Edible plants are just as easy to grow as ornamentals. So here’s a selection that’s quick and easy for your home garden, especially if you’re a beginner. Just be sure to plant in the right season and give them plenty of sun.
Loose-leaf lettuce are just made for container growing. They don’t form a large head (like Iceberg varieties do), so they’re ready to harvest in a few weeks and you can just pick leaves as you need them, while the plant keeps on growing. They can be decorative too – try planting a mix of red and green lettuce varieties in a trough planter.
Growing tips: Choose a large pot (about 30cm wide), or a long trough planter, and plant seedlings about 15–20cm apart. Water in gently and apply a dose of soluble fertiliser every week or two. Lettuce can be grown all year-round in frost-free areas, or spring through to autumn in colder climates.
A leafy Asian green with lovely scalloped leaves, Tatsoi has a mild mustard flavour and can be added to salads or stir-fries. A relative of bok choy (aka Chinese cabbage), it’s extra quick growing and thrives in pots.
Growing tips: Choose a pot about 30cm wide and plant just one or two seedlings, so they have room to spread (remember, it’s related to cabbage). Pick individual leaves as you need them, and this will encourage the plant to produce even more leafy growth. Feed regularly with a soluble fertiliser. Tatsoi can be planted from spring through to autumn.
Also known as corn salad, this is a cute leafy green, which is not so commonly seen these days. It’s a small annual plant with a nutty flavour and is popular in France and Italy as a salad green. You can also use it steamed and in stir-fries.
Growing tips: You’ll need to grow this one from seeds, as seedlings are not common. Fill a 30cm-diameter pot with potting mix, and sow the seeds about 15cm apart. Water with a fine mist spray, keep the mix moist until seeds germinate in about two to three weeks. Feed the plants with a soluble fertiliser every week, to boost leafy growth. Lamb’s lettuce is best sown in autumn – right now in fact!
The first rule of kale growing is that you’ve got to like kale! If you do, then it’s easy to grow in a pot and you can harvest leaves as you need them, to use in salads, soups and pasta sauces. Full of vitamins and other goodies, kale belongs to the cabbage family and has been a favourite green in Italy for generations.
Growing tips: Kale is a large grower, so plant just one seedling in a 30cm pot. Water regularly and feed periodically, and it will bound ahead and continue growing for months. When picking, remove the lower leaves so the top can continue growing. You can plant kale from late summer right through until early spring.
Fruiting plants need a little more care than their leafy cousins. Ensure they get plenty of sun to encourage the flowers, which go on to become the fruit. Provide regular soluble fertiliser to keep nutrient levels up.
If you want to try your hand at growing tomatoes, ‘cherry toms’ are the easiest of all. The dwarf varieties are perfect for pots, troughs or even hanging baskets, where the stems cascade so they’re right at picking height. When you need a few extra for that salad, you can grab a handful right off the bush.
Growing tips: Plant one seedling in the centre of a 30cm pot, or space seedlings 30cm apart in a trough. Position in a sunny spot, water in gently and feed periodically with a soluble plant food formulated for flowering and fruiting plants. Tomatoes can be planted from spring through to early summer – they hate the cold.
If you like your food to have spice, then keep a potted chilli plant somewhere handy – even on a sunny kitchen windowsill. Chillies, like tomatoes, are warm-season croppers and very easy to grow. They also make really decorative pot plants, when covered in their little red, yellow or purple fruit.
Growing tips: Dwarf chillies can be grown in quite small pots (15–20cm), so they’re great where space is limited. They like a sunny spot, but during mid-summer they’re happy in light shade too. Plant from spring to early summer.
If you have kids, a pot of strawberries will act like a magnet, which is a great reason to grow one. They’re compact, spreading plants that grow beautifully in pots, troughs, hanging baskets, or even a sunny window box. And you can pick a few ripe red berries every time you walk past.
Growing tips: Choose a container at least 30cm wide and position in a spot that gets heaps of sun. Feed with soluble fertiliser while the plant is growing, then switch to a ‘flower and fruit’ formulation when the flowers start to appear. Planted in autumn, they’ll start bearing fruit from mid-spring and on through the summer months.
Blueberries are bushy shrubs, so if you plant one you’ll have it for years. And like strawberries, they’re fabulous ‘grazing’ plants, perfect for picking as you walk past. There are varieties to suit both cold and warm climates, so read the label and consult your nursery for extra advice.
Growing tips: Being a shrub, blueberries need a large pot – ideally about 40cm in diameter. Choose a potting mix that’s suitable for acid-loving plants and after planting, sprinkle a little slow-release fertiliser before watering in well. Autumn and spring are the best planting times, and the peak fruiting season is summer.