As I mentioned in my last post, a vegetable and herb garden planted in containers can be just as dynamic as a garden planted in the ground. The baskets in these images were found at my town’s reusable area. The brown baskets are florist baskets that were already lined with plastic. I poked several holes in the plastic to allow for drainage. The green basket came without a liner, so I lined it with a scrap of permeable weed barrier before filling it with my special potting soil/compost/fertilizer mix. The weed barrier prevents the soil from washing out through the spaces in the basket, but allows water to drain freely.
In May, this basket is newly planted with edible violas, two kinds of lettuce, shallots, Bull’s Blood beet (this has dark red foliage and is grown for continual harvest of its leaves rather than its roots), edible Lemon Gem marigolds and curly parsley. I like to think of this as a living market basket!
The two brown baskets are planted with a similar mix of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers. My town’s reusable area also provided the white stools upon which the baskets are sitting. I elevated the baskets for several reasons: to keep them out of the reach of rabbits, to keep the plants from dragging on the ground where they might get trampled or dirty, to provide a feeling of enclosure to the patio, and to make the plants more visible and easier to maintain and harvest.
A month later, the lettuces are ready for harvesting. I remove a few of the outer leaves of each plant every week or so. From these and the other containers on my patio, I harvest enough lettuce to make just as much salad as we want to eat.
The red cabbage (on the right side of the green basket) provided a nice cold-hardy accent in the spring, but it is growing too large for this basket and will be removed.
I replaced the cabbage with a yellow marigold that I removed from another container where it was getting crowded out. Despite the disturbance, the marigold continued to flourish all season long. The shallots were starting to get elbowed out by the very vigorous parsley, so I harvested them to add to salad dressing. By July, the lettuces had grown bitter with the heat, so I replaced them all with Red Malabar spinach that I had started from seeds in pots outdoors and kept “waiting in the wings” until they were needed. Red Malabar spinach is a very decorative vining plant with red stems that will thrive for the rest of the summer in the heat. You can harvest the leaves continuously and cook them like spinach.
By early September, the Red Malabar spinach has trailed to the ground, giving the baskets a much different look than they had in the spring, and adding to the lush, tropical feel of the patio. The Bull’s Blood beets and parsley are still being harvested, as are the violas. Although they have grown a bit leggy, the violas have produced flowers all summer, despite the heat. The patio is shaded by the house after 3pm, so the violas are spared the harsh afternoon sun, and I have been careful to keep them evenly watered. While my children play in the yard, I have enjoyed pulling my chair right up next to the baskets and snipping off the spent blossoms, which also helps to keep them looking fresh.
One last view of the baskets, still going strong in October. The red beet leaves and the red stems of the Malabar spinach are still colorful, as are the violas and marigolds. It has been so much fun watching (and helping!) these containers evolve throughout the season. I’m already planning a new combination of vegetables, herbs and edible flowers to plant in them this coming spring.