Tasty & beautiful

Tasty & beautiful

Fall is for planting, as the saying goes, and you can take advantage of many different planting promotions that come with the season, such as growing ornamental edibles in pots. Ornamental edibles in pots presents several levels of marketing opportunities, not to mention capitalizes some of today’s most popular gardening trends: vegetable gardening and container gardening.

Many gardeners, especially beginners, don’t realize that late summer into fall is a great time to plant cool season vegetables. By highlighting ornamental edibles like lettuce, chard, kale and others, you not only help extend your customers’ harvest seasons; you give them unexpected colors and textures to enliven their fall gardens. Anyone can grow ornamental edibles in pots, no matter how much room they have. And vegetables are just the start—you can also include herbs, fruit and flowers.

Regional opportunities and limitations will influence what works best in your area, but here are some ideas on how to make ornamental edibles part of your fall planting promotions and displays. At the same time, you’ll be educating your customers and expanding their gardening horizons.

Provide the information customers need
Let your customers know that you are one of their best sources of reliable gardening information. Post or hand out fall vegetable planting timetables (usually available from your state cooperative extension website) so they know the best planting dates. Provide tips for container growing—what soils to use, how to water and fertilize properly, plant care needed during warm late summer/early fall weather and how to harvest and control pests.

This combination was created by Fall Creek Nursery. It includes: Celosia cockscomb, Mondo Grass, Festuca glauca, blueberries.
Feature beautiful and delicious vegetables
Lettuce in particular presents some surefire opportunities for creating distinctive and productive containers with its compact habit, abundance of colorful varieties and quick maturity. Show off the possibilities with quilt-like, six-pack displays of attractive varieties such as spotted red ‘Speckles,’ wavy ‘Red Sails,’ bright ‘New Red Fire’ and ferny green ‘Oak Leaf.’ But don’t stop there; include other eye-catching vegetables like ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, ‘Red Russian’ kale, purple cabbage, purple broccoli, Romanesco cauliflower, mottled mustards and Asian greens. Then plant up some pots, mixing and matching textures so customers can realize the possibilities and see how plants mature.

Since many cool season vegetables are easy to grow from seed, make sure your customers also know about the great variety available in seed racks. And remind them that fresh grown vegetables not only taste better but are also very nutritious.

Point out easy-to-grow and good-looking herb possibilities
Most herbs are natural fits in pots, being extremely pleasing to the eye and easy to grow, and they make the perfect companions for many vegetables. Promote curly-leaf parsley, chives, variegated sages, lemon thyme, rosemary and golden oregano to name a few. Give suggestions on how the herbs can be used with fresh vegetables or in other recipes to get your customers’ mouths watering.

Don’t forget about fruit
Many fruits and berries fit neatly into the fall ornamental edibles category and do well in pots. Near the top of the list are everbearing strawberries: their compact, spreading habit and dangling fruit sprawl beautifully over the edge of containers. Blueberry plants are worthy subjects because of their fall color, even if fruiting season is over. If the climate your garden center is located in is right, also consider pomegranates, figs, serviceberry and elderberry.

In mild winter areas, citrus can be one of the best-looking container plants. Kumquats, Meyer lemons and limes are compact, productive plants that can bear for years in large pots. Even in cold winter areas, Meyer lemons can be used as indoor/outdoor container plants. And don’t overlook colorful foliage varieties like variegated calamondin and variegated pink lemon.

Pick winning (and edible) flowers
Many cool season flowers can be used to brighten pots of vegetables and herbs. The possibilities are endless but don’t forget that the blossoms of some, including calendulas, nasturtium, pansies and violas are also edible. They make beautiful accompaniments to fresh salads and grow perfectly in containers.

Open customers’ minds to pots of all sizes, shapes and colors
From hanging baskets of lettuce and parsley, to window boxes with purple cabbage and red pansies, to a Meyer lemon in a large ceramic pot, the sky's the limit with the types of containers that can be used to grow ornamental edibles. Show your customers all the color, shape and material options possible. These combinations will steal the show on patios, porches or decks.

Involve the kids
Edible gardening should be a family affair and when done in containers, it’s the perfect dimension for kids. Include some children’s gloves and tools, fanciful labels or other items in your displays to remind customers that gardening can be a great learning experience for all ages and a quality bonding experience for the family.

Sell the whole package
Offer your customers everything they’ll need to succeed, from potting soil to liquid fertilizers, pots, gloves, trowels and pest control products. This is also a good opportunity to introduce organic or natural products for those customers looking to garden that way. 

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