You may know that there are many crops that can be grown in containers, such as many herbs, strawberries, and lettuce. In a feverish attempt to keep up with the ballooning interest in growing one’s own food, plant breeders have developed varieties of once too large edibles that can be raised in containers. Some of these new varieties may surprise you.
Yes, corn. More specifically, sweet corn (the tasty stuff, not the commercially raised stuff used to feed commercial cattle and sweeten processed foods). What was once a gigantic six foot tall monocot of deliciousness; you can now find varieties half that size- fewer than four feet at maturity. Beautifully, these varieties also produce remarkably tasty ears in good time, making them available to even the most northern container garden enthusiasts. In a larger pot, these varieties also make great center pieces and offer good upright structure as an ornamental. Here are two of my favorite dwarf container corn cultivars:
Blue Jade: Stays under three feet tall, bears 3-6 ears of sweet tasting corn. When cooked, the kernels turn a steely blue color. 70-80 days to full maturity.
Youkon Chief Dwarf: Bred especially for the short northern growing season. Produces 2-4 ears on stalks that stay under four feet in height. Full uniform ears bear yellow sweet kernels. 70-80 days to full maturity.
Cucumbers can be grown in containers, if you pay special attention to vining habit and mature size. Bush cucumbers tend to be better choices in containers. My favorite cucumber cultivar, and one I’ve been growing for years, is the Spacemaster.
Spacemaster is a very compact cucumber plant that prolifically produces small fruits, great for pickling. With a short 60 days to full maturity, it’s also quick to reward you. Plant this fantastic cultivar in the edges of baskets and containers for a trailing effect that looks fantastic as well. No need for a trellis with this gem!
One of my favorite veggies has to be squash, and let me tell you that when I discovered this compact, heavily yielding container compatible piece of perfection, I was elated. Table King Bush Acorn squash not only thrives in a container, it will also serve you with loads of 2lb amazing fruits that taste even more amazing. Allow this plant to ramble on your deck and let the maturing fruit rest right on the deck floor. No need to worry about decay-enhancing critters ruining your squash! This squash goes from seed to harvest ready in 75-85 days, and the fruit store very well in cool and dry places (like a pantry).
To really be successful with growing veggies like these in containers, you also need to be sure you’re offering the plant a proper place to grow- in terms of soil quality, proper sunlight exposure, enough room to roam, plenty of H2O and nutrient availability. Diseases and pests can be a problem as well, especially for heirloom varieties of container grown vegetables. Container growing of crops can be a rewarding experience and is a possibility for anyone willing to give it a chance. I hope I’ve inspired you to give one of these special container veggies a try!