Sunday, February 24, 2013

What to Grow in Containers?

Every year, I try to grow something different in addition to our old favorites. This year, my goal has been to make the garden as functional as possible. As hard as it is to believe given the seedling table, this meant that some things just didn’t make the cut.

Most notably, this is the first year I won’t be growing any okra. It is a pretty plant, grows well, and seems to love the heat of the porch. However, the trouble with okra is that we never seem to get enough at any one time to make a meal of it. It produces fairly consistently, but only 5-6 pods at any given time. I considered growing more, but then we would have 3-4 containers of okra on the porch when the crop has only limited uses (compared to another neat type of tomato, for example!).

There's always room for another tomato...
 The same thing applies to potatoes. They were very easy, a lot of fun, and produced. However, we got about 2 pounds of red potatoes in exchange for having a massive plant taking up the space of two tomatoes. If we had more space I would definitely grow them again, but we only have our upstairs porch to use, so they didn’t make the cut.

I also decided to plant a garden that more accurately reflects what we like to eat. Sounds basic, but when you’re in a seed aisle at the nursery and want one of everything, it can be tough to prioritize. This year we’re growing a wide variety of cooking greens, since we eat them a lot and they grow very well in containers. We’re also growing fewer bell peppers and for the first time I’m growing some hot peppers as well.

On the subject of the cooking greens, I plan on trying some crop rotation with them. I’ll start off by planting some collards and broccoli rabe in April. Once that bolts (or we harvest it all), I’ll plant some rainbow chard and kale in the same pots. I also have a 3rd container set aside for some Tuscan kale (which is amazing if you like kale). My hope is to have cooking greens growing from April to late October or so via succession plantings.

I started this rosemary plant from seed last year and it's still going strong!
Finally, I am planting a ton of herbs, with the goal of having a massive harvest to dry. Last year I tried drying my herbs with a dehydrator for the first time, and I was amazed! After about 5-6 hours of drying most herbs were ready for bottling in spice jars. Basil took a bit longer due to its water content. At first I carefully removed each basil leaf from the plant and stacked them nicely onto the circular trays. Later, I cut the braches off at ground level and put the entire plants inside the trays. It turns out that once the leaves dry they flake right off the stems, saving time and fuss. We’re still using our marjoram, sage, and purple basil from the garden, and it’s better than any store bought herb. Plus, it saves a lot of money if you cook with a lot of herbs. Last year I thought of the herbs as primarily a fresh harvest, but this time around I’m looking to plant as many as I can fit on the porch in between all the vegetables. 

Space saver.... We shall see!
One of this year’s most exciting new crops for us is the bush sugar baby melon from Burpee. It says it can be grown in containers on the package, and apparently stays fairly compact but still produces 8-10 pound fruits. We probably don’t really have the room for a large melon plant, but then again, there is always room for one more container!


  1. Love the tomato picture! How large do okra get? I've never grown them and thinking of trying this year. I'd be looking forward to see how the watermelon grows.

  2. Okra gets about 4 feet tall, and it is a really pretty plant, especially the red okra. It also grows well in a 5 gallon container (or larger). It's one of my favorite crops to grow, but I would probably grow 3 containers of it to get a good harvest.

    I usually start it from seed inside in early March. I would continue to grow it if we had more room than just our upstairs porch, but this year I had to make some cuts to fit in the melon and more herbs/flowers.