‘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!
Or try Cherry Fountain for a spreading plant (grows to 6-inches tall and 40-inches wide) that is great as a hanging plant in a 12- or 14-inch pot.
For full-size red beefsteak slicing tomatoes that grow well in a pot, try Better Bush in a 10 or 12-inch pot and Pink-a-licious in a 14-inch pot.
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.
While not necessarily ornamental, summer squashes are being bred to be compact. I saw the zucchini Spineless Perfection growing very nicely in 12 and 14-inch containers.
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
Where in california or on-line can I buy seeds for compact vegetables
Please check out our Shop Our Member page. https://ngb.org/shop-our-members/ On the sites, you can often search by compact to find what is available.
Hi Marsha! There are a few options for bags to grow potatoes in. Several garden supply companies sell fabric bags, These work great. A DYI option is a burlap bag with the top rolled down. I am also told that a cardboard box will work. (Don’t use a plastic bag.) The bag should be about 16 -25 inches in diameter and hold about 50 quarts of soil. You can plant 3-7 potato eyes (3 in a 16 inch bag, up to 7 in 25 inch bag). The bag should be about a foot or so tall. Use a rich soil and add compost. Put down 6 inches of soil, put the potato eyes on top. Keep adding soil so only about 5 inches of the plant is above the soil until you have filled the bag.
Robin, you might be right! That was quite a few years ago…
Kathy, I SO enjoyed this article ❣️❣️
Sounds like you “know” me! Guess I’m not alone in luvin to order and receive seed catalogs , and then “curl up” and
Wanting to plant each one of your recommendations , however I’m clueless about what type of bag to use for the potatoes. What kind would work successfully ??
Thank you 💕💕💕
I believe Ball Seed Company had a potato from seed many years ago……