Who says you have to grow vegetables in rows? In our last blog, we talked about planting herb pots for your patio, and we suggested adding a few veggies, too. But why not give those tasty veggies their own collection of containers? Once you’ve eaten fresh-picked produce, you’ll never want to go back to the store. And like herbs, most vegetables are easy to grow.
Also like herbs, vegetables come in a stunning range of colors, shapes, and sizes, allowing you to create container gardens of almost infinite variety that are as gorgeous as they are productive.
Small patio or balcony? Hybridizers have been busy for years developing petite versions of popular veggies. They’re perfect for small spaces, smaller families, and impatient gardeners who want a faster harvest.
What containers to use?
Not all veggies are container-appropriate – full-size tomatoes can be too unwieldy, potatoes require too much underground space, and corn can be moody. But most vegetables grow happily in containers, as long as they get at least six hours of sun each day. If your patio doesn’t quite provide that, move pots around so they get their full complement of sun. Use dollies for heavy containers, or carts for groupings of pots.
South or west-facing walls and hardscape patios emanate heat, which can help, too – as long as it’s not too hot. Walls are also a good backdrop for climbing veggies such as beans and vining squash and tall crops such as tomatoes that need staking or wire cages for support. Tall varieties make a pretty summer privacy screen, too.
Any container will do, as long as there’s room for roots and drainage holes in the bottom. Use traditional pots and window boxes, or create your own containers. Do not use anything with treated wood, though, because the chemicals could leach into your crops.
What to grow?
Some vegetables prefer cooler spring/fall weather, whereas others love the summer heat. You can consult this chart that shows what to plant when in the San Jose area (USDA zone 9b). Some veggies are ready to harvest in no time at all – radishes are wonderful for kids to grow, because they’re super-fast – and others take longer to mature. Plan accordingly, so you’ll always have things you can eat. Start new seeds of fast-growing varieties like lettuce and spinach every two to three weeks, for a continuous supply.
Grow what you like, and have fun with it. Open any seed catalog and you’ll see a riot of color that may surprise you. Orange cauliflower, purple carrots, white eggplant, speckled lettuce. Choose bush squash varieties to plant with tomatoes, and colorful peppers from super-sweet to blow-your-socks-off hot. Grow snap peas and baby bok choy and slender Japanese eggplant and palm-sized lettuces.
You’ll find yourself grazing, because nothing tastes better than a warm tomato or peapod right off the vine.
Get your priorities in order
While planning and planting veggie containers is a “now” thing to do, planning to install artificial grass should be number one on your landscape improvement list. The sooner you get that done, the more time you’ll have to devote to creating and admiring your herb, veggie, and flower pots rather than slaving and sweating over your lawn.
That natural grass will never be as beautiful, or cost-effective, as your container gardens, nor will it ever compete in the fragrance department. And you surely can’t eat it. It might as well be artificial! At least that way, it will always be lush and green – the perfect complement to your patio pots.