“Anyone who thinks gardening begins in the spring and ends in the fall is missing the best part of the whole year; for gardening begins in January with the dream.” This quote by Josephine Nuese rings so true, and many of us are already dreaming of what to plant this year. I’ve put together a list that concentrates on new and interesting varieties that would work well on a balcony vegetable garden. Hopefully they’ll inspire you as much as they inspire me!
The holidays are over for most of us and the New Year has just begun. Even though it is snowy and cold in the Norther Hemisphere, my mind has already turned to the coming gardening season. I have my list of usual suspects that I grow every year, but I’m always looking for something new to try. With that in mind, I’ve created the following list. So if you’re ready to test drive a fun new species, but aren’t sure where to start, read on for some great ideas.
1. Tom Thumb Garden Pea
This is a wonderful new pea variety for a balcony vegetable garden. These guys max out at about 8 inches and are completely happy to be grown in containers. They are mostly used as shelling peas, but the shells are lovely to eat as well if picked early.
Available at Baker Creek.
2. Tzimbalo Melon Pear
If you’re looking to try something really different, this is a great choice. Fruit will be similar in size to that of a grape when ready to be picked. The best comparison taste wise is a Pepino, which tastes like a combination of banana and pear. Melon pears are tangier and also contain notes of cucumber and melon. This would be a fun and adventurous addition to your garden.
Get seeds from Baker Creek.
3. “Morello” Beetroot
The idea of planting beets in a container may seem unconventional, but these will do just fine in a large pot. They’re ready to harvest after twelve weeks, and if you don’t like creating waste, you can eat the leaves to liven up any soup or salad. Something to note: beets like full sun, but be careful not to let them dry out or they will go to seed on you.
Seeds available at Thompson & Morgan.
4. Thai Lavender Frog Egg Eggplant
Love eggplant but don’t have the garden space to grow them? These guys will be perfect for you, since they mature to the size of a cherry tomato. They take about 80 days to mature, but make up for their small size and longer growing time by being a high-yielding plant.
Get seeds at Baker Creek.
5. Seychelles Pole Bean
As a balcony gardener, part of making the most of your space is considering plants that grow vertically. These pole beans will grow to about 5ft and pump out tons of tasty stringless pods. Some training is required to get them started on the trellis, but other than that, they’re an easy-growing variety.
Order yours from High Mowing Seeds.
6. Desert King Fig Tree
This fig variety will produce a surprising amount of fruit, and will withstand a surprising amount of cold. In fact, this specific fig is hardy down to a zone 5. It’ll take some maintenance and require a bit of studying in order to get it right, but the rewards are well worth the effort. You may read that fig trees can grow quite large, but they also do very well in containers as they like to have their roots confined.
Get your own from Planet Fig.
7. Purple Lady Bok Choy
If you’re a fan of bok choy, or are thinking of trying it, this is a great variety to get your feet wet with. Compact heads are great for tucking into small areas and can be picked for eating at any stage. Smaller leaves are nice in a salad whereas larger leaves are great in a stir fry. Bok choy is surprisingly versatile, as it can stand a light frost, but can also handle heat much better than other leafy greens.
Seeds available at Baker Creek.
8. Redarling Hybrid Brussels Sprouts
If you’re looking for something that’s really going to stand out, then look no further. These Brussels sprouts are easy to grow and plentiful. They are also sweeter than most varieties, so they may be a good introduction for those who haven’t quite discovered a love for this tasty vegetable. If you decide to start these guys indoors, put them outside in their original containers for one week before transplanting.
Seeds available at Love Your Greens.
9. Sugar Pot Watermelon
Have you ever wished you could grow wonderful sweet watermelons in your balcony vegetable garden? Well now you can! Instead of overrunning the place as most varieties are prone to do, this compact, balcony-friendly melon will only take up about 12-18 inches of space, but can produce up to 10-lb fruits!
Available at the Territorial Seed Company.
10. Citrus Eureka Lemon
This is one type of lemon tree that will be completely at home in a good-sized pot. Lemons are typically only happy in tropical climates, and this guy is no exception. It’ll be happiest in zones 9 and 10. For those of us in a more northern climate, they’re quite happy as indoor plants, and can be taken out to the balcony during the summer months. Something to keep in mind when growing lemons is that they require a lot of water. Therefore, when choosing your container, be sure to choose something that won’t sweat out the liquid.
Available from Park Seed.
11. Saxa 2 Radish
This is a very quick-growing variety that’s ready to pick and eat in just 18 days. Even if you don’t have a lot of room, they’re no problem to grow in containers, and planting a few seeds every couple of weeks will ensure a steady supply. In addition, their flavor is milder than other radishes, so if you’re someone who prefers a little less zing, then these will be a great go-to for your balcony vegetable garden.
Get yours at Baker Creek.
12. Micro Tom Tomato
For those of you who are REALLY short on space, you’re going to love this little gem. Micro Tom is at home in any windowsill garden, hanging basket, you name it. This tomato is a high producer, yet won’t surpass 8 inches in height. Truly, it’s one of the best container tomato varieties available for your balcony vegetable garden.
Seeds available at Baker Creek.
13. Atlas Hybrid Tomato
If you’re more of a beefsteak fan but are still tight on space, this variety has been specifically bred for life in a container. It’s bushy in stature, yet remains quite compact. While this plant will take up far less space than traditional beefsteaks, your Atlas tomato will still need to be placed in full sun in order to thrive.
Seeds are available from Burpee.
14. Peach Sorbet Blueberry
In the past, if you wanted to grow blueberries, or most types of berries, you had to plant multiple varieties in order for pollination to occur. This meant that it was very difficult to grow on balconies as multiple plants took up a large amount of space. Growers have long been working on this dilemma and we finally have varieties of self-pollinating plants.
Get yours from Bushel and Berry
15. Raspberry Shortcake
Strawberries are well known as a great patio plant, but now you can grow all sorts of berries in containers. Take this great new thornless raspberry variety, for example. You no longer need large swaths of space in order to enjoy these wonderful fruits. They’re also at home in a wide climate range, and can handle life in zones 4-9.
Also available from Bushel and Berry.
16. “Just Sweet” Pepper
This is a new variety of yellow pepper aptly named for its especially sweet flavor. Plants will reach about 3 feet tall, and each fruit is only about 3 inches long. These bite-sized peppers are perfect for salads and snacking.
Available at AAS Winner.
17. Baby Persian Cucumbers
“Green fingers” are a Middle Eastern miniature style cucumber that are currently only available for purchase through Renee’s Garden Seeds. This variety is resistant to powdery mildew, and is self-pollinating! This is an excellent trait for those of you who don’t have the room for multiple plants. Cucumbers are ready to pick when they are 3 to 5 inches long and are ready to pick in just 60 days.
18. Kalibos Red Cabbage
This plant produces a pointed, almost heart-shaped head that would make an elegant addition to any garden. It grows to about 2 pounds (smaller than most cabbages) and would work well planted on its own in a single container. The flavor is milder than most cabbage and very sweet.
Seeds can be found at Baker Creek.
19. “On Deck” Corn Hybrid
Growing corn in containers isn’t unheard of, but now there’s a specific variety that’s been bred to thrive in pots. Plants will grow to about 5ft, and bear 2-3 ears per plant. One thing to keep in mind as a city gardener: raccoons LOVE corn, so keep a sharp eye on those ears once they start to ripen!
Get this variety from Burpee.
20. Parisienne Carrot
This little guy is a favourite amongst French gardeners. They’re small enough that they can be steamed as they are, and eaten as lovely bite-sized morsels. This variety is also great for smaller containers since they don’t require the same depth as most carrots. They also grow really well in denser soils, requiring less maintenance during the growing season.
Available via Baker Creek.
As a final note, when trying out new varieties, please remember that gardening is a learning process. It can take time to understand what a certain type of fruit or vegetable does or doesn’t like. The seed package or greenhouse may give very specific instructions, but a rogue plant can decide to go its own way.
As such, even if you don’t get viable fruit the first year, keep trying and don’t give up! In time, your balcony vegetable garden will be a veritable oasis of edible delights.