolate mint (great in chocolate chip cookies!). 

     You will enjoy your vegetable garden no matter what its size.  And can you think of a more pleasurable way to spend your summer than eating what you – or the kids or grandkids – have grown yourself?  And by the way, the container perennials can be transplanted into the ground and enjoyed for years to come.

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1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    TopVeg said,

    Love the idea of thrillers, fillers & spillers – thanks


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