Edible container gardens are an excellent idea for pet owners, those short on space, and people bound by homeowners association restrictions. Container gardens are convenient, too; you’ll have fresh produce growing within an arm’s reach.
My preferred edible container gardens are filled with fresh herbs. Basil is always growing in our container garden for two reasons — my family loves pesto pasta (see recipe below) and herbs really thrive in containers (translation: I have found them easy to keep alive).
Container gardens will grow anywhere as long as you are able to provide water and sunshine. You can also grow almost any vegetable in a container with one caveat; the bigger the vegetable, the bigger the pot needs to be. Luckily, there are movable plant stands and pots equipped with rollers if moving your pot to follow the sunshine is a priority.
Not sure if they’re are for you? The benefits are sure to inspire even the thorniest skeptic.
Benefits of Container Gardens
Some benefits of an edible container garden:
- Need less space: Whatever your size constraints, you can always find a spot for a pot. Containers save space, which means you can pack a small patio or balcony with a number of productive plants or use your vertical space.
- Beautiful and functional: Plants create a beautiful, natural environment and an edible container garden is not only visually beautiful but provides healthy produce for your family.
- Healthy soil: Concerned about the health of your soil? The health of your soil directly relates to the health of your plant and the fruit or vegetables that plant produces. You can easily use a container or even a raised bed to ensure you know exactly what is going into your soil.
- Easy to move: Edible container gardens allow for mobility in the event of shade or inclement weather conditions weather.
- Thoughtful gift: Container gardens make a great gift for anyone who might have mobility issues, such as a grandparent. The garden provides beautiful, fragrant, and healthy produce and becomes something for them to take care of with pride and anticipation.
- Require less water: Edible container gardens require less water than a traditional garden plot. Looking to save even more H20? Keep a bucket by your sink (showers are also prime suspects) and capture the running water as you wait for it to heat up.
What to Grow
- Cucumbers: This is another of my family’s favorites. Make sure to plant cucumbers in a large pot near a trellis to use vertical space.
- Herbs: All herbs grow well in pots. You can start them by seed or you can sometimes find plants in the produce section of your local grocery store.
- Greens: Lettuce, Swiss chard, spinach, and other leafy veggies grow well in your edible container gardens. Having greens growing in a conveniently placed container is a great way to get your kids excited about eating healthy. And lettuce yields a surprising amount of produce. Remember to pick only the outer leaves to be able to keep harvesting.
- Tomatoes grow well in containers, especially the small cherry or grape tomato varieties. Make sure your container is big enough and has good support for the plants as they grow up.
- Citrus plants grow well in pots located in sunny areas and can be brought inside if your weather isn’t conducive to them being outside year-round. Note: Lemon and grapefruit will quickly outgrow your edible container gardens. Your best bet is a naturally smaller variety. The National Gardening Association (NGA) offers these tips: “The ‘Improved Meyer’ lemon, ‘Bearss’ lime, ‘Satsuma’ mandarin and kumquats are more likely to remain both healthy and productive in containers for several years.” NGA also suggests choosing any citrus that is grafted to Flying Dragon (Hiryu) rootstock because it will be significantly dwarfed, extending its useful life in a container.
The upcycler in me adores this idea discovered on this gardening forum. This crafty gardener used an old bookcase to make an edible container garden — a great option if you have a little sunny spot in your yard or decking.
Traditional pots can be found at your local gardening center and are great for edible container gardens. Remember to keep in mind the mature plant size and movability (how heavy the container will be once filled with soil).
You’ll be amazed at some of the containers you’ll discover at your local thrift stores. Not only will you save money but you’ll be contributing to a charitable organization — or supporting a local business in your area in the process.
Grow Bags like the Gardener’s Best Universal Grow Bag from Gardener’s Supply Company can be reused again and again. The bag is made from BPA-free polypropylene. It has sturdy nylon handles so it can be moved when necessary. Gardener’s Best says their bag is:
“Perfect for beans, broccoli, kale, cabbage, carrots, eggplant, greens, herbs, radishes, onions, Swiss chard — you name it, you can grow it! It’s made from patented fabric that air-prunes roots for stronger, healthier plants. The fabric also aerates soil, prevents heat build-up and allows excess water to drain away. Grow all your vegetables in Grow Bags, or use them to expand your existing garden without tilling new beds. Grow Bags fold for storage and are reusable year after year.”
Bonus: Pesto Recipe
As promised, here is my “Green Side” recipe for a delicious pesto sauce. Put it on pasta, spread it on a sandwich or toss into your salad. For perspective, this recipe makes approximately 2 cups of pesto, enough for at least 1 pound of pasta.
- 3 tablespoons pine nuts (or walnuts)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil (divided)
- 3 cups fresh basil leaves
- 1 small garlic clove
- 1 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano
- Wash basil leaves in cold water.
- Put nuts, salt and ½ cup of olive oil into your blender. Blend.
- Add your basil leaves, garlic and the rest of your olive oil. Blend.
- Add your cheese and blend until your mixture is at your desired consistency.
- Taste and add additional salt and cheese to taste.
- Mix into your favorite prepared pasta for a quick, healthy, and yummy meal. Enjoy!
By now, you may find it hard to contain your excitement for an edible container garden of your own. We get it.
Editor’s note: Originally published on September 30, 2016, this article was updated in March 2019.