in containers for the fresh-picked taste not to save money.
Photo by Kim Good
MUSKOKAN - There’s something truly amazing about biting into a freshly picked tomato that you’ve grown yourself. Growing vegetables is one of the more rewarding aspects of gardening but not everyone has the space or the time to plant a vegetable garden. However, most people can find space for a container or two and there are so many vegetables that can be grown in pots.
Growing vegetables in containers is one of the latest gardening trends
Growing vegetables in containers is currently one of the latest gardening trends. Some would have you believe that growing your own vegetables is going to save you money, but the reality is that you’ll never grow enough vegetables in containers to save any appreciable amount of money. The main reason for growing vegetables in pots is to experience the fresh-picked flavour of homegrown produce.
There are lots of other reasons for growing vegetables in containers. There’s the satisfaction of growing your own food. It’s a fun activity that can get kids involved. There’s no weeding. Watering and fertilizing is simple. It’s easy to go organic with no pesticides. You can position them so you can tend to them without bending over. Even if you have a regular vegetable garden you can use containers to grow difficult vegetables that need special attention. Or you can have your favourite veggies by the kitchen door for easy picking.
Growing herbs in pots has been popular for a long time, as has patio tomatoes. It’s no surprise that vegetables were the next natural step. The good thing about this latest container craze is that since it’s getting so popular there are new varieties designed especially for containers. Plants suitable for growing in small spaces will have key words like bush, compact or space saver in either their names or in the description. Check labels for sizes and growing habits. Consider ‘Spacemaster’ cucumbers, ‘French Dwarf’ beans or ‘Bambino’ eggplant.
Pole beans grown on an obelisk will look great, as well as yielding an incredible amount of beans. Full-size cucumbers won’t take much room in a container if allowed to trail down the sides of the pot. Jalapeno or other small hot peppers don’t take much space but regular red or green peppers are not overly large and will also grow well in containers. They can be packed in a little tighter than you would in a garden because you can provide them with more water and nutrients.
Lettuce is excellent in containers. Leafy mixes like mesclun can be planted in the early spring and harvested over a long period. When the leaves get to be about three to six inches high you can cut them with scissors leaving behind about an inch of stubble and they will grow again. This can be done three or four times. You could have a salad container with lettuce, a cherry tomato plant, some radishes, a few green onions and some parsley.
Though vegetable containers are mainly for eating, there’s no reason they have to be boring or unattractive. There are all kinds of interesting vegetables to choose from with either coloured foliage or colourful fruit. You can mix in herbs with textured or coloured leaves to add more appeal. Choose funky or elegant containers to create a style for your portable garden. Just remember to choose a container with drainage holes — veggies don’t like to be too wet. The pot should be large enough so the plants won’t get root bound.
One thing to know about your vegetable containers is that they will eventually get ratty looking when they get past their peak harvest time. You might want to have some fall-producing vegetables growing in pots on the sidelines which can be brought forward when the early veggies peter out. It could be things like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale or swiss chard.
Growing veggies in containers is easy, rewarding and only limited by your space and your imagination. Watch out or you might find yourself getting carried away. But then again, you can never get too much of a good thing — right?
Elaine Vida is a horticulturist and a landscape designer with an Ontario Diploma of Horticulture from the University of Guelph. She works as a designer with Brackenrig Landscaping, and can be reached at email@example.com.