Saturday, April 18, 2015

Decorative container gardening for edibles

Pepper plant with petunias

Saturday, April 18, 2015

There are so many new varieties out every year.  There are ones that are more resistant to disease.  Ones that have higher nutritional value.  Ones that produce more.  Ones that have improved taste.  Ones that are developed for their small size and big harvests for those of us who have limited space or just want to get more for the effort.  It is amazing what can now be grown in pots!

We hear a lot about Monsanto and GMO’s (genetically modified organisms) and crop breeding can seem a bad thing.  The difference between GMO’s and other types of crop breeding is that GMO’s bring in genetic material from other organisms in a lab, like bacteria and even viruses.  The plants are engineered so that they kill insects that try to eat it.

That is only one side of the plant breeding story.  There are many other natural, with a little help, breeding of crops today.  It can be as simple as saving of seeds from the best producer of last year.  There are also hybrids which take the best traits of two different parents into seeds.  These hybrids will not produce seed that you can reuse next year and get the same vegetable as the parent.

Heirlooms and open pollinated vegetables will produce “true” to seed.  The offspring will be like its parent.  It isn't just the old varieties that you can save and use seeds from year to year.  It is any "open pollinated", non-GMO, non-hybrid.  If you find a veggie you really like at the store, it doesn't hurt a thing to save the seed and try growing it in your garden.

Through the centuries, farmers have chosen the traits they like and have built on them from season to season.  This has given us Brandywine tomatoes, Vidalia onions and Jalape├▒o peppers.  Yum!

Today's breeding has focused on urban gardening; growing great tasting fruits and vegetables in small spaces and containers.  There are lots of new compact, dwarf, bush, patio, container varieties available every year.  Today, you can grow almost anything you like in a pot, even corn and watermelons!

Just be sure to match the right edible with the size of pot you have.  Add flowers, too.  This not only adds pizazz to the container, but attracts beneficial pollinators that increase yields.  A real win-win.

What size pot do you need for a container veggie garden?
Any varieties listed for a smaller pot will be happy in a larger pot, too.  There are many more varieties out there than listed below.  Just look at the seed packet for terms like patio, compact, or dwarf.  Here are suggestions by size of pot you have.

For containers 8” wide by 6-8” deep:
Carrots-Thumbelina, Parmex, Tonda di Parigi 
Greens-arugula, corn salad, cress, small pac choi like Tatsoi, purslane
Lettuce or Kale-any type that you are going to continually harvest and not grow into full heads.  


5 Day Golden Cross Cabbage

For containers 10” wide by 10” deep or larger, these will grow well:
Carrots-Atlas, Caracas, Little Finger, Adelaide, Short n Sweet
Dwarf cabbage-5 Day Golden Cross, Parel, Caraflex
Eggplant with small fruits-Bambino, Casper, Fairytale, Neon, Patio Mohican, Slim Jim, White Egg
Greens-French sorrel, salad burnet, spinach
Herbs-any.  Mediterranean herbs love having dry feet.
Lettuce-Little Gem, Tennis Ball, Tom Thumb if growing to full heads
Peppers, compact types-Blushing Beauty, Chili Pepper Krakatoa, Habanero, Hungarian Yellow Wax, Sweet Pepper Ingrid, Prairie Fire, Red Delicious, Sweet Pickle, Zavory, Yellow Banana
Radishes-Amethyst, Cherry Bell, Pink Slipper, Poloneza, Red Head, Rudi
Strawberries

For containers 14-16” wide and 10” deep or larger:
Beans-compact bush types , Runner Beans on a trellis or stake
Beets
Broccoli raab
Celery
Chard
Corn-On Deck Sweet Corn
Cucumber, compact bush types-Lemon, Little Leaf, Suyo, Salad Bush, Fanfare, Sweet Success, Bush Champion, Spacemaster, Miniature White, Picklebush, Mexican Sour Gherkin, Patio Snacker
All types of eggplant
Horseradish
Kale
Okra-Little Lucy
Onions-Apache, Pompeii or the perennial Egyptian Onion
Peas-dwarf bush types
All types of peppers (sweet peppers seem to be more productive in the ground while my hot peppers flourish in pots)
Tomatoes, look for bush, dwarf, patio, compact types-BushSteak, Patio Princess, Bush Early Girl, Tumbler, Bush Big Boy, Baxter’s Bush Cherry, Lizzano, Sweetheart of the Patio, Tumbling Tom Yellow, Bush Better Bush, Balcony, Fresh Salsa Hybrid, Celebrity, Daybreak, Johnny’s 361, Legend, Sweet Baby Girl, Sweet n Neat
Turnips
Summer squash, compact bush types-Bush Baby, Yellow Crookneck, Eight Ball, Cue Ball, Golden Delight, Anton, Patio Star, Giambo, Astia, Raven, Cosmos Hybrid (look for bush types versus vining types)

Pot of assorted greens with red petunia

Containers 20” wide by 16” deep:
Apple-Columnar varieties
Beans-any bush type, more compact pole types (look for the ones have vines 6’ or less or you can pinch off the longer types)
Blueberry-Tophat
Broccoli-I really like sprouting broccoli or broccoli raab for pots
Cantaloupe-Honey Rock, Minnesota Midget
Fig trees
Lettuce-all varieties
Peanuts
Peas-all bush types and more compact pole types (look for ones that vine 6’ or less)
Potatoes-there are containers made just for potatoes nowadays
Pumpkins-miniature, like Small Sugar
Shallots
Sweet potatoes
Watermelon-Bush Sugar Baby, Sugar Pot
Winter squash, compact bush types-Butterbush Butternut

For really large containers on the scale of a half whiskey or wine barrel:
Beans-all pole beans
Carrots-all varieties
Cucumbers-bush and vining types
Summer squash-Bush Baby, Space Miser, Egg Ball, Papaya Pear
Tomatoes
Watermelons
Winter squash-Honey Bear, Carnival, Discus Bush Buttercup

Black Beauty eggplant with fuchsia petunias and Egyptian walking onions

When growing veggies and fruit in containers, they will require more watering and more liquid fertilizer than if they were in the ground.  In the summer, you may have to water some water lovers every day.


To reduce watering, purchase or make pots that have a water reservoir in the bottom.  A couple on the market today are “Earthbox” and “Grow Box”.  With these type of pots, you can water weekly.  

You can make your own self-watering containers using 5 gallon buckets or other plastic containers or you can buy a self watering kit to convert your existing container to a self watering pot.


With all the colors and varieties out there, beautiful container combinations can expand and beautify your garden space.

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