Everyone wants to grow their own vegetables at home these days. However, many people don’t have the space to grow a garden or time. The solution is containers. You can grow almost any vegetable in a container, depending on the variety. Here are some tips on growing vegetables in pots.
Some of the easiest vegetables and herbs to grow in containers for the biggest bang for your buck include greens, such as lettuce, arugula and Swiss chard; specialty peppers; radishes and beets, dwarf tomatoes; basil; oregano; and rosemary. The easiest container planting technique is to grow one type of edible in each pot such as a pot of greens for salad making, one cherry tomato for snacking, or one zucchini for summer grilling. his technique works particularly well for large vegetable and herb plants. The downside of this type of gardening is it requires many containers, which may be a detriment if you have a small deck, balcony or porch.
Small veggies and herbs, such as parsley and lettuce, can fit in a 12- to 14- inch diameter container. Peppers, basil, cucumbers and beans are easiest grown in a little larger container. Large plants, such as tomatoes, bush squash, broccoli, eggplant, sweet corn, and combinations of vegetables and herbs grow best in a containers 18 inches in diameter or larger. Of course, the larger the container, the heavier it will be to move around, so consider where you’ll be growing it.
Grow Dwarf Plants
To keep the plants, and size of the pots, manageable, select some of newer bush versions of large vegetables. One program, the Dwarf Tomato Breeding Project, spear headed by Craig LeHoullier. He has been developing dwarf-indeterminate tomato plants that produce full-sized fruits all season on just 3- to 4-foot tall plants. See the sidebar on varieties for some examples.
Another way to approach container design is to grow vegetable and herb combination pots. Match vegetables and herbs with complimentary space needs. Plant a tall growing bell pepper, leek, celery or rosemary in the center of a container with trailing nasturtiums, oregano or strawberries along the edge. Or plant vegetables with similar water and temperature needs such as a container of greens filled with Swiss chard, kale and parsley.
Succession Plant Edibles
Another way to look at your container is to match the seasonality of your vegetables and herbs and create succession plantings. In spring, plant quick maturing pak choi, dwarf peas, arugula and mesclun greens. Pull these plants out in early summer and plant heat loving bush beans, cucumbers and basil. Come fall, go back to cool weather crops, such as kale, parsley, spinach and radishes. In warm regions of the country, you can keep this succession going by replanting cool season veggies and herbs in winter for a spring harvest.
You can also use the pairing down approach for container veggies. Start with multiple veggies in one pot that mature at different times. Grow a tomato or eggplant in a container flanked by lettuce, pansies and cilantro. You’ll harvest the lettuce, flowers and cilantro long before the tomato or eggplant gets big enough to shade them and take over.