Are you dreaming of a snack garden and would like to grow spicy herbs, tasty vegetables and sweet fruits, even if you only have a sunny corner of the garden and a few boxes and pots available? A good idea, because even if maximum yields cannot be achieved, the focus is on enjoying it. This also means that you don’t have to invest too much time in your own harvest. And because you don’t want to hide the snack garden behind hedges and walls, especially when space is limited, utility and ornamentation are in demand.
Fruit trees in mini format
Fruit trees in small format and berry high trunks offer the best example of how to get all the requirements under one hat. They are extremely easy to care for and make a pretty picture “solo” or arranged in groups. An underplanting of herbs or summer flowers makes the combination perfect. Multi-bearing strawberries with pink or snow-white flowers provide sweet fruit from May until the first frost.
Mini kiwis and cherries
Mini kiwifruit only grow to the size of a gooseberry. Thanks to their edible, smooth skin and the fact that they do not need to ripen, they go straight from the tree to the mouth. The small sour cherry grows only 1.50 meters (5 ft) high and also thrives in large pots. The bright red fruits taste sweeter than traditional sour cherries and are just as good for eating raw as they are for compote, jam and cake
Heat-loving fruits and vegetables
Tomatoes, eggplants and other heat-loving fruit vegetables are also made for pot culture and often thrive better in a place protected from wind and rain than in a bed. In the meantime, there are also more and more mini-cultivars especially for hanging baskets and balcony boxes. You are right on trend with the cultivation of peppers and hot peppers. From mild and sweet to hellishly hot, no wishes remain unfulfilled. For larger planters, a combination of high and low varieties is ideal. However, it is recommended not to plant robust small-fruited chilies and large-fruited, correspondingly thirsty and nutrient-hungry bell pepper varieties in the same pot or box.
Vegetables for the snack garden
Chilies like ‘Joe’s Long John’ produce a bountiful harvest when fertilized regularly but sparingly. The thin-skinned pods ripen from August and are good for drying and pickling. Mexican Mini Cucumbers look like tiny watermelons, but taste like freshly harvested cucumbers. The plants fruit tirelessly and conquer every climbing support to get close to the sun
Pot or bed? A question of the plant
Garden vegetables such as kohlrabi, beet and other species with different development times are better grown in their own containers to avoid harvest gaps. Carrots, parsnips and tuberous fennel, as well as chicory lettuce such as radicchio, which form very long taproots, are better off in a bed than in a pot, according to experience. And anyone who draws up a crop rotation plan for the mini-quarters as in a real garden and immediately refills rows that become vacant is a whole lot closer to self-sufficiency despite a small area.
For a successful harvest in the planter, balcony box or raised bed, regular watering, fertilizing and the right soil are crucial.
The ideal watering for snack plants
Because the root space in pots, boxes and mini beds is tightly limited, vegetables and herbs grown in them, as well as berries and fruit trees, depend on frequent watering. On hot summer days, you often have to water twice. Depending on the size of the potted garden, this requires not only time but also an adequate supply of water. The cold watering from the tap the plants tolerate poorly, it is better to fill the pots with stale, tempered rainwater from the barrel. Do not forget: Drill drainage holes in the soil so that water can drain away quickly. Waterlogging will cause the roots to rot.
You can also use a small irrigation system. There are already some on the market that come with a small solar panel, a pump, a timer, tube, drippers, stakes, and tees.
Fruit trees in pots
Low-growing small fruit trees, columnar fruit and berry bushes also thrive in large pots with a capacity of at least 30, preferably 50 liters (8 to 13 gal). For fruit trees such as sour cherry, make sure the thickened grafting point is about a hand’s width above the soil after planting. Underplanting with frugal summer flowers such as lobelia and magic bells looks pretty, shades the soil, and prevents too much water from evaporating or the soil from warming too much. Each spring, remove the top layer of soil and add new soil. Transplant the shrubs to a larger container after three to four years.
The nectarine tree ‘Balconella’ grows in a spherical shape and remains compact even without extensive pruning. A gooseberry stem looks just as good in a planter on the terrace as an olive tree, but requires much less care. The robust berry bushes make do with a partially shady spot and can also endure the winter outdoors.
Optimal growth thanks to good potting soil
Any high-quality, preferably peat-free potting soil is suitable as a planting substrate for balcony fruit and vegetables. If in doubt, a test will help: the soil should break up into loose but stable crumbs when held in the hand. If it can be squeezed and sticks, the plant roots will not have enough air later. In special soils, such as tomato or citrus soil, the nutrient composition is precisely tailored to the needs of the plants. The fertilizer supply lasts for about six weeks, after which regular replenishment is necessary at the latest. Especially with tomatoes, peppers and other fruiting vegetables, organic gardeners also add a handful of coarsely chopped nettle or comfrey leaves to the planting hole. When rotting, the leaves release not only nitrogen but also plant-strengthening minerals and trace elements such as potassium and iron.
The right fertilizer
Whether in a bed or a pot, fruits, vegetables and herbs need a balanced supply of nutrients. It is better to fertilize more often, but sparingly. Slow-acting organic fertilizers that are worked into the soil only superficially are particularly beneficial. Fertilizer sticks, for tomatoes and strawberries, or slow-release fertilizers, also release their nutrients gradually, but the amount released varies depending on the temperature and moisture of the soil. For sweet fruits and vegetables in smaller pots and boxes, several applications of a liquid fertilizer administered via the irrigation water have proven effective.
Timely harvest for more taste
Most vegetables taste particularly good shortly before they are fully ripe. If you wait too long, kohlrabi will develop woody cells around the base of the stem, and radishes will become furry. Tomatoes are ready to harvest when the fruits are fully colored and yield slightly to pressure. For mini cucumbers and zucchini, the earlier you pick, the more new flowers and fruit the plants will set. Bush beans should be harvested before the seeds inside are clearly visible; later, the tender pods become tough. Most vegetables can be stored in the refrigerator for another two to three days without loss of quality. Tomatoes are best stored at 15 and 18 °C / 59 and 64 °F; at lower temperatures they quickly lose their flavor.