Non-traditional vegetable gardening is a rewarding creative outlet. Whether you plant your veggies in the ground or in containers, think outside the box. Think ethnic, global, regional or thematic. Try an Italian (tomato, garlic, radicchio, bell pepper, parsley), Asian (Japanese eggplant, Chinese cabbage, pea pods, coriander), Greek (tomato, eggplant, cucumber, garlic, fennel) or Mexican (hot peppers, summer squash, tomatoes, garlic, onions) theme. Do a pickle barrel (pickling cucumbers, garlic, dill) or summer salad garden (arugula, lettuces, cherry tomatoes). Plant a pizza (tomatoes, garlic basil) or salsa garden (cilantro, peppers, tomatillos, tomatoes). The combinations of plants are endless.
These thematic gardens could be beautiful in a container. You can plant more than one plant in larger containers using trellises and tomato cages and create beautiful floral displays with the different veggies. Containerized veggie success starts with the right size container. Pots 9 inches to 12 inches deep work well for beets, leaf lettuce, onions, radishes, spinach, Swiss chard or carrots. Twelve inches to 16 inches in depth are best for broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, peas and cherry tomatoes. The largest containers, with depths of 16 inches to 18 inches deep will be perfect for beans, cucumbers, potatoes, tomatoes and summer squash. Any container should have several drain holes in the bottom.
In containers, soil should hold water, but not be too heavy. Native soils don’t work in pots, unless mixed 50/50 with compost. These soils compact and roots can’t grow through them. Soilless mixes are designed for containers. Purchase one that’s sterilized to reduce damping off disease in seedlings. In-ground success depends on good soil preparation including digging the soil to a depth of 12 inches to loosen it and mixing in compost.
You can plant some of the thematic veggies in one container; complimentary herbs in another or all next to each other in the garden. If doing a pizza bed, arrange the plants in the shape of a pizza. Doing a thematic garden is a great way to interest children in gardening, especially if one container or plot in the garden is theirs.
No matter what you choose to plant to eat this year, have fun with it.