April 10, 2014

A well-stocked kitchen has the right pots for sautéing, braising, and making soup. It stands to reason the well-stocked garden should have the right pots for certain crops, too. Lettuces love shallow troughs and planters, while stocky, vining tomatoes crave deep pots for deep roots. And just as a shiny Mauviel copper pot or colorful Le Creuset dutch oven is a statement décor piece in the kitchen, a beautiful container can complete a stylish garden.

With room for a container and at least four hours of sunlight, anyone can grow a simple salad garden. Place a shallow planter atop a table for al fresco décor that also serves as a dinner course. This sophisticated silvered pottery from uber-stylish Terrain is perfect for baby greens. Or, with more room, roll a lettuce and herb garden around for convenient harvesting on a patio or deck. A self-watering design such as this kitchen planter by Jackson Pottery is a smart solution for busy gardeners. Add a  small frame with casters for convenience. Sow a simple salad greens mix for cut-and-come again harvests, such as ‘Mesclun Valentine’ organic mix, or these lettuce varieties we grew last season. In our Cooking Light test kitchen garden, we’ve added Swiss chard, spinach, and nasturtiums for a well-rounded salad bowl.

With more space for an 18- or 24-inch diameter pot and at least six hours of sun, fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers are good choices for a productive container garden. Trellis an indeterminate variety like ‘Sungold’ or ‘Chocolate Cherry’ tomato with decorative wooden or iron tuteurs, or train vines along a balcony banister with soft ties for support. Add good garden companions of marigolds, basil, oregano, carrots, and lettuces. In our garden, we’ve enjoyed taste testing a wide variety of basil from sweet Genovese to ‘Spicy Globe’ to anise-scented Thai varieties. While the tomato or pepper plant is young and small, lettuces and carrots will get a head start using the sunshine and benefit from the larger plant’s shade as the season gets warmer.

Beyond choosing the right container, key elements of a recipe for success are using a quality organic potting soil, watering every two days or when soil is dry an inch beneath the soil, and ensuring there is good drainage (unless using a self-watering container). And don’t forget that plants, like people, need good food to flourish. Feed regularly with an organic liquid or granular fertilizer, and drench with a healthy dose of compost tea at least once a month.

Doesn’t it sound as easy as cooking with a crock pot? Our recipe for a fresh dinner is starting with the right pot, adding good ingredients, and giving it a little time. Let us know what you’re growing via Instagram, Twitter and Facebook by tagging #CLpickfresh.

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