Don’t let a lack of space deter you from growing your own veggies. Noticing the trend for growing vegetables and the rapidly decreasing space in which to do it, vegetable breeders got busy. The result is a range of miniature veggies that can be grown in pots or in hanging baskets on the patio
1. CAPSICUM ‘CUTE STUFF’
This sweet golden or red mini pepper looks rather like a bright, shiny apple. The 8cm-long fruit might be bite sized, but the plant yields up to three times more than normal peppers.
Growing tips: Plant in a 45–60cm diameter pot, making sure it receives at least six hours of sun a day. Add compost or humus to the potting soil to enhance moisture retention. The soil must drain well but not dry out completely. Water daily in summer. Don’t over-fertilise, as plants develop lush foliage at the expense of fruit production. For the best flavour, let the fruit ripen fully and snip off with scissors.
2. CAPSICUM ‘LA BOMBA’
A jalapeño-type pepper, it grows into an attractive upright plant (56cm high and 46cm wide) with a strong, sturdy main stem and glossy green leaves.
Growing tips: It needs a large, deep container to accommodate its roots. Plant it in full sun and water daily in summer. Feed once a month with a liquid fertiliser. The large dark-green fruit has a thick skin and can be picked when green. Cut, rather than pull the fruit from the plant.
3. BUTTERNUT ‘HONEYNUT’
The first widely available compact butternut (10–13cm long), ‘Honeynut’ has a sweet, nutty taste and deep orange flesh. The fruit is a more manageable size and so is the vine with a limited spread of up to 3m. It produces higher yields than traditional butternut and the leaves are resistant to powdery mildew.
Growing tips: Plant in a large pot in full sun and train it up and along a trellis. Water plants daily and fertilise twice a month to maintain its high production rate.
4. EGG FRUIT ‘PATIO BABY’
This dwarf plant grows only 60cm high. It bears 25 to 50 eggplants per plant and starts bearing within 45 days of planting compared to 90 days with conventional varieties. The mature fruit is about 5cm in diameter, very mild tasting and with none of the bitterness of the bigger fruit.
Growing tips: Full morning sun (six hours) and afternoon shade is ideal. Use a rich, organic mix that drains well, water daily in summer and fertilise with a liquid fertiliser at least once a month.
5. ZUCCHINI ‘EASY PICK’
‘Easy Pick’ is popular not only for its irresistible golden and green fruit, but also because it’s easy to pick. The leaves don’t have any prickles and all it takes is a quick twist to snap off the fruit. These upright, spreading plants grow 1,3m high and wide.
Growing tips: Plant a single plant in a large, deep container at least 50cm in diameter. It does best with morning sun and afternoon shade, daily watering and monthly fertilising. Pick when fruit is about 15cm long. The more you pick, the more it produces. Yellowish leaves indicate a lack of food; boost with a nitrogen-rich fertiliser.
6. TOMATO ‘RAMBLING RED STRIPE’
With its bright red fruit and slightly darker stripe, this plant takes 68 days to mature. Suitable for hanging baskets and containers, it cascades up to 60cm.
Growing tips: It needs plenty of light and watering every second day in summer.
Monitor the moisture as plants in hanging baskets dry out faster than plants in the ground. Start feeding when the fruit begins to set. Tomatoes can be harvested when they begin to show colour, but will be more flavourful if allowed to ripen on the vine.
7. TOMATO ‘TUMBLING TOM YELLOW’
The perfect patio partner for ‘Rambling Red Stripe’, it produces very sweet, rounded yellow cherry tomatoes throughout summer. It’s an early producer with the first fruit taking 63–70 days to mature.
Growing tips: A bush variety, it doesn’t need staking and looks very striking when its arching stems are loaded with fruit. Plant it in a deep, large basket or tall container in full sun. It’s resistant to fusarium wilt, verticillium wilt and nematodes.
8. CUCUMBER ‘PATIO SNACKER’
One of the first in the range of patio vegetables, it’s a suitable vine variety for large containers with small trellises. This fast-growing plant produces early with high yields of 20cm-long, dark-green cucumbers that are flavourful and crunchy.
Growing tips: Choose a big pot, add compost to the potting soil for a fertile mix, and water regularly making sure the pot drains easily. Fertilise when the plant begins to set fruit. For good quality, don’t allow the fruits to become overripe on the vine.
9. ‘SIMPLY SALAD’
It’s easy to grow your own mixed salad bowl. ‘Alfresco Mix’ (pictured) includes red and green leaf lettuces with rocket, endive and radicchio to give a Mediterranean flavour and look. ‘City Garden Mix’ is a mix of red and green leaf lettuces that are mild tasting and good for salads as well as sandwiches. ‘Global Gourmet Mix’ consists of green and red leaf lettuce with spicy Asian greens like mizuna and mustards.
Growing tips: Morning sun and afternoon shade is ideal. Water regularly because drying out makes the leaves bitter. The leaves can be cut back to 5cm or harvested individually.
10. ‘SIMPLY HERBS’
This range of herbs including basil, rosemary, oregano (pictured), dill, thyme and parsley is grown from multi-seed pellets, which means that there are six to 12 young plants in each pot. The basil mix consists of three different basil varieties (Genovese, serrated and dark red basil).
Growing tips: Plants can be left to grow thickly on a cut-and-come-again basis or transplanted into larger pots for extended use. Grow in full sun, feed with a liquid fertiliser at half strength once a week and water regularly.
All these veggies are part of a special patio range and are only available as young plants in pots. For details and stockists, call Ball Straathof on 011 794 2316, e-mail [email protected] or visit ballstraathof.co.za