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Mar 24, 2012 10:35 AM

Edible Heirlooms in Small Pots...


Here's my conundrum- I'd love some help! I live in an apartment with an outdoor patio and small backyard portion with a little shade, but mainly sun. The front patio has some shading but only during certain hours of the day. I want to do a little gardening this summer and am conflicted as to what to get. I can only really plant in small pots because the landscaping is not best suited for vegetable-growing and am confined to things that like the sun and do not grow too large.

My goal this year is to grow heirloom vegetables as I grew Hungarian wax peppers and jalapenos last year and loved it so much that I ended up making my own hot sauce. Doing that again would be a real treat for me but I just don't know what's both edible and feasible given my circumstances. Do you guys have any good advice for what Heirloom varieties to grow? If I could somehow wrangle a small tomato variety or a few kinds of peppers that would be amazing. Are there any other veggies that don't mind being pot-bound?


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  1. The book Bountiful Container is a wonderful resource for vegetable gardening in containers. The authors provide detailed information on container size, and best varieties for container gardening. If you had success with peppers last year, you will probably be able to grow a lot of other fun things.

    1 Reply
    1. re: mpjmph

      the tomato Lime Green Salad is a good choice. It was bred by the same person who created Green Zebra (and tastes sort of simliar), but is a semi deteminate dwaf, so I can grow and fruit in a pot quite confortably.

    2. I used to grow tomatoes in pots. Get the biggest plastic pot you can find. The ones I grew still needed a cage so the diameter of the pot had to be large enough to fit a tomato cage. They might need daily watering and a liquid fertilizer. I used to have a pot of cherry tomatoes by the porch so it was easy to grab some.

      I have had poor luck with container grown cucumbers. They grow, but not well.

      4 Replies
      1. re: dfrostnh

        I had good success with growing peppers in pots last summer. Used 1 or 2 gallon containers left over from ordering shrubs, and sat them in 11x22 inch planting trays I filled with water every 2-3 days if it didn't rain. Sort of a lazy-man's do-it-yourself earth box. Both Hungarian sweet wax and Jalepeno were among them. A fewmore open-pollinated peppers (some heirloom) that have been good producers are (mild) Aconcagua, Jimmy Nardello, Sweet Banana; and (hot) Anaheim, Ancho, Fish, and Pretty in Purple. (I don't grow extremely hot varieties).

        1. re: DonShirer

          Hot peppers are one of the easiest veggies to grow. I don't know where you live but here in coastal NJ, they grow like weeds. Growing tomatoes in pots are more difficult. They need a lot of sun and water. Many heirlooms are quite large plants, as they are almost all indeterminate. There are many cherry types that are determinate, but are you starting from seed or buying plants? You will find much less variety from your local garden center but at the very least they will be able to guide you towards what is best suited for your situation.

          That said, in my Totally Tomatoes catalog, I found Micro Tom Hybrid, Red Robin, Sweet n Neat Series, Tiny Tim, Tumbler Hybrid, Tumbling Tom and Zebra Cherry Hybrid, all suitable for pots.

          You could try bush cucumbers, the small ones they grow for pickles, herbs-I grow marjoram, thyme, tarragon, rosemary and lavender in a window box. I grow basil in their own pots in summer and parsley all year long, it overwinters in a 12" pot and I cut it fresh for my Christmas meals.

          Ooh salad greens! Microgreens or mesclun mix...nice. How about bush beans or even pole beans, stick two skinny metal poles in two pots, run some twine between them, instant trellis for pole beans!

          1. re: Jerseygirl111

            These are all such wonderful suggestions! I live in Western Massachusetts and my peppers seemed happy last year but grew spottily. One week I would have none and the next, six of them. It continued like that for most of the summer. I think I may grow herbs and cucumbers- I had great luck last year with mojito mint and lime basil!

            1. re: zammdogg

              Ooh lime basil sounds awesome! I would love to put that in a cookie!

      2. I would highly recommend that you look into some herbs; even just a few plants in limited space will give you such better fresh herbs than the stuff you buy at the grocery store (and so much cheaper too!). You could do annuals like parsley, cilantro, basil, and dill. But if you have a spot where you could bring pots in over the winter, you could also do perennials such as chives, rosemary, and sage (I have only ever gotten Golden Sage to overwinter successfully indoors).

        Otherwise, I agree with the suggestions to look into bush (sometimes even called 'patio') versions of a lot of kinds of veggies, especially beans/peas, cucumbers, zucchini, tomatoes, and peppers.

        1. Last year was my first attempt at gardening, and we also have only a small balcony. I grew two tomato plants (not heirloom, I think they were Jet Star), and they grew beautifully. So I don't have any suggestions on variety, but I might suggest growing a basil plant: Mine grew well in the same location as the tomatoes, and one of the highlights of my summer was fresh caprese salad.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Mestralle

            I've done herbs, lettuces and peppers well in small containers. Since you get full sun you don't want the pots too small or you'll have a hard time keeping them watered during the hot summer months. You'll probably want to shade the lettuce too, since it's a cold weather plant. How about those topys turvy planters for tomatoes? They can be a good space saver since you hang them. I've grown "patio tomatoes" (that's how they were labelled) and early girl in them with success. The tomatoes I've grown in pots want a very large container. Challenge there is getting all that heavy dirt up to the patio and the weight of the pot once it's filled.