Container plantings bring color, fragrance, texture, height, and depth to a modest-size porch, deck, or balcony. Pots of herbs, vegetables, fruiting vines, and edible annuals pack even more punch.
Here's one way to arrange a kitchen garden in containers. Listed below are the plants we selected, including some suggested varieties for containers. More and more seed companies are offering vegetables bred specifically for growing in pots. Check seed catalogs or your local nursery for availability.
1. Grapevine: Despite our artist's license, you won't be able to grow a grapevine to fruiting size in a pot, but a grape plant or flowering vine adds a vertical accent to a container garden.
2. Tomato: 'Beefsteak,' 'Cherry Elite,' 'Cherry Express,' 'Cherry Gold,' 'Sweet Chelsea'. Although you can allow a tomato to sprawl, you'll have a neater garden if you prune to a single stem and train it up a stake. Pinch out new shoots that arise in the notch where a leaf meets the main stem.
3. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): You might also consider green (or bunching) onions, which produce small bulbs, edible leaves, and a less intense onion flavor.
4. Onion (Allium cepa): Burpee Sweet Spanish,' 'Egyptian Walking,' 'New York Early,' 'Red Baron,' 'Walla Walla Sweet.' Onion flowers can be attractive, but produce inferior harvests. Ask your supplier about the best time to plant in your area to ensure the best results.
5. Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia): 'Hidcote,' 'Munstead,' 'Nana Alba'
6. Pepper (Capsicum annuum): 'Jingle Bells,' 'Long Red Cayenne,' 'Sweet Banana,' 'Yolo Wonder'
2. Sunflower: 'BigSmile,' 'Dwarf Sungold,' 'Teddy Bear'
3. Cucumber: 'BushCrop,' 'Bush Pickle,' 'Fanfare,' 'Salad Bush,' 'Spacemaster.' To avoid an unfriendly takeover of your garden, stick to bush varieties.
4. Spearmint (Menthaspicata)
5. Nasturtium (Tropaeolummajus)
6. Basil (Ocimumbasilicum): 'Cinnamon,' 'Citriodorum' (lemon basil), 'Minimum' (bush or Greek basil), 'Purple Ruffles'
7. Lettuce: 'BigBoston,' 'Early Curled Simpson,' 'Ithaca,' 'Red Boston,' 'Tom Thumb,' 'White Boston'
8. Chard (Betavulgaris): 'Rainbow Lights Swiss,' 'Ruby'
9. Pansy (Violax wittrockiana)
Vary plant heights to make full use of tight space. Let vines crawl along a railing, post, or trellis. Use tall plants to increase shade and privacy. Place small pots atop a railing, step, or windowsill.
Vary pot size, shape, and color. Besides terra-cotta, look at lightweight plastic, wood, metal, or even wicker (lined with plastic). Almost anything can be a planter. Just make sure it has holes for drainage.
Fertilize. Mix in a slow-release granular fertilizer before planting, then use a water-soluble fertilizer once a week at half strength. Fertilize more often after heavy rains.
Improve drainage. Fill the bottoms of containers with a layer of pottery shards, loose gravel, or foam packing peanuts before adding planting mix.