What’s a great way to beat the February doldrums? I beat them with visions of an edible container garden growing right outside the kitchen door.
That unused corner of the back deck gets plenty of sunshine in the summer. How about grouping a few pots there? Better yet, what about planting some vegetables, fruits or herbs in those pots? The farm-to-table concept could happen in the space of about 30 feet.
Many varieties of edibles are available now that are bred specifically to grow in containers. All that is needed is a container of the appropriate size to accommodate what will be planted, a good potting soil specifically geared toward growing food and enough hours of sun.
While at this year’s Northwest Flower & Garden Festival in Seattle, I took note of the newest container vegetables and fruits, as well as old favorites. Here are some that sound like fun to grow.
New this year is “Tasmanian Chocolate,” an organic heirloom container tomato with an intriguing name. The fruit is a mahogany or light chocolate color with a flavor that is light and sweet. This tomato grows to a height of 3 to 3½ feet tall, a good size for a container or small raised garden bed.
If you are a fan of cherry tomatoes, “Little Bites” could be a good one to try this season. This compact grower has cascading branches laden with bite-sized morsels. Plant several small containers of this cherry tomato and, when the plant is full of juicy, ripe fruit, surprise your friends with gifts from the harvest.
Get your greens in a small space with any or all of the following container greens. The compact growing container kale “Green Curls” features ruffled deep blue-green leaves that offer multiple harvests. The nutty flavor and tender texture of the leaves are a tasty addition to a fresh salad or a stir fry.
If only these had been available when my mother’s admonitions to “Eat your kale” were so strongly resisted. Next to kale, one of the other least favored vegetables for us kids was spinach (unless my crafty mother cooked it with bacon).
Perhaps if the container spinach “Little Hero” was growing on the back porch, we might have had more open minds. The crunchy sweet leaves of “Little Hero” spinach are easy to harvest at baby size and are packed with flavor. This is a fast-growing plant that also has ornamental appeal.
Add a mix of tasty greens to a salad or saute them. The tops of “Ruby Queen” and “Bull’s Blood” beets go great with “Silverado” and “Eldorado” chard and can be grown in containers. After sowing, let the greens grow several inches tall, then snip with scissors for easy harvest.
With a busy schedule, a good way for me to include vegetables in my diet is to grab a handful of snap peas on the way out the door. The container snap pea “Little Crunch” is definitely going to find its way into a pot between my front door and car. These chubby, crunchy small pods make for a healthy snack that can be enjoyed right off the vine. Train these peas to grow upright on a short support for easier picking.
Another good choice for eating right off the bush is the green bean “French Mascotte.” This compact and sturdy plant produces heavy yields. With its purple blossoms, it adds color and interest, as well as an abundant crop of slender and crisp green beans.
Beets always make a colorful addition to a summer meal. The “Baby Bull” variety produces perfectly rounded baby beets about 1 to 1½ inches in diameter. These petite-sized beets can be harvested early and steamed or baked. A second sowing of seeds can be planted for a fall crop.
Balance out these delicious vegetables with a few container-grown berry and fruit varieties. “Raspberry Shortcake” is a prolific thornless raspberry that can be grown in a pot. No staking is required for this small plant, which reaches a mere 2 to 3 feet in height. The berries are sweetly flavorful and full-sized.
The blueberry “Top Hat” also does well in a container and provides medium-sized berries. Think of this diminutive plant as “edible bonsai,” as described by Raintree Nursery. Or find a spot for a container with a columnar apple such as “Scarlet Sentinel” or “Tasty Ruby.”
Enjoy a summer full of easy harvest and readily accessible edibles. Perhaps if, like me, you made a resolution to eat more vegetables this year. The convenience of containers of fresh vegetables and fruit growing right outside the kitchen door will help make this an easier resolution to keep.
Pam Roy is an award-winning landscape designer with more than 35 years of experience. Contact her by phone at 425-238-4678 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit www.planscapesdesign.com for more information.