For many of us urban dwellers, however, a backyard is a luxury. The good news is that there are many edible plants that grow well in containers. You don’t need acres of land. There are few things more satisfying in life than planting and growing your own food. A meal that has been prepared with fresh ingredients grown and gathered from your own backyard just tastes better!
What you need to get started:
Containers: The pots you choose for your garden should be at least 10” in diameter for vegetables and 6-8” for herbs. Make sure there are drainage holes in the bottoms of the pots. If you are using a decorative ceramic pot, you can drill holes in the bottom or use a plastic pot liner with holes so that the water can drain properly.
Soil: One of the biggest challenges a container gardener will experience is compact soil. To ensure that the soil stays light and arable use a mixture of vermiculite, peat and compost.
Full sunlight: For vegetable plants to produce a crop, they need at least 6 hours of full sunlight. Choose a sunny location on your balcony, front stoop, picture window or even your roof-top. That said, containers heat up quickly and the soil can dry out if they plants are overexposed to direct mid-day sun. Be sure to check your plants at least twice daily for water.
Plant Options for your Container Garden
As stated earlier, practically any plant can be grown in a container. You can either start your plants from seeds or you can purchase young starter plants from your local nursery. Here is a list of some home gardening favorites!
Tomatoes: By far the most popular homegrown vegetable, tomatoes come in many different varieties. Try planting a number of pots that include cherry, plummy and slicing tomatoes. The larger varieties may need the additional support of a stake or trellis once the tomatoes start coming on.
Peppers: Probably, the second most popular garden vegetable, peppers require minimal space and yield a large crop. From sweet bell peppers to fiery scotch bonnets, try growing a variety.
Cucumbers: Typically a climbing vine, there is a bush variety of cucumber that makes an excellent container plant.
Scallions: The shallow roots of scallions make them a perfect choice for container gardening. Unlike onions or garlic, scallions never form a bulb and will grow in a compact space.
Greens: From callaloo to cabbage, greens are easy to grow and make an excellent addition to your container garden. Most greens including Swiss chard and many varieties of lettuce prefer cooler weather and shade. It would be wise to plant your greens in the fall and winter months.
Melon: Like cucumbers, melons typically grow on climbing vines, however, there is a variety of midget melons that take up less space. One plant will yield several sweet melons that look and taste like cantaloupe.
Herbs: Most of us associate container gardening with common kitchen herbs. Some favorites include: Basil, Parsley, Thyme, Rosemary, Mint, Lemon Balm, Lavender and Sage.
Edible Flowers: Flowers are not just pretty to look at, but tasty too! They are sure to brighten up any meal. Most edible flowers have a peppery or spicy taste like nasturtiums and marigolds. Others offer a sweet or mild flavor such as lavender and basil flowers. Squash blossoms from the zucchini plants can be stuffed with your favorite filling and then fried.
Remember to have fun in your garden! Grow plants that you love or plants that you are curious about. If you have questions or concerns about your garden, add a comment or visit your local garden center. There are also some wonderful resources on the internet. Happy Growing!