Put it in a pot: Jessica Walliser shares her knowledge of container gardening in new book
When Jessica Walliser was a child living in Robesonia, Berks County, she used to visit a flower and gifts shop with her mother.
"I always loved flowers. It was a small shop and I went with her to buy plants. I told her I would work there one day. And when I turned 15 I got a job there," says Walliser, 46, of Pittsburgh's North Hills.
A few years later Walliser enrolled in Penn State, earning her degree in ornamental horticulture.
A Tribune-Review gardening columnist, and co-host with fellow columnist Doug Oster of KDKA's "The Organic Gardeners," Walliser has just released her fifth book on gardening.
"Container Gardening Complete: Creative Projects for Growing Vegetables and Flowers in Small Places," is published by Cool Springs Press, and is available at sites including Barnes and Noble Booksellers, Target, Wal-Mart, Amazon.com and through Walliser's website at a list price of $30.
The book advises novice and long-time gardeners on how best to encourage flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables to blossom in containers. Directions, designs and projects, photographs and other visuals can help with growing food for one's own consumption and supporting insects beneficial to gardening, including butterflies and bees.
"My mother and my (paternal) nana both were gardeners. My mother had a beautiful vegetable garden in the backyard," Walliser says.
Walliser's father's hunting and her mother's gardening provided the family with much of what they consumed, she recalls.
"The only time I remember eating canned corn was at school on taco day. I thought it was great," she says
"I have been giving lectures and talking about container gardening forever," Walliser says.
Cool Springs Press broached the topic for her new book, which she says addresses "everything from start to finish on container gardening."
Walliser spent about eight months writing the book, and photographed all 20 projects it features.
One project in her book shows readers how to build a pollination garden in an old trash can.
"I had projects all over my house, my friends' houses, my neighbors' houses. It was a community effort," she says.
The book's target audiences include millenials finding their way into gardening, possibly while setting up housekeeping for the first time in a small apartment or townhouse, as well as older gardeners who may be downsizing or cutting back after years of gardening in large yards.
"I would say that gardening for other creatures is probably one of the biggest gardening trends. The other is container gardening. Marrying them is the opportunity to not just garden for yourself but for the ecosystem," Walliser says.
Container growing is easy, Walliser says.
"For someone digging their toes into gardening, if they have a bit of success with it, maybe next year they will get two pots," she says.
"Probably the most valuable thing to longtime gardeners is all of the information on new varieties, especially vegetables, being bred for containers," Walliser says.
"Did you know you can grow sweet corn in a container? You can," she says.
Some of those new varieties didn't exist five years ago.
"They are not GMO. It is pure classic plant breeding selecting for the trait of small stature," she says.
Brussels sprouts, tomatoes, berries, even tiny vine watermelons can thrive in planting pots, Walliser says.
"If you pick the right variety you can grow absolutely anything in a container. The book tells you how to set yourself up for success," she says.
Mary Pickels is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-836-5401 or firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @MaryPickels.