Growing Fresh Produce on Your Patio

Discover the latest trend—pretty containers at your doorstep, packed with produce all season long.

Pamela Crawford | Green Thumb | Home & Garden Colorado Magazine
Designer Pamela Crawford uses a variety of colorful containers to create lush companion displays, with a mix of edible and decorative plants. Photo by Pamela Crawford.

If you’re captivated by the idea of growing fresh produce, but live where gardening is restricted to a few plants struggling on your windowsill, it’s time to think outside the box. Fresh veggies and herbs can be at your fingertips. The secret? Patio containers filled with edible plants.

Container gardening is nothing new, but is making a comeback in this era of self-sufficiency. According to Luan Akin, a former news reporter with Channel 4 and currently the garden ambassador at Tagawa Gardens, the forced isolation of COVID-19 inspired a lot of people to rethink staying at home. They wanted to do something constructive. What’s changed about gardening is growing food in easily accessible containers in almost any location that has enough light and easy access to water. With a little patience and creativity, the tasty pleasures of home-grown tomatoes, lettuce, bush beans and squash are available to almost everyone. Akin says, “Success lies in making sure the containers you use are large enough for the mature root systems of the veggies you want to grow. The rules are simple and the rewards remarkable. Of course, it also depends on the growing season.”

Pamela Crawford, author of several books including “Easy Patio Veggies and Herbs,” is a proponent of edible container gardening and an inspiration for Akin. She suggests mixing big flower pots with a choice of flowering plants, vegetables and herbs. Crawford relates that vegetables can be beautiful! Marigolds and basil are a good example; they’re highly compatible and look great together. When mixing vegetables with flowers, she suggests working from the center of the container outward with the tallest growth in the middle for maximum eye appeal, depending on the shape of the container and its position. It is also possible to invert one pot and then put another matching pot upright on top to create height.

A resource for gardeners since 1982, Tagawa Gardens, located in Centennial, is ready to assist. “If you let our annuals staff know what you want,” says Akin. “They can suggest plants that would work well together. If you’re hoping to hook a child on gardening, they can suggest which seeds and seedlings grow fastest. The humble radish matures in a mere 28 days.”

Pamela Crawford | Green Thumb | Home & Garden Colorado Magazine
Photo by Pamela Crawford.

Akin fell in love with gardening, and enrolled in the Douglas County Master Gardener program. She believes knowledge allows people to delve deeper into gardening as a hobby. Aligning with that belief, Tagawa’s places a big emphasis on education. Their retail center offers public and private group classes, along with online blogs, videos and a weekly email blast.

Back to the homegrown salad, Akin says planting any of the leafy greens like decorative lettuce and Swiss chard is an especially easy way to begin creating attractive container gardens. Providing a decorative trellis for vining plants works well, too. Whatever you do, she relates, have some fun!