Get dirty, have fun and grow more food with great gardening tips from real-life gardeners.
When you have a small yard, pots are a great way to extend your garden and harvest. You read that you can grow anything in pots. And you can. So, how do you decide what is best to plant in the ground and what is best for your pots?
Deciding what to grow can be exhilarating and overwhelming. The varieties are endless, the options infinite. Where do you begin when you are deciding what to grow for the first time or for the tenth time?
First, grow what you love to eat! Make a list of your favorite veggies. The caution for a new gardener, start small. From your list of favs, pick your top 5-7 to start with.
So, if I were to share the easiest to get started with, what would I grow my first fall and winter season? I would start with plants and grow lettuce, spinach, kale, cabbage, collards, mustard greens, Swiss chard. If I loved beets, carrots, radishes, peas and turnips, I would plant these as seeds. If I liked to cook with onions and use chives, I would get Egyptian walking onions because they are perennials and can be harvested year-round and love their home in a pot.
Hmmm. I said 5-7 varieties, didn’t I? I just counted and I did pick 7 plants, but then threw in seeds for beets, carrots, peas and an onion. See how hard it is to keep it manageable?
If you are just starting out and have limited space, look for descriptions like “patio”, “compact”, “great for pots”, “container”, etc. Here are some recommendations for your garden:
Beets. Any. You can plant these around a beautifully colored swiss chard.
Cabbage. Golden Cross 45 day cabbage did really well for us in pots this year and has a short enough time to maturity that they could be planted now. I would plant one cabbage per pot. You can add pansies for color.
Carrots. Get the short ones like Atlas and Parisian.
Swiss chard. I love all the colors to choose from. Perpetual Chard is not as beautiful, but is particularly hardy.
Collards. Any. These will produce all winter.
Kale. Look for “dwarf” in the description, but any will work if you plant on continuously harvesting the lower leaves. Many kales will survive all winter.
Lettuce. Any as you can harvest the lower leaves and the plant will continue to produce. Look for descriptions like “cold hardy,” “early winter,” “overwintering,” “winter-hardy,” “cold tolerant,” “bred for winter production” for lettuces.
Onions. I grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot. You can use the bulb for cooking and the tops as chives. Chives and garlic chives are also great for small spaces or pots.
Peas. If planted now, will give a spring crop. Look for “compact” varieties for growing in pots, like ‘Green Arrow,’ ‘Sugar Ann,’ ‘Cascadia’ or provide a support for them to grow onto.
Radishes. I would stick with the round types like Runder Schwarzer Winter or Rudoph.
Turnips. Look for quick maturing types to get the largest before winter.
I noticed that W. Atlee Burpee & Co.seed company started showing a clay pot with a check mark on the lower right hand corner of their seed packets this year to indicate which seeds were appropriate for pots. This makes it much easier to know than reading all the descriptions!
A couple of tips for extending the season as long as possible:
- Place your pots on the south side of the house as this is the warmest side and gets the most sun.
- Putting your pots up against the house gives them extra warmth.
- Place your pots in an area that is protected against the wind.
- If on stands, placing the pot directly on the ground helps.
- Put your pots in a huddle against each other to protect them from the wind, with the most tender plants in the center (like lettuce).
- Buy a portable green house to put over a collection of pots that have your greens in them can possibly keep your greens surviving until spring.
- It is wonderful to be able to just step outside your door and get fresh produce all through fall and into winter.