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Salsa from your own garden? Yep. Once you taste the real deal, you'll never buy jarred salsa again.

Doug Jimerson; Illustrations by Lindsay Gardner and Doug Jimerson;
March 27, 2018
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Getty Images / Maree Searle / EyeEm
| Credit: Getty Images / Maree Searle / EyeEm

Salsa: it's one of America's favorite condiments! If you love to slather this spicy red sauce on tacos, enchiladas, raw veggies and chips, then you'll love growing all the ingredients yourself in a backyard salsa container garden. All you need are a few pots, potting soil, plants, sunshine and occasional watering. Then you have what you need to make a batch—or several—of this fresh Tomato Salsa recipe. Serve it up with tortilla chips, tacos or your favorite grilled meats all summer long. Once you taste the real deal, you'll never buy prepared salsa again. Here's how to get started.

How to Grow Your Own Salsa Container Garden

What You'll Need

Colorful pots

Directions

Step 1: Select Pots

Use plastic or ceramic pots that are at least 24 inches in diameter. Avoid terra cotta containers because they dry out faster than plastic. Larger pots hold enough soil to allow your plants to develop deep, strong root systems.

Tip for Success: Make sure the pots have drainage holes in the bottom to facilitate runoff; drill holes in the bottom if the containers don't have holes.

Pot with soil

Step 2: Add Soil

Fill pots with quality commercial potting soil. Look for mixes with high percentages of compost, sphagnum moss and perlite (which makes the soil fluffy and easy to plant in). We like Kellogg Garden Organics Premium Outdoor Potting Mix for outdoor container gardens (buy it: $7.47 at Home Depot). Pour the soil into the pots and press down lightly to eliminate air pockets.

Tip for Success: Don't use soil from your yard or garden because when it's used in a container it will harden into a brick when it dries out.

Seedlings in pots

Step 3: Choose the Best Plants

Buy seedlings at your local garden center or home improvement store. Look for bright green stocky plants, avoiding tall, leggy specimens or those with yellow or wilted foliage. Start onions from small plants that are sold in bundles in the spring. Buy garlic bulbs or individual cloves at the garden center or grocery store.

To have lots of tomatoes throughout the summer (especially when peppers are ripening), select an indeterminate variety. These tomatoes keep growing and producing all summer long.

Tip for Success: One of the best indeterminate tomato varieties is Juliet. This award-winning variety produces plum-shaped, meaty fruit throughout the growing season.

Step 4: Plant Your Salsa Container Garden

Pot with seedlings

Pot 1: Tomatoes and Cilantro

Plant a single Juliet tomato in the center of a 24-inch pot and add a small trellis to support the plant as it grows larger. Tuck three or more cilantro seedlings around the front edge of the pot. The cilantro and tomato plants will grow happily together, and you can harvest the cilantro as the tomato matures.

Pot with seedlings

Pot 2: Peppers and Cilantro

Plant a pair of pepper plants in the other 24-inch pot. Add three or more cilantro plants around the rim.

Pot 3: Red Onions and Garlic

Because they don't need deep soil, plant onions and garlic in a long, low, galvanized tub. Arrange garlic cloves, pointed-ends down, in the center of the tub and cover with soil. Tuck onion seedlings around the outside edge of the tub, spacing them two to three inches apart.

Pot with seedlings
Seedlings in planter

Step 5: Set Pots in a Sunny Location

Place the pots in a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. The more sunshine your vegetables soak in, the healthier and more productive they will be.

Tip for Success: Do not plant tomatoes, peppers and cilantro outdoors until after frost danger has passed. These hot-weather plants do best once nightly temperatures remain above 55°F.

Watering can

Step 6: Water When Soil Is Dry

When you're done planting, water thoroughly until you see moisture running out of the bottom of the drainage holes. Once planted, your salsa garden needs regular hydration. Vegetables need at least an inch of moisture per week, so water whenever the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch.

Tip for Success: Consistent moisture is especially essential for tomato health.

Tomato plant

Step 7: Train and Fertilize Tomatoes

As the tomato plant grows, lightly tie the branches to the bamboo trellis to keep it growing upward. Feed the tomato plant with a dilute solution of organic vegetable fertilizer every two to three weeks. (We like this 4-pound bag of Espoma Garden-Tone Plant Food, $10 on Amazon).

Tip for Success: Don't over-fertilize; more is not better when it comes to feeding tomatoes. Too much fertilizer results in the plants producing more leaves and less fruit.

Harvest

Step 8: Harvest the Salsa Ingredients

Harvest tomatoes and peppers when they are firm and brightly colored. Jalapeños should be picked while they are still green. Cilantro leaves and young onions can be harvested at any time; the longer you leave the onions in place, the bigger they'll get. Harvest garlic when the tops of the plant dry and fall over.

Tip for Success: Use produce at its peak for best flavor and whip up a batch of this fresh Tomato Salsa recipe.