You don't have to be a condo or townhouse dweller to enjoy the advantages of growing some food crops in pots. Anyone who likes the accessibility of having salad plants or herbs near their back door, or tomatoes by the warmth of a house wall may find containers their best choice.
Among the most useful for containers in semi-shade are the leafy salad crops That's why gardeners intent on making the most of their space may want to seek out the faster-growing greens in order to get more of a succession of crops. Among lettuces these include the tiny butterhead 'Tom Thumb,' the mini romaines 'Ansar,' 'Plato,' and the red 'Pomegranate Crunch.'
Also fast-developing are the corn salad types; mustards, spinach, arugula and mizu-nas also give a crop around 40 to 45 days from sowing. These and also many lettuces can be cut and come again. In the open garden slugs are a huge problem for leafy crops-but containers can easily be protected by copper barriers.
The only root vegetables that are super-fast-maturing are radishes. These are ready about 30 days from planting. 'French Breakfast' and 'White Icicle' both fit well into containers since both are longer than they are wide.
All crops that tend to vertical growth rather than horizontal tend to give a little more eating for the space they take up than the rounder types. This is true of green onions and beetroots such as the long, narrow 'Cylindra' and 'Rodina.'
Carrots of all kinds are also very suitable for containers because you can blend container soil to suit the crop you're growing. Carrots love loose, well-drained soil. In open garden beds of unimproved clay soil, they often fail.
Crops which can be trellised are a superb use of space in pots. Pole beans are more productive than dwarf beans and very decorative if varieties with purple or golden pods are chosen. For full production it is very important to keep on picking beans.
Runner beans are also quite flamboyant with their scarlet flowers which, unlike other pole beans, do need bee pollination. Varieties have been developed in England with more tender stringless pods. These include 'Butler,' 'Polestar' and 'Lady Di.'
Small-fruited cucumbers are also easy to trellis. One of the most delicious is the heritage 'Lemon Cucumber,' which looks like a round yellow apple. It produces masses of delicious, sweet fruit, which is long-keeping on the vine but keeps only three days when picked.
Peppers grow well in relatively small containers if they're given good nutrition, lots of water and a little lime. Early Jalapenos, cayennes and other hot peppers give a big return for the space they use-and if you wait until they turn colour, they become decorative and tastier.
Where greenhouses or cloches are not available, tomatoes are often placed in pots under a roof overhang which allows them to stay dry during rain and escape the dreaded blight
Adequate watering is very important for vegetables in containers. Most vegetables need rich organic feeding: high-nitrogen for leafy vegetables and balanced fertilizer for most others.
? Anne Marrison is happy to answer garden questions. Send them to her via email@example.com.