Gardens - Fruit & Vegetable Gardening

Eight edibles to grow in pots

From taro to tomatoes, you don't need a big garden to grow certain fruits, veggies, herbs and blooms


No matter where you live—a multi-storey condo or a 10-acre spread—strawberry pots and basil on the windowsill aren’t the only way to get in  on the grow-your-own-produce craze. Tropical fruits, such as figs and mini pineapples, are all within your reach, tucked into containers holding colourful edible flowers like nasturtiums, calendulas and pansies mixed with the textural greens of herbs and veggies. Even better, you can use the principles of potscaping to try different combinations and arrangements for extra impact.

How to do it
All the regular rules for container gardening apply—good potting soil, regular watering and feeding—but most food plants need full sun. Annual fruits and veggies, such as strawberries and tomatoes, will keep producing for several weeks, while edible flowers last all season depending on the type. Herbs will, of course, continue to grow after being snipped.

What to grow

Nasturtiums: These colourful annuals make great container plants, as they come in a myriad of hues, grow quickly and last for weeks. Pick open blooms or individual petals to add a splash of colour and a peppery taste to salads.

Mini pineapples: A mini pineapple makes a great conversation piece and a sweet treat when the fruit is ripe. They need warm temperatures and full sun. In  the spring, buy plants from a garden centre with small fruit already growing, and harvest the pineapple at the end of the summer. Once the plant has fruited, it dies, but you can take the top off your pineapple and root that for a new specimen the following year.

Tomatoes: Easy, luscious tomatoes are standard edible garden fare. Containers benefit from fun dwarf, trailing varieties, such as ‘Gartenperle’, that need no stopping or side-shooting. Grown from seed, ‘Gartenperle’ is perfect for a budding gardener to try, as it will provide a bumper crop of cherry-sized tomatoes in about 100 days.

Bananas: A tall banana plant makes a striking ornamental focal point in a container arrangement. These plants can grow 1.2 to 1.8 metres tall in one season, but probably won’t fruit. At the end of the season, cut the stump off above the crown and overwinter indoors (a cool basement is perfect) as you would with dahlias or canna lilies.

Mint: Keeping mints in pots is not only pretty, but practical as well, as they are inveterate spreaders and can become invasive. Try growing a selection of different mints in individual pots to mix and match flavours in summer dishes, or combine in a larger container for a textural display.

Taro: The large central planter here is a bog garden with no drainage holes, so the soil remains soggy. Taro, which naturally lives in wet conditions, grows beautifully here, along with celery and a groundcover of watercress. Harvest the taro root and make sure to cook it before eating, as it contains calcium oxalate, which can be toxic when raw. As fall approaches, bring the whole pot inside or just lift remaining roots out of the pot to go dormant as you would for a canna lily tuber.

Carrots: Even carrots can be grown in pots! Choose dwarf varieties like ‘Mignon’ or ‘Parmex’ and pull the largest ones first. This gives the remaining smaller plants room to grow.

Figs: Providing an attractive centre for large pots, figs will produce edible fruit when they reach three to four feet tall, as long as they have sufficient sunlight (about eight hours a day) and warm temperatures—southern exposure against a protected wall is ideal. Bring the plants
in for the winter, where they will lie dormant until spring.

 

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