You may be surprised to learn that you can grow a variety of delicious edible plants in pots. In fact, you can grow the full gamut: leafy greens, herbs, root vegies, climbing and fruiting veg, and fruit trees too. With careful planning and lots of care, no matter how small the space, you can have a productive and decorative potted patch.
To start, find a sunny spot for your pots. Most fruiting plants will need 6-8 hours of full sun, but leafy greens will grow with less. If you’re just starting your potted patch, I recommend choosing one type of pot for a cohesive look. We use terracotta for most of our containers; they’re cheap, complement our brick paved courtyard, and they age well. But you can use any container that will hold potting mix and facilitate good drainage.
WHAT TO PLANT
At this time of year, we are planting summer vegies. This includes a variety of tomatoes, lettuce and salad greens, capsicum, baby spinach, eggplant, beans, squash, radish, and cucumbers. If you are new to vegetable growing, I suggest you start with salad greens: lettuce, rocket, and mustard greens. They are easy to grow, well suited to pots and far tastier than anything you will buy in the supermarket. Herbs also grow well in pots. Thyme, chives, parsley, and rosemary are great choices and will help attract beneficial insects like native bees when in flower. These bees will assist with pollination for your fruiting vegetables.
Tomatoes, cucumbers and other tall or climbing fruiting vegies will need a trellis or cage fitted inside the pot at the time of planting (above, left). This helps contain and support the growth, otherwise it can lead to issues with pests and diseases or poor fruit set. Root vegetables can grow well in containers because you have more control over the growing conditions. Try carrots, beetroot, and parsnip. They all produce generous crops, but make sure plant them in suitable sized containers.
Remember to include flowers, like marigold, calendula, and nasturtium. Not only do they look good, but will help attract insect pollinators to your potted patch. For fruit shrubs and trees, blueberries grow better in pots than in the open ground. They like an acidic mix, so look for a potting mix specifically formulated for acid-loving plants. Potting mixes sold for azaleas or camellias are ideal. As for larger trees, you will need a pot as big as you can accommodate. If you’re short on floor space, look for dwarf varieties. They are just as productive as regular sized trees but take up less space. Be diligent about fertilising and watering and repot your tree every four years.
In small spaces, you can use your walls to reflect heat and enhance the growing conditions for fruit trees. Fruiting figs will grow well as espalier against a sunny wall; they’re easy to train into a horizontal or fan shape. It's best to start with a young tree and train the branches using guide wires. It can take a few years of pruning and shaping before you reach the desired effect.