‘Tis the season of seed catalogs! I love finding them in my mailbox. It’s a wonderful time of year to curl up and read about all the new and old vegetable varieties.
A great theme this year is compact, highly productive and attractive vegetable plants that can be grown in small spaces or in pots. These varieties save space, are easier to harvest and can be beautiful ornamentals too. Mix them in with bedding plants in the front yard or put them in pots on a balcony or patio.
I learned a lot about compact vegetable plants during my field tour of California vegetable breeders this past summer. There were fantastic demonstrations of container plants – both older introductions that adapt well to pots and new plants specifically bred to be compact and ornamental.
Here’s my list of some of the exciting plants that I can’t wait to grow in the coming season.
Pretty n Sweet is an ornamental pepper that tastes as good as it looks! This compact, round bushy habit produces small, plump, extremely sweet, thick-walled fruits about 1½” long. You can harvest the fruits when they are green, yellow, orange, red or purple!
I also plan to try the pepper Alter Ego as an ornamental edible. This is an ultra-compact hot pepper that grows into 12-inch plants that does well in 8, 10 or 12-inch pots – or in a mixed planting in a large container. Alter Ego has fruits that range from lime-green to deep purple to scarlet red.
Zucchini squash Pantheon has the classic ribs and flavor of my favorite heirloom zucchini, Costata Romanesco, which grows large in my garden. But Pantheon grows as a neatly compact plant with an open shape. It has only a few spines and is highly productive.
Basil and a Potato
Basil is a super container plant that is not only beautiful and edible but brings a spicy aroma to the garden. Aristotle is a Genovese type of basil with tiny leaves that is very disease resistant and can be harvested repeatedly over the season. It grows in a neat compact ball shape that looks great in a container.
Potatoes grow well in containers and Clancy is a new introduction remarkable as it is the first potato available to be grown by seed. Clancy is an AAS National Winner with tubers that are a beautiful mix of reds and rose-golds and flavor that ranges from buttery to russet-like. Potatoes do well in 5 or 10-gallon bags. Add some soil to the top as the plants grow to “hill” them and then dig your spuds after the plants die back.
Compact Vegetable Growing Tips:
For all of these plants, when you are growing in a pot be sure to use a rich soil. Try adding half composted manure to a potting soil mix. Mix in a couple of tablespoons of an organic fertilizer in the lower third of the soil. Be sure to read more about selecting the best container for container gardening.
Even with modest garden space, compact and potted vegetables can bring beauty and variety to your garden. Have fun with those seed catalogs!
Written by Kathy Martin