On the Patio Culinary Container Gardening

Some of us are gardening in “minimalist” spaces– but we do not have to forego a vegetable/herb garden.

Imagine a beautiful container garden display right on your patio. Instead of flowering ornamental plants, perennials and annuals, substitute into the plant palette (or palate!) herbs, vegetables, a maybe even a dwarf fruit tree. “Where do you begin?” you ask. We shall tell you.

What are your favorite vegetables and herbs? Make your list. Whoever said that they all had to grow only in the ground? Not at all. Picture this. Instead of growing a flowering vine in a pot, grow green beans, peas or even squash in espalier fashion.

The beans and peas are “twiners” and will easily grow up a trellis or other structure. Don’t be afraid to plant an entire 6-pack of pole beans in your pot–or maybe even two 6-packs. The bean plants will grow upward and intertwine. Dinnertime arrives and you simply harvest what you need for that evening. You may even have so many beans, you’ll need to share with friends.

But you can also tie up the vines of your favorite squash. The only trick with squash is that, once it begins to fruit, you will need to add further support for each squash. That is easily done creating a sling from panty hose or a similar material and tying the sling onto the trellis.

In the pots with your beans or squash, consider planting garlic and/or your favorite onions. You’ll know when they are ready to harvest once the green foliage begins to turn brown.

Do you love to cook and use fresh herbs? An herb garden is perfect in containers. We have many herbs that are classic cooking standards and grow happily in pots. Many of the herbs need full/part sun to thrive. Some can tolerate a little more shade. Arrange them on your patio accordingly. And if you have a little time (or thyme!), move the containers to follow the sun. It is easier to move large pots if they are placed on a plant dolly. (That’s a plant stand on wheels.)

Rosemary and thyme are good examples. Grow these two together in one large pot in full sun. Rosemary needs space to get a plant of decent size, and both prefer less water than other herbs. There are so many different thymes to choose from – English and lemon thymes come to mind. Another thing rosemary and thyme have in common is they do not have a great need for fertilizers.

In another large container, grow sage, oregano, nasturtium, and/or lavender. Again, these have similar watering/light needs. Oregano and nasturtium can get a bit invasive. But if they are a “must have” for your cooking, of course you will plant them anyway. And the nasturtiums offer a spectacular flower display. Who needs petunias when you can have nasturtiums? This combination also does not have a great need for fertilizer.

Onward to our next combination: basil, parsley, and perhaps even chives. These herbs can take a little less sun and each needs more water than the previous groupings we have discussed. Also, apply an organic fertilizer .

Do you love tea, cold or hot? Add another container and grow lemon verbena, lemon grass and a mint or two. Remember that mint can take over, so as it is becoming established, don’t be afraid to thin it out.

And did we mention the tomato? Tomatoes of all varieties will grow in pots (if you use a large enough pot), but we recommend the determinate varieties or cherry/grape tomatoes for best results. Many determinates don’t need support; for ones that do, you can put a tomato cage around the pot.

Whether you choose to grow everything we have suggested or just a few of them, you are on the road to creating a beautiful and bountiful patio culinary vegetable garden.

Bon appétit!