By Jodi Torpey
Personal-size fruits and vegetables are perfect for today’s smaller gardens. These miniature vegetable varieties are specially bred to grow pint-size fruit on compact plants. They’re just right for container gardens placed on decks, patios, balconies, and other small spaces.
Last season I tried a handful of different baby vegetables in my container garden and was delighted with the results. The baby eggplants grew into shiny 4-in oval fruits that started early and produced all season long.
If baby sizes aren’t available for your favorite container edibles, look for bush varieties that also grow well in containers.
Mountain gardeners typically have short growing seasons, so it can be difficult to grow full-size winter squashes that take 110 days or more to reach harvest size. The advantage to growing baby butternut squash is you can cut them from the vine earlier, if needed, and use them like fresh squash.
The best spot for a hanging basket of cherry tomatoes is near the patio and close to the barbecue grill. The tomatoes make for a fresh and tasty appetizer that guests can pick while waiting for dinner.
Special varieties of tomatoes are bred for growing in hanging baskets, but ordinary cherry tomato plants do just as well. The basket needs daily watering. Also, for the biggest baskets of fruits, fertilize with a liquid soluble fertilizer every few weeks.
If you’re into growing hot chile peppers like I am, you’ll probably enjoy some of New Mexico State University’s holiday line of dwarf ornamental chile peppers. These multicolored chiles celebrate: Cinco de Mayo, with peppers that turn from yellow to red; Halloween, with orange and black fruits; and Valentine’s Day, with chiles that change from cream to pink to red.
I grew ‘NuMex Easter’ peppers in a window box placed on the patio so I could watch them ripen from lavender to light yellow to brilliant orange. Ornamental peppers are edible, but they are known for producing some extra heat.
Baby vegetable varieties are just one way to grow container edibles. Full-size plants also grow and produce fruit, as long as the containers are large enough.
What favorite varieties do you like to grow in your container garden?