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Patio Vegetable Gardens

May 6, 2009

I have been getting a lot of questions lately about patio  vegetables and growing edibles in containers. With the uptick in home vegetable gardening, many of you are interested how to squeeze more produce into limited space. Container gardening is actually a fantastic way to dip a toe into growing your own food and learn some basic techniques.

First, you can grow almost any annual vegetable in a container of moderate size, at least a 12″ pot, preferably greater. The larger the container, the larger your plant can grow. While nearly every type of veggie is available, it makes sense to pay attention to the characteristics of the particular varieties.

Tomatoes for example can get to very unwieldy sizes, so when dealing with them it is best to first choose a determinate variety, which means it will stop growing at a determined size. You can go the simple route and choose the specifically raised “Patio Tomato”, a classic variety and consistent performer in containers for years.

This tomato plant is the absolute fastest way to homegrown summer tomatoes. There are already several medium size fruit on these plants, and it's hardly warm enough for them to live outdoors yet! You'll definitely have the edge on your neighbors with one of these, though of course we have them available in a smaller younger size as well.

This tomato plant is the absolute fastest way to homegrown summer tomatoes. There are already several medium size fruit on these plants, and it's hardly warm enough for them to live outdoors yet! You'll definitely have the edge on your neighbors with one of these, though of course we have them available in a smaller younger size as well.

Similar “Teacup” varieties are also becoming available, including in our greenhouse.

These are a new variety for us, but so far we are very impressed with the quantity of fruit to the scarcity of plant in these pots.

These are a new variety for us, but so far we are very impressed with the quantity of fruit to the scarcity of plant in these pots.

Additionally a few varieties lend themselves to hanging baskets, which you may be seeing on television of late. We are offering a version of these this year as well, in our standard 10″ hanger. The main benefit to a hanging tomato is that it does not require staking and trellising as the plant just grow toward the ground, and it doesn’t eat up precious space. The other varieties will probably need a stake or cage of some sort to support them as they become loaded with summer fruit, the same as any other tomato.

There are other Patio specific vegetable varieties available, specifically chosen for their small plant size and apparently strong stems and branch structures needed by a plant with a smaller root structure. We are happy to offer options in these categories in peppers, eggplant, zucchini, and cucumbers. They are limited in variety, but seem to be strong performers, many of them are already showing signs of fruit forming while our outdoor veggies are still weeks from transplant.

Patio Eggplant

Patio PepperPatio Bush CucumberNow certainly you can grow any variety of pepper, eggplant, or tomatoes in a container, but you need to be prepared that many will require a fair amount of tying and support. Many squashes and cucumbers have a tendency to trail and spread rapidly, so be sure to look for bushing varieties whenever possible.

Of course lettuces and greens will grow just fine in containers as well, and certainly herbs make sense as they are handy to the prep area when cooking.

These mixed herb pots make excellent gifts, hinthint. Additonally they achieve the difficult task of getting the herbs to where you will use them the most. In the kitchen, by the grill, in the garden, they are ready to go! Some herbs, like mints and creeping varietals of thyme and oregano, are suited to containers more than in the landscape just as a means of control.

These mixed herb pots make excellent gifts, hinthint. Additonally they achieve the difficult task of getting the herbs to where you will use them the most. In the kitchen, by the grill, in the garden, they are ready to go! Some herbs, like mints and creeping varietals of thyme and oregano, are suited to containers more than in the landscape just as a means of control.

Corn would be a bit ridiculous, but I am sure people have done it with success;  beans and peas don’t produce much in too small a space so that could be disappointing for anything more than a snack. Strawberries grow quite nicely in the confines of a pot however.

Another upshot to the container vegetable garden is the total control the gardener can inflict on the crop:

  • Not sunny enough, move it around the yard.
  • Not rainy enough, watering can be direct and efficient.
  • Not warm enough, pull it into the house on chilly spring nights.
  • Soil hard and questionably fertile, pour the good stuff right out of bag.

There are lots of options for you, and I can tell I have barely scratched the surface. So hopefully you take this opportunity to think about your patio garden for 2009 and feel free to contact us through the comments and we will do our best to clarify anything you have further questions about.

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