By Julie Martens Forney
You don’t need a big garden to savor homegrown produce. Growing edibles in pots is an easy way to fill your dinner table with sun-ripened flavors. Start with crops that blend flavor with good looks, like ‘Chilly Chili’ ornamental pepper. It sparkles all summer long as plants ripen from yellow to orange to red. Many ornamental peppers deliver sizzle, but ‘Chilly Chili’ was bred for sweetness. Use it for fresh eating, pizza topping, and pickling.
Growing Tip: Fertilize potted ornamental peppers with slow-release plant food added to soil at planting. After flowers appear, provide weekly doses of water-soluble fertilizer.
When growing edibles in pots, include Tuscan kale, a showstopper that delivers a nutritional blast. Tuscan kale is an Italian heirloom plant and goes by a host of names, including dinosaur kale and lacinato kale. The thick, puckered leaves hold up well in kitchen preparations.
Growing Tip: Watch for cabbage worms. Moths fluttering around plants—especially those with holes in leaves—is a good clue. Check beneath leaves, where caterpillars hide. Hand-pick worms, or spray with the natural control Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis).
On Deck Hybrid Corn
Growing edibles in pots doesn’t mean you have to skip favorites such as corn on the cob. New hybrids produce ears even in containers. With On Deck corn, plant nine seeds per 24-in pot, and expect one to two ears per stalk. Use twine to circle stems and support plants.
Growing Tip: Corn is wind pollinated. For pots in a wind-sheltered location, shake stems once a day for a week when tassels open atop stalks. For best results shake when plants are dry.
‘Bright Lights’ Swiss Chard
For color when growing edibles in pots, sow seeds of ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard. The multihued stems brighten mealtimes, and deep-green leaves deliver a succulent bite. ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard provides season-long harvest in the Mid-Atlantic, growing to 24 inches high.
Growing Tip: If seeds sprout unevenly, replant fresh seeds in the missing spots. New seedlings grow fast and catch up to the rest of the planting.