29 Mar 2019
My introduction to container gardening started as a friendly competition. On a beautiful spring Saturday, friends drove up from Manhattan for the day. At a farmer’s market, Sam bought six Jet Star tomato seedlings. I was surprised to learn that he planned to grow tomatoes in containers on the terrace of his high rise apartment. “You can plant tomatoes on your deck,” he suggested.
After a trip to the garden center, I gently tucked two tomato seedlings into a large plastic planter, filled with potting soil, on my sunny deck. Over the next few weeks, my gardening buddy and I compared notes, “How many green tomatoes do you have?” My enchantment with small space gardening had begun!
Flowers, Herbs and Veggies, Oh My!
Flowering plants in containers will add color and aesthetic appeal to your own private oasis. Pat Colwell, co-manager of Rosedale Nurseries in Hawthorne, recommends colorful Lemon Coral Sedum (2019 annual of the year!), eye-catching Angel Wings Senecio (a large-leafed silver foliage plant) and deer-resistant begonias (including the red-blooming Canary Wings variety) for container gardens. “The new mini petunia, Double Chiffon, has pale yellow double flowers that cascade over the edge of hanging baskets or window boxes,” adds Colwell.
Bright orange or yellow marigolds, red geraniums, compact cosmos and impatiens grow well in containers. Teddy Bear sunflowers (with “furry” blooms) are the perfect height for containers. Bite-sized flowers including Lemon Gem or Red Gem marigolds can be used as an edible garnish!
Salad fixings and herbs are perfect for small pots and can be grouped together in large containers, window boxes or rectangular planters to hang over deck railings. Just step onto your terrace, deck or patio for a few snips to add fresh flavor to appetizers and entrees.
Many varieties of compact fruits and vegetables are perfect for the small space garden. Cherry tomato varieties like Sungold, Sunsugar, and Sweet 100 are popular choices. Spice things up with different varieties of sweet and hot peppers, as well as Mellowstar, a Japanese shishito pepper. Fairytale, a purple and white mini eggplant, is flavorful for salads and caponata. To make the neighbors jealous, try growing cucamelons! These one-inch mini cucumbers look like tiny watermelons. The firm texture and mild flavor makes them a great choice to pickle or eat raw.
Be kind to those aching knees and hips by arranging containers on raised multi-level plant stands or use hanging baskets and window boxes to grow herbs and veggies. An entire salad bar of greens, herbs and radishes can be grown together inside a standing box planter. The elevated grow space eliminates bending and makes your edibles less accessible to hopping critters.
Michele Terlizzi, owner of Michael’s Garden Gate Nursery in Mount Kisco, suggests planting seeds for compact container varieties like Green Curls kale, Garden Babies butterhead lettuce, Sweetie Baby romaine and Jade Gem lettuce. Sow seeds for Garden Party radishes, thyme, sage, tarragon, nasturtium, and Spicy Bush basil to complete your selection of accessible salad fixings.
“Plant Tumbling Toms (red or yellow cherry tomatoes) in hanging baskets,” Terlizzi recommends. “Compact bush green beans like French Mascotte are perfect in containers,” she adds.
Tantalize your senses and make a big impression in a small space for the spring and summer months ahead!