Hartley Magazine

All the latest news, hints, tips and advice from our experts

Gardening with Alice McGowan

One of the biggest challenges of spring is that we eventually must limit what to grow. It’s worst inside greenhouses, where the space is confined by four walls. Seedlings have a shocking way of increasing exponentially in their needs–that tiny handful of seeds sprouts into a modest seedflat, then moves in a fairly orderly fashion into little cells– but all of a sudden– once plants are ready to move into larger pots, space can disappear fast. And when they move outside, you may have new space constraints. So, let’s look at some new space-conscious vegetable introductions available this spring.

Carrot ‘Round Romeo’ forms petite, spherical roots that don’t require deeply cultivated soil —making them great for containers. Don’t forget that root-crops like carrots and radishes are fun to plant with children; they love harvesting them!

Chard ‘Pot of Gold’ Have you noticed the transformations that swiss chard has undergone recently? Featuring lovely bright colors, they are deliciously mild in flavor too. This one stays compact; an excellent candidate for window boxes and smaller gardens, and its plentiful gold-stemmed leaves provide healthy eating late into fall.

Cucumber ‘Baby Persian’ is a compact bush-forming variety with mild, slender fruits that are best picked when they are between 3 and 5 inches long. If you’re really tight on space, consider growing cucumbers or tomatoes in the “Topsy Turvy Upside-Down Planter,” available from the National Gardening Association. (www.garden.org)

Eggplant ‘Little Prince’ I grew this eggplant in large pots last year, and was completely charmed. An attractive, relatively compact plant with handsome felted leaves and lavender flowers, its abundant 4” eggplants are a perfect size to split in half and throw on the grill.

Lettuce ‘Garden Babies’ is a butterhead lettuce that forms cute little heads of tender green leaves, ideal for containers.

Scallion ‘Delicious Duo’ combines two different scallion varieties, one purple and one green. In a small amount of space—how about a window box?—you can grow scallions to enjoy all summer, thinning as you harvest.

Tomato ‘Super Bush’ bears large crops of medium-size fruit, comparable to ‘Early Girl’. Although it grows into a compact plant, like most tomatoes, it still benefits from staking or cages for support.

And don’t forget that edible flowers, like nasturtiums, and culinary herbs, such as parsley, basil, and thyme can be tucked into small spaces around your vegetables. Just make sure to give them plenty of sun.