Lots of our favorite vegetables are now available in miniature versions. Miniature vegetables naturally save space for the home gardener, but more exciting, they allow people without a garden the opportunity to grow their own fresh vegetables in pots and tubs on porches and balconies.
To be successful, these vegetables must be grown in a sunny spot. This can cause some problems, as a sunny balcony may get too hot in the middle of summer. Shading the area with blinds or shade cloth in the hot afternoons will overcome this problem.
There are many different types of containers available from your favorite garden center. Foam, terracotta and plastic containers are all adequate for the job. Don’t forget that the greengrocer may be able to supply some polystyrene packing boxes for the asking. The deep ones are best for root crops, while the shallow ones will serve for the leafy crops.
Flat dwellers may have to buy some growing medium as good, rich and improved soil may not be available. The growing medium chosen should be free-draining. To further aid drainage, the container should be slightly raised off the ground. Use some stones or short lengths of timber, such as pieces of old tomato stakes.
Watering and feeding must be monitored regularly. Remember that a tub or pot grown plant relies entirely upon you for all its needs and will need a lot more attention than the same plant grown in the garden.
Slow-release fertilizers mixed with the growing medium are of value, while a liquid plant food will keep the crop actively growing. Read the label and mix your solution on the weak side (down to strength), as full strength may burn the roots or damage the foliage. Use every 10 to 14 days.
Pests and diseases may be a problem but should be easily controlled by wiping off the beasties before their numbers get out of hand. If chemicals are used, remember to check the label for the withholding period and do not harvest your crop until the required number of days have passed.
If you take this extra care, you will have the satisfaction of growing your own fresh vegetables, many of which are not available from the markets.
Following are the names of some dwarf vegetables I recently saw in a couple of the horticultural outlets in town. It is not a comprehensive list by any means.
There is a range of seeds packaged under the catching title of “Vegetables for Small Spaces“. Included in this range are baby carrots, green mignonette lettuce, St George radish, Chinese cabbage, spring onion, whole-pod dwarf beans and Patio Pick cucumber. Also available for the larger containers, are Green Button and Jersey Acorn squash, Tiny Tim tomatoes, Golden Nugget bush pumpkin and Bar B.Q. capsicum.
A range of suitable seeds including baby spinel beetroot, easigrow and suko carrots, garant mini-cauliflower, various lettuce, radish and shallots, mini-turnips and bush forms of marrow, melon, squash and zucchini.
Tomato seeds suitable for tub culture include Tiny Tim and the Pixie F1 hybrid. Most bush varieties are also suitable.
If raising plants from seed is not your forte, seedlings can be used instead. Herbs also can be grown in tubs very successfully and should not be overlooked.
Another vegetable that should not be overlooked by anybody, particularly the flat dweller, is the mushroom, now available in packs. Ordinary garden mushrooms are a favorite, while those a little more adventurous may like to try growing the Chinese mushroom.