5 Easy Edible Plants to Grow in Containers
Now that the weather is warming up, it’s so tempting to start growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs. But if you don’t have a sunny patch of soil for a garden, it makes it hard. That’s where containers come into play!
Did you know there are a surprising amount of edible plants that actually thrive in a container? Not only does this mean you can have access to those fresh out of the garden veggies, it means you have the freedom to put your plants wherever you want them to be, not where your soil happens to be.
As with most everything, there are a few rules to follow when starting a container garden for edibles:
- The container must be the right size to accommodate the full-grown plant. This is especially important for tomatoes and peppers since they need growing room.
- Use a potting mix that encourages container growth, as opposed to heavy garden soil which may be too dense for plants to thrive in. Since roots won’t be able to work their way out of containers to reach water, you will most likely have to water more frequently.
- Be cautious if you’re container garden is located on a balcony and make sure it can handle the weight of full grown plants.
Whether perched on a windowsill or lined up along a sidewalk, herbs thrive in containers of all shapes and sizes. Plus, it’s very convenient — especially when it comes to members of the mint family. If not planted in a container, mint tends to take over gardens.
As mentioned before, the trick to growing herbs in containers is to match the pot size to the full grown size of the plant. Smaller herbs, such as chives, cilantro, oregano, parsley, sage, tarragon and thyme, can be grown in pots that are 6 to 12 inches deep and up to 12 inches wide. Then there is basil, lavender and lemongrass that prefer 16- to 18-inch containers at a minimum, and dill and rosemary that thrive in even larger containers.
2. Salad Greens
Another great choice for a container, salad greens typically have very shallow roots. Putting them in a raised container allows them to become a garden highlight instead of their typical status of an overlooked low-lying plant.
Plant a single type of green or plant a mix in one container. Either way, you’ll need a shallow pot (about 6 inches deep for most lettuces and lettuce blends). Chicory, radicchio and spinach require pots about 8 inches deep.
While a strawberry jar is the standard choice for a pot, strawberries aren’t fussy as long as the container is at least 8 inches deep. Go a little larger if planting them in a hanging basket — at least a foot wide and deep.
One of the benefits of growing strawberries in a container is the beauty of the berries cascading over the side. In addition, you can pull the container close to where you like to sit and pick the ripened strawberries as you’re relaxing. If you want to be a little different, grow them in a hanging container. This keeps snails and slugs from your crop.
Pepper plants have no problem holding their own against other plants in a vegetable garden, but growing them in a container allows you to start it early in a protected spot and then move it to its final spot, where it can soak up the summer heat while those peppers ripen.
A small disadvantage to container-grown peppers is their size — they aren’t quite as big as garden-grown peppers. The good news is they make up for any size deficiency with their taste and bright visual presence on a balcony or patio garden. For peppers, look for a container at least 8 inches deep (12 inches or more would be even better) and at least 16 to 18 inches wide.
Just as tasty as those grown in garden soil, container-grown tomatoes also have the advantage of being able to grow in the same spot year after year — no having to rotate your crop due to soil-borne diseases.
As with other edible plants, it is important to match tomato size to container size. If you’re going to err, err on the large side. Even tiny cherry tomatoes need a pot or hanging basket that is at least a foot deep and even wider. Larger tomatoes will want a planter as large as possible.