Vegetable Varieties for a Small-Space Survival Garden

Reader Contribution by Melodie Metje
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Edible pink flowers

Spring is here and so is the coronavirus pandemic.  This spring we were planning on doing an addition on our house which meant moving my current edible garden to a less ideal spot (more shade and soil has not been built up over years) that is much smaller than my normal garden.  Now, I need to utilize the new, smaller space to try to grow everything we need to eat.  This is my plan and the varieties I am growing.  This should meet all of our needs for spring, summer, fall and winter for produce.

If you are just starting out and have limited space, look for descriptions like “patio”, “compact”, “great for pots”, “container”, etc.  Burpee seeds also have a clay pot decal on all their seed packets that will do well in pots or small spaces.

Beets (55 days to harvest)-Any.  I plant these around my pepper plants in pots.  I am growing a variety of heirlooms.  All about beautiful beets

Carrots (65 days to full size)-get the short ones like Atlas and Parisian to grow in pots.  I am not much of a carrot person so I am not planting any right now.  I do have volunteers coming up in the garden bed that I can pull when I need a carrot for cooking.  All you need to know about growing carrots

Celery (125 days to full size) surprisingly does very well in a pot by itself.  It loves water so I would keep it by itself.  I have had great luck with Utah Improved.  I did see a pink one I would like to try just for fun, Chinese Pink Celery.  Give celery a try, an easy to grow garden staple

Chard (60 days to full size) grows well in pots.  I am growing Verde De Taglio and Fordhook Giant as they are supposed to be hardy in my zone and keep their sweet taste in summer.  Chard comes in beautiful colors, too, so you can plant them in your flower bed as an ornamental that you get to snack on.  For year round steamed greens, grow chard!

Cucumber (55 days)-Miniature White, Bush Champion, Spacemaster are the ones I have started inside.  Rocky and Lemon are other options for pots.  How to grow cucumbers-in pots or in the garden

Eggplant (65-80 days from transplanting)-All I have tried in a pot grows well.  For flavor, I like Casper as it is more forgiving in our hot summers and does not get bitter in the dog days of summer.  Other small varieties include Fairy Tale, Gretel, Hansel, India Paint, Turkish Orange and Thai Purple Blush hybrid.  Eggplant-add this native from India to your garden

A word about hybrids.  If you want to save seed, hybrids will not come back true to the “mother” plant.  You will want open pollinated or heirloom varieties for seed saving.  The strength of hybrids is that they have been bred to withstand different common diseases.  What do the terms GMO, natural, heirloom, organic, hybrid really mean?

Garlic-I plant garlic every fall.  You can plant hardback garlic in the spring to eat the scapes.  They likely won’t grow large enough to have decent size cloves to harvest.  You can leave them to overwinter and harvest the cloves next summer.  Time to plant garlic! With growing tips……

Green beans (64 days to harvest)-I use pole beans and a trellis so they grow up.  If you don’t like removing the “string” that some green beans have, look for “stringless.”  We really like the flat Italian type of green bean.  I am growing Romano (Italian) and Blauhilde (French likely of German origin).  Produces right up until frost.  The great thing about beans is that they make nitrogen so they fertilize the soil.  I plant petunias in the same pot.  Be sure to treat the seed with inoculant to give the roots the support they need to grow well.  Growing beans

Greens (leaves can be picked when small)-I am growing Bonnie spinach, Red Sails lettuce, sorrel, cultivated dandelions, plantain, Verde De Taglio and Fordhook Giant chard, Tuscan, Dinosaur, and Black Magic kale, Sprouting broccoli, Broccoli Raab, Chinese cabbage Hilton to use as wraps,  variegated winter cress, New Zealand spinach, and arugula.  I am growing all my greens in pots.  Almost any green can be grown in pots and there are lots of options to choose from! Growing fabulous lettuce and greens 

I plant the ones that enjoy cool weather in the early spring and then switch to those that are heat tolerant in late spring.  My go-to favorites for summer hardiness are chard, sprouting broccoli, New Zealand spinach, Chinese cabbage, and Red Sails lettuce.  Growing summer salads

Herbs-Are great to have in the garden.  I have a mix of herbs I use to season everything, from eggs to sauces to meats to stews, you name it.  All made from herbs I grow in the garden.  Herbs are carefree, too, and can be grown anywhere there is good sun.  Make your own “Herbes de Provence   I also grow cilantro (40-60 days to full size) in early spring and Slo Bolt cilantro in late spring for salsa.  It grows well in a pot or in the ground.  Basil is an herb that can be grown in the ground or a pot.  The bees love them.  I love the  fragrance and the pesto I make from it!  Basil basics-harvesting, preserving, growing basil

For sweetener, we have bees and I am growing Stevia.  A sweet alternative-grow your own

Okra (53 days)-I have started Baby Bubba okra which can be grown in a pot.  Regular okra can grow 8-feet tall.  This dwarf will reach less than 3 feet.  Growing and harvesting okra 

Onions and leeks (20-30 days for scallions)-I grow Egyptian walking onions in a pot because they are perennial.  You can use the bulb for cooking and the tops as chives, harvesting year round.  Egyptian walking onions  Chives and garlic chives are also great for small spaces or pots.  I grow my chives in the garden.  They do well there and don’t take up much space.  Add chives to your garden  This spring, I am also growing red onions from seed, Flat of Italy.  I tuck leeks  in around other plants in the garden, but they can also be grown in a pot.  Onions-everything you need to know to grow ’em

Peas (72 days)-I grow short vine snow peas that I plant in pots.  I prefer these because you can eat the whole pod.  You just get a lot more food from a vine than ones grown just for the peas inside the pod.  I have already planted those around the edge in large pots that I will also plant peppers or eggplant.  The snow peas keep producing into early summer just as the peppers and eggplants are filling out.  Time to plant peas!

Peppers (70-75 days to harvest)-I have found that hot peppers do great in pots.  I plant one pepper type per pot.  Sweet peppers, like Bell, seem to do best in the ground.  I grow the smaller sweet peppers in pots.  They seem to produce more per plant than the large sweet peppers.  I am growing Tangerine Dream and a dark red pepper I have saved from seed for a few years. Peppers are for every taste and garden

Potatoes (new potatoes in 70 days)-We are growing purple potatoes in the potato boxes my hubby made for me.  You can also grow them in grow bags you can get on-line.  Time to plant potatoes, even if you only have a pa…

Radishes (45 days to harvest)-Icicle radish is my favorite.  It is a long white radish without the heat of the typical radish.  Radishes are quick to sprout and grow.  I also like Rat’s Tail radish which is grown for its up to 14″ seed pod.  The seed pod does have the taste of radish, produces all summer, and is a great add to salads.  I sow radishes directly in pots in early spring.  Easy to grow crispy, peppery radishes

Summer squash (45 days to harvest)- I have started Bush Zucchini and Early Prolific Squash indoors. Other options for summer squash that can be grown in pots are Lunar Eclipse/Sunburst, Piccolo, Small Wonder Spaghetti squash. Everything you need to know to grow squash

Winter squash (80-100 days)-I am not growing any winter squash, but if you are a squash lover, try Acorn or butternut. Plant where you are okay with them running on the ground or train them up a trellis.  You will get about 2 per vine.  

Tomatoes (65-80 days)-look for patio or container types.  Varieties like Balcony Patio Princess, Balcony, Tumbler, Lizzano, BushSteak, Tumbling Tom to name  a few.  Bush types are also great for small spaces-Early Girl Hybrid Bush, Big Boy Bush, Baxter’s Bush Cherry. They will give you enough for fresh eating all summer.  You’ll probably need about 2 for slicers and 2 for salads.  Compact tomatoes for small spaces and pots

We use a lot of tomatoes for both eating but also for freezing and sauce. I will plant tomatoes in the garden bed and use the indeterminate which grow large.  I grow 3 kinds: a paste tomato, a slicer, and a small tomato for using in salads. I like including a paste tomato when I freeze the extras.  They make a silky smooth soup and sauce.  Cherokee Purple is prolific in our garden for slicers.  I like a small chocolate tomato or any pear tomato for salads.  My go-to for sauce is Italian Red Pear heirloom paste tomato.  Tomatoes 101, everything you need to know to grow great tomatoes  One change I am making in growing tomatoes this year is that I am going to use an organic fungal control.  Our summers are always humid and it stresses tomatoes.  I am going to use Serenade at transplant and repeat after it rains.  I’ll alternate with a Copper fungicide.  Organic fungicides are a preventative so you have to use it even before you start seeing issues.

Watermelons (80 days)-started seeds for Bush Sugar Baby. My granny always grew watermelons. I am going to try this little one in our garden this summer.  It can be grown in a pot.  I’ll have to see how the space works out if it will go in a pot or in the garden.

There are many other varieties out there for small spaces. Vegetables you can grow in pots

Be sure to prepare your potting soil and garden bed for optimal growing.  For my pots, I took out all the old potting soil out, mixed it with compost (leaf or garden compost), perlite, fertilizer and Azomite. I add compost for refreshing organic matter, perlite to lighten the soil, and Azomite for a wide range of minerals. You need to add fertilizer to the soil before you plant and then on-going through the growing season so your plants have all the nutrition they need to produce well.  Re-energize your potting soil! If money is tight, you can make your own fertilizer on the cheap.  Make your own all natural, complete fertilizer.

Melodie Metje is an engineer in Ohio who started her blog, Victory Garden on the Golf Course, to help guide her family’s gardening efforts and to keep track of what was happening in her own garden. She named it after the victory gardens grown to help the WWII effort. Melodie thinks we are in a similar situation today: Our country needs our help in battling the war on ill health. Read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.


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