Even the smallest garden can have an edible component. Acres of beautifully tilled soil with regimented rows of vegetables are not compulsory … Attractive and practical containers, pots and baskets can also be used to great effect.
Choosing the Right Container
Almost any pot can have something useful and attractive inside. However, a random collection of bits and pieces can look like a scrap heap…Choose containers that work well as a group with similar style or shape to give unity. An eclectic mix of well chosen objects or a series of pots that are graduated in size along a wall can be very pretty. As long as the container has drainage or enough space to incorporate a layer of gravel in the bottom, it will be fine to grow what’s needed.
Edible Plants for Large Containers
If there’s room for large containers, almost anything can be grown – potatoes, carrots, even squashes. Choose unusual plants or more expensive things that are hard to come by in the shops such as chard or rocket, purple carrots or pink fur apple potatoes. Also, choose plants for their foliage and flowers. A successful edible garden is a balance between the aesthetic and the tasty. For prettiness, try bronze fennel in a deep pot with some feathery carrots in other pots nearby for a foliage fest.
Attractive climbing beans can make great focal points. Blueberries do well in containers for a while, if they are well watered and the compost is renewed and maintained at the acidic pH. Dwarf fruit trees can also crop well if they are looked after.
Edible Plants for Small Containers
Herbs can be squeezed in almost anywhere. Thymes, oregano and mint all thrive in smallish pots. If there’s a sunny, sheltered spot, some of the more exotic plants such as lemon grass, basil and coriander may survive outside. Single lettuce plants and crops of rocket can also be grown, along with plants like Swiss chard that can look stunning as a feature plant in a pot. Edible flower varieties can also be added in, violets, lavender and ……all have flowers that can be used in cooking or as an edible garnish.
Edible Hanging Baskets
Why not try beans as trailing plants from a basket? Dwarf French beans, with pretty scarlet flowers would be at home hanging from a window box or basket. Mange tout or dwarf peas are good too. They may need training down some wires; these could be attached to the basket and tied in at the bottom. Strawberries also do well in baskets and the more attractive varieties of lettuce have lovely foliage. Mix this in with nasturtiums, chives and herbs for a basket that is pretty and delicious. A whole salad in a bowl – just add some tumbling yellow tomatoes.
Caring for Edible Container Gardens
Choose good compost and include the gel granules that hold water if possible. The occasional weekend away won’t be the end of the garden if the containers and baskets can hold enough water. If there has been a dry spell, keep watering but remember that the more you water, the more the containers are losing nutrients so the plants will need to be fed more often. Choose fertilizers that are lower in nitrogen to encourage fruiting plants, or that have more nitrogen for plants such as lettuce.
Beginning an Edible Container Garden
Pick up a few seed catalogues, browse online; have a look at the range available and shop away…Sprout the seeds – either in a windowsill propagator or other improvised method, a pot with cling-film over it is good enough.
When they are large enough, plant the baskets and containers up and put them outside if it is warm enough overnight. If it isn’t, hold fire, keep the baskets covered with horticultural fleece if you have to put them out due to a lack of space or borrow a friend’s greenhouse until it warms up a bit. Timing is always tricky, late frost is the enemy.
Keep watering and feeding and within a few weeks, there should be a bounteous display.
So choose some attractive containers, a range of plants that have unusual fruits and interesting foliage, sow the seeds and wait…With luck and some warm weather, the edible container garden will flourish.