Up until a few years ago, small-space vegetable gardeners had a limited number of choices when it came to growing patio-size fruits and vegetables. Now, thanks to creative plant breeders and forward-thinking seed companies, there are dozens of small-sized fruits and vegetables meant for container planting.
Baby vegetables typically grow pint-sized produce on smaller-than-usual plants. The miniatures look just like the full-size options and retain all the same flavor, but because they’re smaller, they can be harvested and enjoyed earlier.
When shopping around, look for clues in the plant names like tiny, little, miniature, dwarf, bush-type, personal-sized or baby.
This season I had fun experimenting with three new vegetable plants especially bred to grow in containers or small-space gardens. Each grew especially well and produced a surprising number of beautiful and delicious fruits.
If you’re looking for some new container vegetables to grow next season—or to recommend to other gardeners who lack large vegetable-growing spaces—you might like to give these a try:
Litt’l Bites is a small-size plant that’s perfect for hanging baskets. These were easy to start from seed (about 6-8 weeks before the last average frost date) and transplant into containers when weather warms. The plant grows quickly and sends out sprays of tasty tomatoes that cascade over the edge of a hanging basket or tall container. The tomatoes are ready to pick in 65 days and the plant keeps producing through the season. I planted nasturtiums with the tomatoes for added appeal.
Get a head start with these eggplants by planting Little Prince seeds indoors about 8-10 weeks before the last average frost. When transplanted into large patio containers, the plants grew two feet tall and produced adorable eggplants in 65 days. It seemed like there were always a handful or two to pick, and the plants kept producing all season. Little Prince would be a nice addition to an edible landscape because the plants feature green fuzzy leaves and nice lavender flowers. Harvest the fruits while they’re glossy to keep the flesh seedless and sweet.
As soon as night-time temperatures are 50-55 degrees, plant these little personal-size butternut squash seeds outside. The long vines grew well on a trellis placed in a large container. Each squash is about 4-5 inches long and weighs about 1 pound. Warm fall weather helps the fruit reach the 110-day mark for fruits to turn from green to tan and develop a hard outer shell. Wait for the first frost for vines to die, then clip the fruit, leaving a long stem for winter storage. These small winter squashes have a dark orange interior with an exceptionally sweet flavor.
By Jodi Torpey
Denver Master Gardener