By Steffie Littlefield
Did you know you can grow cherry tomatoes in a hanging basket, green beans in a window box or peppers in a wall pocket? Many gardeners are limited to container gardening either due to their living quarters or because the only place with enough sun is on their back porch. There are many new products on the market this spring that make a nontraditional vegetable garden surprisingly easy. So the fun of growing your own tasty and healthy fresh food is something everyone can do.
Here are some creative new products to spark your imagination! The Earthbox is a container vegetable garden with a self-watering reservoir built into the bottom of the box. It has casters to make it easy to move around to get the best sun and a cover that you plant through to help conserve moisture, keep unwanted plants out and even protect young plants from digging squirrels.
The Topsy Turvy – tomato planter lets you grow a full size tomato plant hanging from your porch or deck roof. It spins to give it plenty of sun and has a funnel on the top to help with the watering. Try it for tomatoes, cucumbers or even eggplant. If you have deck railing boxes, window boxes or hanging basket space, there are shorter-growing cherry tomatoes, smaller cucumbers, miniature eggplants and even peppers that are perfect for you to cultivate in your limited space. Soil moist rain mats will help keep these smaller gardens from drying out too fast.
Don’t be left out of this trend in edible gardening. Sprinkle green onion seeds in small pots by the back steps or combine them in pots with other vegetables. Plant sugar-snap peas in a pot along a railing and let them twirl around the spindles or spill over the edge of a deck. Want something green on that lattice screen between you and the neighbor? Grow scarlet runner beans and enjoy the red flowers along with the tasty pods. Have trouble with rabbits munching down your tender lettuce greens? Put lettuce in your backdoor pots with your spring pansies and enjoy their charming frilly texture, then harvest them when its time to plant your summer annuals. Picture perfect broccoli can be grown on balconies high above the trees, without worrying about those cabbage worms or fungus diseases. The afternoon sun just cooks the plants along the side of my driveway, but peppers and tomatillos love that hot summer sun and do well when planted in a pot with a drip line of water for irrigation. If the only sunny spot in your yard is that little corner next to the garage door, find a lovely blue pot that is at least 20″ across put an obelisk in it and voila, a perfect place to grow those bright red paste tomatoes surrounded by lush green basil. Artistry you can eat!
So if your home is garden challenged, get creative, maybe you will invent the next great vegetable garden container. Vegetable gardening is no longer limited to plantable garden space in the landscape. Pots. boxes, bags, baskets and buckets can all become fruitful when planted with smaller variety vegetable plants. Just find that sunny spot to put them and let them grow.
Steffie Littlefield is a horticulturist and garden designer at Garden Heights Nursery. She has degrees from St Louis Community College at Meramec and Southeast Missouri State University and is a member of the Gateway Professional Horticulturist Association (GPHA) and past president of the Horticulture Co-op of Metro St Louis.