I’ve been asked by a couple of friends recently about what I’d recommend to grow in pots, particularly for those living with only a balcony or small courtyard. My initial answer to this question is usually “everything”, because truthfully I grow most things in pots as well as in the ground. Not only does it help expand the limited space I have, but I find it much easier to protect plants from snails and slugs (as they are off the ground and I can use copper tape around the edge). I also find I can access sunny spots in the yard that would otherwise get missed.

However with a bit more thought, there are some I would recommend over others – here is my top 10 list of plants I would recommend for pots. Keep in mind that these are the ones I’ve had success with in my garden, and really the best thing to do is experiment as different things may work better or worse in different locations.

 

Top 10 for pots

1. Blueberries

I must sound like a broken record by now – but blueberries would have to be my top recommendation for pots. They look stunning most of the year and you get food as well! Blueberries prefer acidic soil which can be easier to control in pots (as you can buy acidic potting mix) and they are one of my favourite flowers.  Although I have both, if you’re only planting a couple (plant at least 2 – they do better in pairs) I’d stick with ones that are evergreen to have something visually nice throughout the year.

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2. Tomatoes

Definitely a close second – if I could only grow two things, tomatoes would always be in the top two as the taste of a home grown tomato cannot compare to ones from the supermarket. I’ve had equal success with tomatoes grown in pots and in the ground. I even tried “Florida basket” last year, which is small and compact. Kept in a pot on the deck it was quite cute, but I had a lot more tomatoes from my other taller plants. I prefer growing cherry and grape tomatoes for the massive abundance of tomatoes they produce, however I usually grown several types for a variety.

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Florida basket

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Roma tomato growing in a pot

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“Sweet bite” cherry tomato in a pot

3. Climbing Beans

I try every year to grow beans in the ground and snails always find their way in my protective containers and destroy any hope I had of a crop. The majority of beans I’ve harvested have been from pots. It also gives me a chance to experiment with places to put them and things to climb up, such as my mailbox beans in the photo below. As they grow up, they really don’t take up much space, so won’t overcrowd a small area.

bean 5 bean 4 bean 2bean 3bean 1

4. Potatoes

Last year I tried a mix of potatoes and planted some in the ground and some in pots. Planted in winter, I eagerly awaited the harvest in summer. I’d forgotten one thing though – we have clay soil. By the time summer came around and our clay soil had hardened to brick-like consistency in areas (despite my best attempts to work with the soil, there are still rock hard patches) – I realised potatoes in the ground probably wasn’t well thought out. After trying for a while to dig the potatoes out (imagine trying to dig a potato out of a brick), accidently splitting several as I went – I decided it just wasn’t worth the trouble. By comparison I had loads of buttery potatoes from the ones I’d planted in pots and grow bags. I’ll only be growing potatoes in pots from now on.

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Potatoes growing in grow bags – add more soil as they grow

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Potato in flower

Potato in flower

5. Strawberries

While they have grown really well in the ground at my place too – I never make it to the ripened strawberries before the slugs do. I now really only grow them in pots and they look very cheerful too which is a bonus! Mine tend to get very thirsty in summer, so keep an eye on watering.

straw 1 straw 2 straw 5 straw 4 straw 6

6. Baby carrots

As with potatoes, carrots can be a nightmare to get out of the ground. Many times I’ve ended up pulling off the green top of the carrot and have to dig the root out. Baby carrots can easily be grown in pots and harvesting is a lot less effort. Just make sure the pot is deep enough to fit the carrots in.

carrot 1 carrot 2

7. Flowers

Very broad I know – but if you’re growing veggies in pots I’d highly recommend flowers as well to help bring bees in for pollination. They also instantly cheer up any area! I tend to stick with annuals which grow fast and are pretty hardy. I’ve had particularly good success with alyssum, dwarf sunflowers, petunias and violas.

 flower 1 flower 2 flower 3 flower 4 flower 5

8. Broad beans

I grow broad beans in pots and in the ground and I’ve had equal success with both. In the front yard I often grow them in pots purely for extra sun access. I’ve found they are pretty hardy plants and a good winter/spring crop while you’re waiting to plant summer veggies.

br bean 1 br bean 2 br bean 3

9. Lettuce

Compact and can be grown pretty much all year round. What else do you need?! I tend to use a mix of different types as I like the variety of colours.

 lettuce lettuce 2

10. Dwarf fruit tree

Although I haven’t had a huge amount of success with my orange tree –I love the smell and the flowers which is why it makes it into my top ten list. As you may have seen in my previous post, all of my fruit trees are currently growing in pots due to limited space. A fruit tree may be a bit a stretch if you only have a balcony, but the “lots of lemon” citrus tree is a very dwarf citrus and some types of fruit trees are even grown specifically for small spaces (such as my ballerina apples). A bay tree cutting will start out pretty small too.

So hopefully this has given those of you with limited space an idea or two past the obvious kitchen herbs. And if none of this seems to work – try cats. I’m extremely good at growing cats in pots….

cat 7 cat 2cat 1 cat 6 cat 4 cat 8cat 5

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