There is currently a tremendous craze for growing edible plants. Sales of vegetable seeds has grown rapidly in recent years. With the problems caused by GMOs and agriculture industrialization, many people feel the need to return to the essence of food by growing their own vegetables. You also want to harvest your own tomatoes, but you think it is beyond your reach since the only land you got is a small balcony or the roof of the building where you live? You will probably be surprised to learn that most vegetables can easily be grown in containers, in the heart of the city!

On the introduction photo, you can see an arrangement I’ve created during a workshop at the Great Gardening Weekend, which took place on May 23, 24 and 25th 2014 at the Montreal Botanical Garden. It is composed of hosta ‘Kiwi Full Monty’ (Hosta ‘Kiwi Full Monty’) – the hosta leaves can replace nori for wrapping sushi –, sage ‘Tricolor’ (Salvia officinalis ‘Tricolor’), lemon thyme ‘Silver Queen’ (Thymus x citriodorus ‘Silver Queen’) and pansy Penny ™ ‘Deep Blue’ (Viola cornuta Penny ™ ‘Deep Blue’).

It is important to use large pots to grow edible plants. Furthermore, choose a light and rich growing mix with excellent water and nutrient holding capacity. A substrate made of equal parts of compost, peat moss and perlite, such as Pro-Mix organic vegetable and herb mix or Myke potting mix for organic growing, gives excellent results. Finally, since most vegetables and herbs require a minimum of six hours of sunlight to grow and develop properly, grow them in full sun in a spot protected from winds. Otherwise, some edible plants, such as spinach (Spinacia oleracea), mint (Mentha) and begonia (Begonia) – Yep! Begonia flowers are delicious! –, can be grown in the shade.

It is very trendy to combine vegetables, herbs and edible flowers with ornamental exotic plants. This surprising and original arrangement is composed of rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis), strawberries ‘Tarpan’ (Fragaria x ananassa ‘Tarpan’) , pelargonium ‘Carrum Purple’ (Pelargonium ‘Carrum Purple’), whose flowers are edible, and neoregelia ‘Green Apple’ (Neoregelia ‘Green Apples’), however inedible.

Herbs and vegetables grown for their edible leaves, such as chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. crispa) and spinach, are among the easiest edibles to cultivate in containers. On the other hand, green beans (Phaseolus vulgaris var. nana) and peas (Pisum sativum) provide good crops when grown in containers. Climbing beans and peas are also well suited to container growing as long as you provide them a support on which they can cling.

If you want to grow tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum) in pots, choose determinate cultivars such as ‘Chibikko’ or ‘Lizzano’ which hardly reach more than 60 cm in height. You can also grow hot peppers and cultivars of bell peppers (Capsicum annuum) that produces small fruits, such as the Mini Bell series. Finally, as surprising as it may seem, potatoes (Solanum tuberosum) are also suitable for pot growing. Make sure you plant your potatoes in a pot with at least 25 cm in diameter and a depth varying between 45 cm and 60 cm. Obviously, vegetables with long roots like carrots (Daucus carota var. sativus) and salsify (Tragopogon porrifolius) should be planted in very deep containers.

You can create very ornamental arrangements in containers with various edible plants. This arrangement consists of a fig tree (Ficus carica), an artichoke ‘Green Globe’ (Cynara scolymus ‘Green Globe’), a begonia ‘Solenia Orange’ (Begonia x hiemalis ‘Solenia Orange’) and green lettuce (Lactuca sativa var. crispa).