If you check out seed catalogs and plant websites this winter, you may notice that vegetables are shrinking. Not all vegetables, of course, but more and more companies are offering tiny vegetables for gardeners to try.
There are two reasons for the rise in tiny vegetables. First, more gardeners are growing food in small spaces. If you have containers on a deck or patio or maybe one or two small raised beds, you may be seeking vegetables that take up less real estate in the plant stage. Also many new gardeners (and there were about 16 million of them in 2020) are impatient for a harvest. Smaller vegetable plants tend to produce a crop quicker—that's why it's always a good idea to plant a cherry tomato plant or two so you can harvest tomatoes sooner.
We're seeing small size vegetables in everything from pumpkins to eggplant to squash and watermelon. Here are five interesting tiny vegetables to consider:
Micro-Tom Tomato: This tomato plant grows less than a foot tall! It's perfect for decks, patios, even hanging baskets. The tomato produces lots of small, cherry-sized fruit in about 60 days. The variety was developed by the University of Florida and is often grown as a houseplant.
Miniature Red Bell Pepper: You know those small peppers you buy in the grocery store? Well, you can grow them too. We're seeing more seed purveyors offering small bell peppers in red, yellow, even purple. These are 2-inch fruits that grow on shorter than typical plants. They are ready for harvest 90 days from transplant. There are many new, smaller peppers being introduced this year, so if you have a deck garden and like peppers, plant several.
Windowbox Mini Basil: This variety grows in a rounded clump that looks sweet in a container or along the edge of the garden. The leaves are only about a half inch long and the plants stay under a foot in size. This is an Italian style basil. Seeds need to be started indoors four to six weeks before last frost. The plants should go out in the garden, like all basils, only after the soil has warmed in the spring.
Climbing Honey Nut squash: This is not exactly a miniature vegetable, but if you like butternut squash as much as I do and are short on space, you might want to consider this one. The vines of this baby butternut squash can be trained to grow up a trellis or teepee structure in the garden. The squashes weigh 4 to 5 pounds and take 110 days to harvest. Don't rush the harvest on this squash if you want its characteristic sweet flavor.
Microgreens! If you are really impatient for a harvest, try growing microgreens. These nutrient packed greens are grown indoors and are a great indoor winter garden project (try growing them with kids!). You plant the seeds in a soil mix, add water and light and in one to three weeks, you can snip off the greens with a scissors.
Enjoy valuable northern gardening tips all year long—join the hort!