Sunday, May 20, 2012 2:00 PM EDT
It’s not a new idea, but it sure is a keeper: grow edible plants at home, in an easy-to-maintain container. Feed you and yours, all season long, with this simple, practical, lesser-known approach. Better still, you can start small; you don’t need much space. Simply, start up an edible planter project and follow your “nose” — and let your senses reap what you sow. Here’s how to do it.
A household edible-plant pot. Photo by Jennifer Tibbitt.
Believe this: any holder will do. You are limited only by household space constrictions, and whatever strikes your fancy. From traditional window boxes to clay pots to the new attractive lightweight clay, ceramic and wood replicas — honestly, they’ll all work. (Those last ones are found at garden centres and are pretty much indestructible, as well as easy to move about. Some may prefer their quirkier cousins — including metal washtubs, old work boots or high heels, painted tires — of late, spotted in urban balconies and yards.) The key to a successful container involves making sure there’s a drainage hole in the bottom which can easily be made with a hammer and nail.
Choose a good-quality, organic compost or triple mix, easily found at all garden centres. You want the best for your edibles, so don’t to scrimp in this area.
Place a layer of gravel on the bottom of each planter, to aid with drainage, and then fill up the rest with soil, to within a couple of inches of the top. Leaving this space at the top is for watering — it allows the water to pool for a moment, thereby giving the plants a good soak.
If your planter is large — say, twice the size of a bread box — consider putting a small, overturned pot (or two) in the bottom. The reason? Your plants won’t root that far down, so this saves you a bit of money. Not to mention back pain, if you want to shift the pot!
I recommend that you start by potting one pepper or cherry tomato seedling. But, simply, fill your planter with a variety that pleases you. If you eat buckets of tabouli, as I do in the summer, try planting mint, parsley, garlic, spring onion and tomatoes. (What’s better than fresh tabouli? Fresh tabouli made from your garden!) Or perhaps you enjoy cooking Thai food? So, how about Thai basil, lemon grass, cilantro, garlic, and pineapple sage if. Another neat idea is an aromatic edible pot. For example: anise hyssop, dill, lavender, lemon balm, sage, or thyme.
Here is a list of edibles that do well on a sunny patio, deck, balcony or window-sill. These suggestions are all, admittedly, popular and easy. If you’re not completely sure, check labels or ask a garden pro.
Asian inspiration! This planter contains garlic, lemon grass, Vietnamese coriander, red dragon peppers, Thai basil, pineapple sage, Russian kale and violets. Photo by Jennifer Tibbitt.
- Tomatoes (I recommend the cherry variety, but grape tomatoes, yellow pear, heirloom—any will do, so go ahead and experiment!)
- Peppers (hot and/or sweet)
- Dwarf bush beans
- Garlic (plant this one very early in the spring)Radish
- Japanese eggplant
- Rainbow chard
Happy bedfellows: Pepper and pansies, cozied up in a pot. Photo by Jennifer Tibbitt.
Let’s not forget sweet strawberries, though note that these are always best in the pot they came in. If you must transplant them, put them into a larger container, exclusive to them — strawberries like to go it solo.
Speaking of which, bear in mind that larger vegetables need space. If they become unruly as they grow, don’t hesitate to trim and stake the plants.
Tell me about your experiments — and successes — in the Comments!
- Choose a planter suitable for your space
- Make a drainage hole
- Add a layer of gravel at the bottom, and soil to within a few inches of the top
- Water (in the heat of summer, this must be done daily)
- Harvest and enjoy!