Vegetables for Container Gardens – Heirloom Flavor or Hybrid Yield?

Vegetables for container gardens are readily available. Almost any vegetable that will grow in the backyard can be grown in a container. Some require more space or time investment when grown in a container, but there are many vegetable varieites that will perform well within the confines of a container. I’ve created a listing of the most popular and readily available vegetables for containers.

In this listing your will see both AAS and H listed in bold. Below is an explanation for each designation:

AAS = All American Selectons Winnner

This is an annual nation wide trial of new varieties of flowers and vegetables. They have been tested by a network of independent judges who determined their garden performance was superior. More infomation on More All American Selection Winners and how they are chosen.

H= Heirloom Seeds

The definition of an heirloom plant is that it has to have at least a 50-year history of not being cross-pollinated. Being open-pollinated, which means the offspring will be identical to the parent, is one of the most important attributes of heirloom cultivars. Many varieties are more than a century old.

Because heirloom plants are open-pollinated, seeds can be saved from year to year knowing that the offspring will be identical to the parent plant. In these days of high seed prices, this is definitely an advantage gardeners appreciate.

Gardeners like the growth and production of hybrids. They also like their resistance to disease. Commercial growers like the way hybrids hold up in shipping. However, flavor does not enter into the equation when it comes to hybrids.

Flavor is by far the primary reason most people grow heirloom plants. Many agree that “Brandywine,” originated by the Amish in Ohio in 1885, is the best-tasting tomato ever. If you’ve longed for the taste in vegetables you remember and thought was lost, consider planting some heirloom varieties of vegetables for container gardens.

Below is a listing of the most popular vegetables for container gardens. This is by no means intended as a comprehensive list. New vegetable varieties are being developed at a rapid pace. If you want to try the latest and greatest hybrids, be sure to check with your garden center and peruse your latest seed catalogs. Some of you prefer the tried and true varieties. I’ve tried to include some of both types of varieties in this listing in order to cover all bases.

If a vegetable title is a link (ex. tomato), there is a separate section giving more information on how to plant and grow that particular vegetable.

Beets

Light Requirements: Sun/Partial shade
Spacing: 2-3″ apart in rows
Container: 24 X 36 X 8″ box or half gallon containers minimum size
Varieties: Detroit Dark Red (H), Red Ace, Bulls Blood (H)
Comments: Thin plants when 6-8″ tall. Thinings make good greens for salads.

 

Broad Beans-Lima

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: Sow seeds 3″ apart, 1″ deep
Container: 2 gal container minimum size
Varieties: Fordhook 242 (AAS) – The standard for lima beans for more than 60 years
Comments: Limas like more heat than regular bush beans and will bear poorly in cool weather.

 

Broad Beans-Fava

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: Sow seeds 3″ apart, 1″ deep
Container: 2 gal container minimum size
Varieties: Windsor-A classic English variety
Comments: Prefers cool mild conditions and are suitable for early spring and fall planting.

 

Bush Beans

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: Sow seeds 3″ apart, 1″ deep
Container: 2 gal container minimum size
Varieties: Fortex (H), Jade, Blue Lake
Comments: Harvest regularly to encourage pod setting

 

Filet Beans (Haricot Vertes)

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: Sow seeds 3″ apart, 1″ deep
Container: 2 gal container minimum size
Varieties: Maxibel, Tavera
Comments: Filet beans are intended to be picked when they are very slim 1/8″-1/4″ in diameter. Their gourmet appeareance makes them very appealing to gourmet chefs. Pick every 3 days to maintain continuous production of slim beans. Not recommended for freezing or canning

Carrots

Light Requirements: Full sun/Tolerates partial shade
Spacing: 1 1/2 -3″ in a row. Thin early to avoid tangled roots.
Container: 24 X 36 X 10″ box or minimum 1 qt containers
Varieties: Little Finger (H), Baby Spike, Thumbelina, Nantes Half Long (H), Royal Chantenay
Comments: Carrots are slow growing so weeding is very important for optimum crop performance. Loose soil is required. Choose short -rooted varieties for container gardening such as Nantes Half Long or Royal Chantenay.

Cucumbers

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 12-16″ apart
Container: 48″ box or a 5 gal container with trellis
Varieties: Diva (AAS), Rocky(baby cukes)– Picklebush, Patio Pik, and Salty are bush types and produce on vines only 18-24″ long
Comments: Requires hot weather. Provide support for climbing vines

Eggplant

Light Requirements: Full Sun
Spacing: One plant to a containers
Container: 4-5 gallon containers
Varieties: Mission Bell (early), Black Beauty (H), Fairy Tale (AAS)
Comments: In containers, the varieties with small fruit carried high on the plant are more interesting. Eggplants are very ornamental and look well when planted alongside flowers in larger planters

Garlic

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 4-6″ apart 1 1/2-2″ deep
Container: 1/2 gallon container 8″ deep
Varieties: Most varieties
Comments: Garlic is planted in the fall. It is very winter hardy but should be mulched to prevent heaving. Harvest in the summer when the bottom 2-3 leaves have yellowed.

Green Onions (Scallions)

Light Requirements: Full Sun/Partial shade
Spacing: 2″ apart in a 48″ box — 3-5 plants per 1 gallon container
Container: Any container 6-8″ deep
Varieties: Evergreen Bunching, Crystal Wax, Guardsman (earlist bunching onion)
Comments: Seed can be sown in early spring for summer use or in July or August for fall use.

Kale

Light Requirements: Full sun/Partial shade
Spacing: 8″-12″ apart
Container: 12 x 48″ box or 5 gallon container
Varieties: Dwarf Blue Curled Vates, Red Russin (H)
Comments: Grows best in cool days of fall. Harvest leaves as soon as they are large enough. Cut whole plant if desired.

 

Lettuce

Light Requirements: Full sun/Partial shade
Spacing: Leaf lettuce-4-6″ Head lettuce-10″
Container: Head lettuce needs room-48″ box
Leaf lettuce-any container will do
Varieties: Summer Bibb, Buttercrunch, Oakleaf, Slobolt
Comments: Sow leaf lettuce at 2 week intervals to keep harvesting. High temperatures cause lettuce to bolt(flower). Varieties listed above are slow to bolt.
With healthy eating being in the spotlight today, the varieties of lettuce are being expanded in seed catalogs at a rapid pace. Check garden centers and seed catalogs for new mixes and varieties that are being introduced every spring.

Peppers-Hot

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 14-18″ apart in a row — 1 plant per 2-4 gallon container
Container: 48″ box — 2-4 gallon container
Varieties: Ancho(H), Hungarian Hot Wax, Krimzon Lee, Hot Lemon (H)
Comments: Great ornamental vegetable. Will fit in well when planted with flowers. Available in all shapes and colors

 

 

Peppers-Sweet

 

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 14-18″ apart in a row — 1 plant per 4-5 gallon container
Container: 48″ box — 2-4 gallon container
Varieties: Ace(Green-exceptionally early,cold tolerant), Gourmet(Yellow), Tangerine Dream(red-orange 18″bush), Sweet Banana(Yellow – H), Lipstick(Red)
Comments: Great ornamental vegetable. Will fit in well when planted with flowers. Come in all shapes and colors

 

Radishes

Light Requirements:Full Sun/Partial shade
Spacing: Sow seeds 3/4-1″ apart – 1/2″ deep
Container: Gallon containers 8″ deep or long boxes 24-48″
Varieties: Cherry Belle, White Icicle, Watermelon (H)
Comments: Water often to keep radishes mild, tender, and attractive. Radishes remain in prime condition only a few days. Be digilent when harvesting to avoid pithy, tough, spicy radishes

 

Spinach

Light Requirements: Full sun/Partial shade
Spacing: 8-10″ apart in rows, 2 plants per gallon,
Container: 48″ box, gallon container
Varieties: Emu and Tyee(both very slow bolting) All varieties grow well in containers
Comments: Spinach germinates best in cool weather. Plant early in spring. May also be sown in September for an early crop in the spring, Be sure to mulch heavily to protect the fall planting.

 

Summer Squash

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 1 plant per container
Container: 5 gallon container
Varieties: Fordhook(Zuchinni Bush Plant), Saffron(Summer Squash Bush Plant)
Comments: Look for bush type varieties for your containers if you don’t have room for your plants to roam

 

Swiss Chard

Light Requirements: Full sun/Partial shade
Spacing: 4-5″ apart
Container: Any container 6-8″ deep
Varieties: Bright Lights (AAS), Neon Lights(Rainbow Colors Mix)
Comments: Only one planting is needed. Outer leaves may be harvested as soon as they are big enough. Perfect “cut and come again” plant.

 

Tomatoes

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 1 plant per container
Container: 15 gallon
Varieties: Pixie, Patio, Tiny Tim, Saladette, Tumblin” Tom (Great for hanging baskets)
Comments: Tomatoes are the most popular vegetables grown in containers. There are hundreds of varieties available. Check your local garden centers and seed catalogs for up to date information on the latest offerings of new varieties.

Tomatoes-Cherry and Grape

Light Requirements: Full sun
Spacing: 1 plant per container
Container: 1 gallon
Varieties: Smarty (Grape tomato plant that needs no support), Cherry Roma (Plum-Cherry tomato)
Comments: Grape and Plum tomatoes are the fastest growing section for new tomato varieties. New varieties are being developed every year.

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