By Keri Byrum
Container gardening is a great way to add edible elements to your home in a short time. Whether you are short on space, want something more mobile, or have limited areas with ample sunlight, you can grow your own food in containers.
Most vegetables and herbs benefit from six or more hours of sunlight. At our house the shady backyard makes it difficult to grow many of my favorite herbs in the ground. But our porch is sunny and is a great location to grow herbs in large pots. That makes it convenient to pick fresh herbs for cooking.
I recommend using the largest pots possible for an edible container garden; I rarely use any container less than 15 inches in diameter. These big pots help keep large plants from tipping over, and allow enough space for their roots to grow and stay moist between waterings. Filling the container with a high-quality potting soil sets the scene for new plants and keeps them growing healthily through the season.
What can you grow? The wide-ranging options depend more on the season than the container. You can grow herbs year-round and easily combine them with other plants in your edible container garden. Oregano, thyme, and mint are all favorites of mine because of their shared cascading habit over the edge of a pot. By using these trailing plants, you free up space in the center of the pot for additional herbs.
Climbing plants, such as beans, need strong support structures to grow on. I recommend staying away from plants that get very tall or large, such as corn and some tomato varieties, since containers limit their growth. Instead look for dwarf or “patio” varieties of these plants.
You can plant edible container gardens from plants or seeds. For plants such as this blueberry, pruning after harvesting the delicious fruit helps keep the plant at a manageable size. Blueberries prefer acidic soil; adding pine bark to the potting soil helps maintain these conditions.
You don’t need a large yard or garden to grow your own food. Simply select a large container, and a site that gets plenty of sunlight. You will begin this season with a few edible plants on your porch or balcony, and be on your way to a healthy start.