You don’t need acres of land and the sweat of your brow to grow vegetables—a few big pots can yield a bountiful and delicious harvest, with less work. Gardening in containers keeps produce off the ground, making diseases less likely. If a plant is wilting in the sun, simply move it into the shade. And did we mention that harvesting is a breeze? Grow your favorites, or try some of the new, compact varieties specifically bred for containers.
Blueberries » Yes, blueberries. Standard bushes can grow 6 feet tall, but smaller varieties top out at 2 to 3 feet. One thing blueberries need to thrive is acidic soil—use a soil mix especially for blueberries, azaleas, or rhododendrons. Try dwarf varieties “Jelly Bean” (Raintree), “Sunshine Blue” (Peaceful Valley), or “Top Hat” (Burpee).
Cucumbers » Grow cukes in a pot? Absolutely. Cucumbers take off in the warm soil of a container. Try bush varieties, which get about 2 to 3 feet tall (a tomato cage works well as a trellis). Varieties include “Spacemaster” (Botanical Interests), “Patio Snacker” (Territorial Seed), and “Arkansas Little Leaf” (Sow True Seed).
Hot peppers » Attractive and edible, hot peppers are the perfect ornamental for a patio or deck. Wear gloves when handling the fruits and don’t rub your eyes—pepper juice burns. Varieties include “Chinese 5-Color” (Baker Creek), “Cayenetta” (Territorial Seed), and Thai hot pepper (Botanical Interests).
Mint » Iced tea and mint juleps are just a snip away—in a pot on the patio. Mint prefers moist, rich soil; growing it in a pot keeps its rambunctious nature under control. Besides pepper- and spearmint, there are lemon, pineapple, and chocolate mint, all readily available at garden centers.
Raspberries » In the garden, raspberries grow on canes up to 8 feet tall; container varieties stay 4 feet and under. Varieties include red “Raspberry Shortcake” (Raintree) and purple “Glencoe” (Burpee)—both thornless—and the thorny but luscious “Fall Gold” (Peaceful Valley).
WHAT PLANTS WANT
Room for roots » Almost anything can be a pot, as long as it’s large, has drainage holes, and isn’t made from (or once held) anything toxic. Start at 12 to 14 inches in diameter and 14 inches deep for a single plant, and go up from there. Planters on wheels or plant caddies make heavy containers easier to move.
The right soil » Not garden soil, which is too dense, but a porous organic potting mix made for large containers. Look for mixes made with coir (coconut-husk fiber) and amended with compost or other organic matter, which provides good drainage while conserving moisture.
Plenty of water » Potting mix dries out quickly: Water consistently, and never let containers dry out completely. If it’s hot or hasn’t rained, you might need to water once or even twice a day. Water until it runs out of the drainage holes. Don’t let a pot stand in water. In arid climates, drip irrigation is a time- and water-saver.
Enough light » Blueberries, raspberries, hot peppers, and cucumbers need eight hours of sunlight a day for an appreciable yield. Mint can get by with less. Also, make sure there is good air circulation around the pots—smart advice for any plant growing in a container.
Faithful feeding » Most potting soils contain few nutrients, so fertilizing plants is a must. Use a diluted, water-soluble fertilizer like seaweed emulsion, according to the directions on the label.