After a long winter, spring is almost here. That means millions of gardeners are thawing out their green thumbs and hoping for another bumper crop.
Anybody with even a postage-sized backyard can find the space to cultivate a garden. But what if you live smack dab in an urban condo or apartment building? Are you condemned to buying expensive grocery store produce all year long?
Not necessarily. Container gardens offer the chance to unleash your inner Farmer John or Jill right in the heart of the city. Following are seven plants that grow well in containers and can provide you with fresh vegetables and fruit throughout the season.
Contrary to popular belief, strawberries don’t need tons of space to spread and grow. In fact, the popular fruit actually thrives in containers. As long as you select a sunny spot near a window and supplement with artificial light during winter months, you can grow and enjoy sweet, plump strawberries year round.
Just make sure your container is large enough to accommodate your crop and remove the berries as soon as they’re ready to allow for additional growth. Take that, local grocery store that charges up to $4.99 per carton when berries are “out of season”!
You don’t have to live on a lot of land — or in the tropics — to harvest sweet, delicious pineapple all year long. It’s easy to grow this tropical fruit in small spaces. Simply purchase a fresh pineapple — remember to search for a coupon! — and cut off its crown, leaving just a little fruit at the top.
Soak the crown in water for a day and then plant it in a plastic, gallon-sized container. Place the container in a warm, sunny spot (such as a window or balcony) and wait for your tasty, tropical fruit to grow. If you opt to put your container outdoors, be sure to bring it in on chilly nights.
Believe it or not, you can grow melon in a container. Don’t let the sweet summer fruit fool you! It’s best to choose a dwarf variety — like a “bush sugar baby” watermelon — for smaller spaces, like apartments or condos.
Plant up to two plants in a 5-gallon container (at minimum) and allow the vines to spill over the sides, supporting the melon if necessary. And be sure to keep that water and fertilizer coming.
Want to grow and pick a peck of peppers, but worried that you don’t have sufficient space to do so? Don’t despair. Green, red and yellow peppers actually make ideal container plants. Smaller peppers typically require 2-gallon containers to ensure they have plenty of room to spread and grow, whereas larger varieties do best in an 8- to 10-gallon pot.
Your pepper crop will require a minimum of eight hours of sunlight daily to thrive, so set the containers on your deck or balcony during the day and bring them in on cool nights.
Tomatoes are often the first container fruit folks attempt to grow, and for good reason. They flourish in practically any size of container — they’re even sold in containers at the grocery store and farmers market.
Begin with seeds or starter plants, and be sure to select a container that’s large enough to accommodate the variety of tomato you plan to plant. Water regularly and prepare to enjoy homemade sauces and fresh, flavorful caprese salads. Yum.
Why buy carrots at the supermarket every week when you can grow them at home with relative ease? They are the perfect container veggie. Begin with baby varieties, like “thumbelina,” “little fingers” and “short ‘n sweet” carrots before graduating to their standard-sized counterparts.
With diligent watering, you can produce a bumper crop in containers as shallow as 6 inches deep. As a general rule, the longer the type of carrot, the deeper the pot. A 12-inch pot should yield approximately 20 carrots after thinning, according to Dummies.com.
Hardy and versatile squash will grow practically anywhere you plant it, including containers. Which is a good thing considering summer squash and zucchini are the new replacement for high-carb noodles in many popular diet plans (google “zoodles” to learn more).
Just grab some seeds and a few containers and remember that you’ll have to harvest your squash fairly regularly to make room for a new yield. According to diyncrafts.com, you should be able to produce three squashes per pot every week.
Do you have a favorite fruit or vegetable in your container garden? Let us know about it in our Forums. It’s a place where you can swap questions and answers on money-related matters, life hacks and ingenious ways to save.