With a new year approaching, we’re talking about what’s new in landscaping, and one answer is good enough to eat! Edibles in containers will be hot this spring but you can start now if you have a sunny window ledge, a few pots and some seeds.
Zach Lieven, landscape architect and maintenance specialist at David J. Frank, reports that more and more plant growers are including fruit and vegetable plants in their container “recipes” and also developing compact hybrids that do well in small growing environments. Forget the sad-looking upside down tomato plant; new varieties and combinations are making container gardening a tasty, rewarding and beautiful option.
Some of the most attractive containers are those with plants of differing sizes, colors and textures, and edibles fit well into these combinations when combined with colorful annual flowers. Think about the tall, fern-like foliage on a carrot, the interesting twining habit of grape vines or bright bunches of hot peppers – these and other edibles have unique foliage or fruit that works well with annual flowers. The result is a big statement in a small space – a dual purpose container that appeals to the eyes and the appetite.
Start with the right container – large enough for a healthy root system but not so big that you can’t move it if it needs more sun later in the season (six or more hours a day) or if it’s threatened by frost. With fresh potting soil and good drainage, you’re ready to plan and plant.
With some thought to selecting bush or dwarf varieties, almost any vegetable can be adapted to growing in a pot. Vegetables that take up little space, such as “Spacemaster” cucumbers, green onions, baby carrots, radishes, pole beans or loose leaf lettuce, or crops that produce for a long period of time, such as cherry tomatoes and hot peppers, are perfect when paired with bright annuals. Easy care, attractive herbs also work well in containers with vegetable and/or flower containers. Rosemary, purple basil, garlic chive and more look and smell as wonderful as they taste.
Don’t stop with vegetables when fruit also grows well with flowers in containers. Mix red annuals with strawberry plants to enjoy both blossoms and fruit, or plant a glossy, fragrant dwarf lemon tree in a container for easy over-wintering. Another hot fruit plant is the blueberry; it has pretty blue-green foliage and white spring flowers, then yields a huge crop of tasty berries for easy summer snacking. When planted with white or purple annuals, blueberries make a beautiful, bountiful container garden.
Make the most of your sunny space and get more from your containers. Planting edibles with your annual flowers is a smart, beautiful way to utilize small spaces and a practical choice for anyone who appreciates the flavor and convenience of homegrown produce.