A Dozen Vegetables You Can Grow in Pots
When space is at a premium, you can grow your veggies in containers. It not only maximizes garden space, it allows you to move pots—to a sunny spot for better production, or a sheltered area when frost is forecast. Here are 12 veggies for you to try.
A Big Selection
To say there’s a large selection of garden containers available for sale these days is an understatement. And that’s not even taking into account all the repurposed pots that have made their way into gardens. Fortunately, there’s a pretty big selection of vegetables that like growing in those pots. The secret: fill them with a lightweight potting mix containing a slow-release fertilizer and moisture-holding crystals. And, of course, keep your veggies well watered because pots dry out more quickly than ground soil.
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You can grow any number of peppers in a container, but one of the absolute easiest veggies for that purpose is the banana pepper. Less fickle about temperature ranges when it comes to pollination, it easily sets fruit when bell peppers are struggling at the same feat. The upright plants need no staking, and the sweet, banana-shape peppers are a nice addition to fresh salads. Remove peppers with pruners, as pulling them often breaks the stems.
Onions are a great addition to the garden, growing equally well in the ground or in containers. The key factor is water. They need a loose, well-drained soil so the bulbs don’t rot. But with short roots, a consistent source of moisture is important for plump bulbs to develop. Grow your choice of white, yellow or red onions.
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Leaf lettuce is nutritious and delicious. Unfortunately, it can also be expensive, which is why more and more gardeners are growing it themselves. This cool-season stalwart is easy to raise in place from seed. And it’s so productive you can harvest the veggies continually for weeks on end. Many different varieties are available, some with colorful and frilly leaves that give it cache as an ornamental. A large container is best so there’s room for multiple plants.
This nutritious superstar has quickly jumped from the garnish tray to the dinner table. Although some varieties of kale can get awfully big, there are smaller varieties like ripbor kale and curly kale that grow just 1 to 2 feet tall and are better suited to containers. Kale prefers the cool temperatures of spring and fall but can be coaxed to continue bearing in summer in northern gardens if given some shade in the afternoon. When harvesting these veggies, snip the outside leaves so the interior of the plant can keep developing new leaves.
While it’s true tomato plants can get quite large and unwieldy, plant breeders have come up with smaller varieties of these veggies to grow in containers. These are usually determinate types, meaning they grow to a certain size and stop. No need for heavy metal cages. The only real drawback is that they mature a crop all at once.
Chives are a perennial, so you only have to buy them once. In fact, after three or four years, they will need dividing, so you’ll end up with extra plants. These are very popular plants for mixing in the ornamental garden, due to the rosy purple flowers. Both the flowers and the stems have a mild onion taste and are used to flavor many different dishes.
Cherry tomatoes are one of those veggies you can grow almost anywhere there’s soil, sunlight and water. That also goes for containers, or in this case, hanging baskets, where the cherry tomatoes can hang down. How convenient for harvesting! Keep them evenly watered to avoid the dreaded cracking that occurs when a dry spell is followed by an abundance of water.
Radishes mature in as little as a month. They also prefer cooler spring temperatures. Did we mention they’re also one of the more compact veggies you’ll find? Those attributes mean they make a great spring container plant. And the best thing is, once they’re harvested, the container is open for a summer favorite…or even an ornamental.
Growing vegetables but not in pots? Here’s what you need to know about preparing the soil.
Hot peppers are a cinch to raise, so long as temperatures stay below 90 degrees F. They’ll continue growing in hotter weather but will drop their flowers without setting fruit. When they do set fruit, watch out. Their bright colors and interesting shapes make them quite the ornamental plant. When harvesting, wear gloves or wash your hands after handling to avoid irritating your eyes if you accidentally rub them with “hot pepper fingers.”
Some smaller varieties, such as Patio Baby mini eggplant, grow just 1 to 2 feet tall, so they’re perfect for containers. Larger eggplants need larger pots—up to 24 inches in diameter per plant—and staking to support the fruit-laden branches in late summer. Even so, containers are a good idea in cold climates because the soil warms up quicker, much to eggplant’s liking.
Broccoli does just fine in pots—if the pots are large enough. A 6-inch container won’t be any match for these plants when they become top-heavy with produce and tip over. Whiskey barrels, on the other hand, have the necessary mass and rooting space to accommodate broccoli. Cool temperatures and plenty of moisture are the main requirement of these veggies. Harvest the center head but leave plants in place because they will develop side florets that can also be harvested.
Want something ornamental for your container? Here are some great flowering plants for pots.
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Here’s a vegetable you can grow on your kitchen counter! Microgreens are the recently sprouted seeds of various vegetables, from radishes to alfalfa, after they have developed their first true leaves. This usually takes 1 to 3 weeks, depending on species. Microgreens are nutritious and the leaves and stems add interesting texture and taste to salads and sandwiches.