It used to be that just about the only edibles that people grew in containers were herbs and tomatoes. Now you can grow just about anything. You always could grow a pretty wide variety, but now, in response to increased interest, seed companies have developed some varieties nicely suited to container growing.
One of the issues with container growing is limited root space. Root space is something carrots obviously need. You can now grow some delicious varieties in a typical window box. ‘Little Finger’ is a Nantes carrot (sweet and cylindrically shaped rather than tapered) that grows to only three inches long. ‘Thumbelina’ carrots are the size and shape of golf balls. Cute!
Lettuce is not deep-rooted, so you can grow it in just about any container. Since it does take up quite a bit of surface space relative to how much you eat—a big head of lettuce makes only enough salad for one meal in my family—you can get higher yields over the year by opting for lettuces that are good for eating early or at the baby stage. Some take only 25 to 30 days, so you can re-sow throughout the growing season. Look for mesclun mixes. For whole heads, a favourite is ‘Tom Thumb’, a butter crunch that can be sown at intervals of just six inches. It takes 65 days to mature.
Look for high-yield bush types, like ‘Heavyweight’. ‘Bushbaby’ is a good lima bean for containers. The thing to do with beans is keep picking—that way you get more.
You can grow dwarf varieties like ‘Golden Bantam’ in a larger container. For my money, though, the yield to space ratio is not great, and if you’re in an area with raccoons or squirrels, the chance that you’ll wake up to a knocked-over pot with stolen almost-ripe ears is high. Still, who doesn’t love a challenge? Plant at least three per container for best pollination and feed heavily.
Choose a wide, deep container—at least 24 inches wide and 18 inches deep—and bush varieties. ‘Spacemaster’ and ‘Salad Bush’ are nice choices for long cucumbers; ‘Picklebush’ yields one of the shorter varieties. Always harvest mature cucumbers to keep the plant producing. Need help growing cucumbers? Click Here.
Bunching onions are easiest to grow in containers; these are they the long type that we called green onions when I was a kid. There’s no reason you can’t grow the bulbous onions in a pot, though. Choose a wide container, since onions need a good three inches of free soil all around them to grow well. Onions take plenty of water, but as a root vegetable, drainage is particularly important.
Pumpkins are notorious space hogs. Plenty of leaf space is required for growing big fruit. There are some tiny-fruit ornamentals, but for eating, try ‘Neon’ in a big, five-gallon tub.
‘Minnesota Midget’ is the melon of choice amongst experienced container growers. (Well, the growers I’ve come across, anyway.) The fruits are about four inches in diameter and you can harvest in 100 days.
Water is important in an in-ground vegetable garden, and even more so in a container garden. Flowers may wilt when they get stressed for water, but a vegetable can crack, which leaves it open to disease and not so palatable at harvest. Provide excellent drainage in your containers, opt for the biggest containers possible, and when it’s hot and sunny, get out there every day with the hose. That’s right, every day.
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