Love the taste of from-the-garden veggies, but not sure you have the time, space or knack for growing them? Here are five varieties that grow as well in containers as they do in a sunny patch of earth.
This tasty green is also known as rocket. It grows copiously, with very little fuss. It can be started very early in spring—or as late as early fall. In fact, in a single growing season, you can harvest several crops of arugula from one container or garden patch. Arugula is best enjoyed when leaves are still small and tender—around 5 to 6 inches from bottom to top. As the leaves grow, they become increasingly spicy; eventually the plant will develop thick, inedible woody stems and a head of small white flowers.
Likes: Sun; will tolerate most water conditions.
Eat: In salads, pesto, or wilted into soups or eggs.
2. Sugar snap peas
Another vegetable to plant early, sugar snap peas grow easily in a sunny spot before the weather turns too warm. Harvest as soon as the pea pods look plump. Don’t let them hang on the vine too long; they may get tough and dry. As the thermometer creeps up, snap peas will stop producing. The plants will actually improve the soil by adding nitrogen, so don’t be afraid to pull up the plant when done and sow another vegetable in its place.
Likes: Full sun; moist soil.
Eat: As a right-off-the-vine snack.
True, tomatoes can be slightly fussy when it comes to temperature and moisture (if you’re in a far northern clime, timing is everything). They also aren’t a vegetable. Nevertheless, they generally grow easily in large containers or gardens with rich soils and regular watering. Cherry tomato varieties typically produce more fruit, more frequently, but plum-size tomatoes also grow well in containers. Look for short, sturdy plants and don’t forget to provide a cage or stake so that fruit doesn’t break the vine.
Likes: Full sun; regular water.
Eat: Tossed with a little salt and olive oil, or slow-roasted in a low-temp oven.
Like tomatoes, there’s no comparing hothouse versions to the taste of a cucumber that has been picked minutes before eating. They’re sweet, crunchy, and lack the subtle bitterness of cucumbers that have been shipped and stored. Truly a summer vegetable, cukes aren’t difficult to grow but do require heat and ample sun to produce.
Likes: Full sun; moderate water.
Eat: As a drink, blend cucumber (peeled and deseeded) with ice, mint and honey.
Lettuce is so easy to cultivate, you may as well grow it in any season except winter. Leaf lettuces can be grown to maturity (a head) or picked when small and tender. If you choose to grow lettuces longer, be conscious of plant spacing; otherwise, lettuces can be sown close together and harvested without pulling out the roots, taking the outer leaves first so that the plants keep growing new leaves. Lettuces need replanting when they begin to produce thick stems and flower shoots.
Likes: Will tolerate some shade; water morning and evening.
Eat: As a bed for poached egg or lean protein of your choice; tossed with simple vinaigrette.