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Growing Vegetables in Containers and Pots

Growing vegetables in pots can be a great way to put the harvest right at your back door, but pots can also be the centerpieces of a garden, and they should be pretty.

“When you’re designing pots with vegetables, use color as your guide,” says Andrea Bellamy, who grows all kinds of vegetables in pots on her balcony in Vancover and has written a book on the subject, Sugar Snaps and Strawberries. Swiss chard, particularly ‘Bright Lights’, which has ruffled leaves and flashy red, yellow, orange, and white stems, “is one of the darlings of the ornamental vegetable world,” she says, and it looks terrific in a pot or planter. Shiny purple eggplant, or eggplants with striped or mottled fruit, are also great looking and thrive in pots.

Bellamy especially recommends leafy vegetables for pots. Handsome green-blue Lacinato kale is one of her favorites. It has heavily quilted leaves and grows in a tight cluster, which allows lots of room for mounding plants around the sides of a pot.

“I like purple bush beans,” she says. “They’re just kind of fun.” She uses them as a filler plant in big pots. Curly kale, basil, chives, and sage are other easy, and delicious, fillers. Bellamy prefers curly-leaf parsley for its texture, and she recommends loose-leaf lettuce plants for their great productivity. Lettuce can be planted early in the season around the edges of a pot, allowing room for eggplants, colorful peppers, tomatoes, or other upright plants to fill out in the center as the weather warms up. A tepee, a tomato tower, or an ornamental obelisk all look a bit more decorative than a tomato cage and will support upright plants admirably.

Trailing plants soften the edges of a pot and let you pack a little more production in around the sides. Peas will trail, but most also travel; ‘Peas in a Pot’ were designed for containers — they are compact and productive. Strawberries are also well-mannered and reliable in pots. Weeping rosemary or hanging-basket tomatoes are good spillers, Bellamy says. Nasturtiums, with round leaves like miniature lily pads and bright yellow, red, or orange flowers, tumble gracefully over the edge of a vegetable garden in a pot. They look good enough to eat, and they are: the leaves and flowers taste a little bit like cress. Pick all you want. In this case, you’re supposed to eat the garnish.

Read the next Article: Kitchen Garden Design

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Gardening Tip of the Day

  • If the best looking melons in the garden had little or no flavor last summer, the problem may be the variety planted. Some melon types do better in a region than others and only trial and error or an experienced local gardener or county extension agent can guide you.

    Occasionally the problem is the soil. It may lack sufficient nutrients or the pH can be too low. Dig in compost or rotted manure before planting. Melons do best in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Have your soil tested and if the pH is below 6.5, amend with lime. Sometimes a lot of rain near the time of harvest will dilute the sugar in melons affecting taste. Watermelons will regain their sugars if you hold off harvesting for a few days. Cantaloupes will not.