Surprising Container Grown Vegetables

Surprising Container Grown Vegetables Solar Gem GreenhousesIt’s early January and, as usual, we’re getting inundated with seed catalogs.  We get great enjoyment from browsing the latest offerings of seeds and plants, planning our upcoming garden, and dreaming about the warmer weather and bushels and bushels of fresh produce we’ll grow and harvest.  As in past years, there are a few new varieties here and there that we want to try, along with plenty of old favorites. What you might not know is that MANY of these are perfect container grown vegetables…..yes, they grow well in pots!

Some of the newer varieties give container and greenhouse gardeners more options for what they can grow in a limited space.  For example, did you know you can grow things like watermelon and butternut squash in a container inside of your greenhouse?  But, first things first. Planting a great container vegetable garden requires great seeds. So today, we thought we’d highlight a few of these options.

Before we get to it, a short disclaimer; we’re not endorsing any of these seed/plant varieties or the companies that sell them.  We’re just letting you know about these options and where you can get them.  Some of these seeds/plants may be offered elsewhere, in addition to the seed companies we listed.  Be sure to shop around. Finally, we didn’t include tomatoes and peppers on this list, as they are already popular container grown vegetables.

Ideas For Container Grown Vegetables

Mascotte Bean – This is a bush bean that grows quite compactly, with plants averaging just 17″ tall.  Mascotte beans are advertised as being slender, French-style beans with white seeds.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company and Park Seed.

Minnesota Midget Melon – This cantaloupe variety produces small fruit, averaging just 5″ across, on small, compact plants that are perfect for containers.  Available from Territorial Seed Company and Burpee.

Caracas Hybrid Carrots – These carrots reach just 5″ into the soil, making them perfect for containers.  The carrots are sweet and full of flavor.  Available from Burpee.
Oxheart Carrots – These carrots get huge, often weighing 1 pound or more.  They are short and wide, going just 6″ deep, making them great containers grown vegetables.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company.
Atlas Carrots – These carrots are almost round and reach about the size of a golf ball.  Need containers just 4″ deep to grow these.  Offered by Park Seed.

On Deck Hybrid Sweet Corn – These corn plants feature super sweet, bi-color ears that average 7-8″ long.  The plants average 4-5 feet tall.  Offered by Burpee, who suggests to plant 9 seeds in a 24″ round container.

Bush Champion Cucumbers – Offered by Burpee, these cuke plants average 1/3 the size of regular cucumber vines.  They produce 10″ slicing cucumbers with some disease resistance.
Spacemaster Cucumber – Offered by Burpee.  Vines average 2 feet long and produce 7″-8″ green fruit.  Good as container grown or in hanging baskets.  Some disease resistance.  We’ve grown these in the past with good results.

Patio Baby Eggplant – This eggplant produces egg-shaped fruit that average just 3 inches long on a plant that remains less than 2 feet tall.  You can get seeds or plants from Territorial Seed Company and Park Seed.

Baby Bubba Okra – This okra plant is only half as tall as other okra varieties, so it might reach 3 feet high.  Ready to harvest in just 53 days, it’s a good option for northern gardeners who want okra.  Produces full-sized pods.  Available from Burpee.
Green Fingers Okra – Offered by Park Seed, this okra variety reaches just a couple of feet tall and produces full-sized yields.

Peas-in-a-Pot Peas – This pea plant produces green shelling peas.  Plants average just 10″ tall and can be grown in 8″ pots.  Offered by Burpee.

Little Gem Lettuce – This butterhead variety features heads that average just 5″ across.  Ready in just 50 days.  Offered by Park Seed.

Tomato-Potato Combo:
Ketchup ‘N’ Fries – This is the first thing that caught our eye this year. This plant was first offered last year in the UK and is now being offered in the USA this year by the Territorial Seed Company.  Basically, it’s a cherry tomato plant that has been grafted onto a potato plant.  The idea is that the top of the plant produces cherry tomatoes, while the roots produce potatoes.  These are perfectly suited for growing in a pot, but they’ll also grow in the ground.

Sugar Pot Watermelon – This bush plant averages just 18″ across, but produces 8-10 pound watermelons.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company.

Winter Squash:
Butterbush Squash – This squash plant produces butternuts that average around 1.5 pounds.  Their vines reach just 3-4 feet long, making them good for a container.  Seeds are offered by Territorial Seed Company.
Discus Bush Buttercup – This is winter squash grows on bushy plants that reach 3 feet across – perfect for a large pot.  The squash averages 3 pounds.  Offered by Territorial Seed Company.
Burpee’s Butterbush – This butternut variety features plants that average just 3 feet long.  Each plant produces 4-5 squash averaging 1.5 pounds each. Available from Burpee.  We’re personally grown these and had good results.
Tivoli – This version of spaghetti squash averages 3 feet across and works well when container grown in large containers.  The fruit averages 9-10″ long, weighs around 4-5 pounds and tastes and feels just like spahgetti squash.  We grew these last year and had good results.  Offered by Burpee.
Burpee’s Bush Table Queen Squash – This is an acorn squash plant that reaches just 3 feet across.  The squash have a classic acorn shape and average 4-5″ across.  Offered by Burpee.  We have grown this variety in the past, with good results.

Patio Star Zucchini – This zucchini variety produces full-sized squash, but it only grows about half as big as a regular zucchini plant.  Available from Territorial Seed Company.
Partenon Hybrid Zucchini – This zucchini variety averages 3 feet across and produces 8″ long squash.  This is a parthenocarpic plant, so the fruit is produced with pollination, making it perfect for your greenhouse.  Available from Burpee.

We hope you’ll consider trying a few new container grown vegetables this year in your greenhouse, and maybe some of these varieties will be just what you’re looking for.

Got vegetable gardening questions? Post yours on the Solar Gem Greenhouses Facebook page, and I’ll be happy to answer them.

Happy Gardening!

Marcus, your Gardening Guru

How To Choose A Greenhouse

How to choose a greenhouse Solar Gem Greenhouses

Photo credit: Karen Bishop

For almost 25 years now, Solar Gem Greenhouses has been chatting with first time greenhouse owners about exactly how to choose a greenhouse and exactly which of our top-quality backyard greenhouses will best suit their gardening needs. The process often involves helping each of them to make a sound decision concerning the size and placement of their backyard garden. What makes a good greenhouse selection for one, may not work so well for another. So, here’s a brief guide, distilled from the thousands of conversations we’ve had with our very happy backyard gardening enthusiasts over the decades.

Space available

It may seem obvious, but this must be everyone’s first consideration when sorting through how to choose a greenhouse that’s best for your circumstances. How big is my backyard, and how much room do I want to dedicate exclusively for gardening? This can be further complicated by oddly shaped backyards, or backyards that are already teeming with other structures or natural obstructions (read: trees). Take a look at the dimensions of the four greenhouse sizes we offer and, using a tape measure, see what sizes will fit.

Where’s the sunshine?

Some Solar Gem Greenhouse owners have to grapple with a backyard surrounded with very tall trees and/or dense brush that can block out vegetable and plant-loving sunshine for parts of the year. If you have lots of trees or heavy brush that casts shade over large swaths of your backyard, try to find a place that offers balance…some direct sunshine, along with the inevitable shade. Ideally, think about a place that gets the most sun in the winter months, and your plants will love you for it. Be confident that a Solar Gem Greenhouses‘ unique materials and build quality will make the most of whatever particular sunlight conditions you have, and that only the most sunlight-deprived backyards will need to consider any grow-light supplementation. For those who don’t have a too-much-shade challenge, the process of choosing a greenhouse is less complicated. So, it’s on to the next step.

Soil conditions

Even if you don’t plan on gardening directly into the ground in your Solar Gem Greenhouse to grow, say, onions, carrots, cabbage or the like, you still want to avoid placing your greenhouse over adverse soil, like areas where the water table is very high. If the soil you are thinking about placing your Solar Gem over is constantly saturated with water, and “squishes” when you walk over it, you are going to want to rethink your placement. This swampy soil will never accommodate any in-ground growing, but importantly, it will offer far too much humidity inside your greenhouse than is ideal. Lastly, an area on a steep slope that meets all the other criteria is a bad spot. If you can’t find an area that’s close to level, or can be readily made level, then you might have to pick a spot that you will make level (building a small retaining wall, bringing in some extra soil, etc.) so that you aren’t gardening on an awkward slope!

Choose a greenhouse based upon your gardening ambitions

This consideration is important to factor in because it has everything to do with the size of the Solar Gem Greenhouse you will want to purchase. If you have a very small urban backyard, and only intend to grow a few tomato plants during the year, then a Lil’Debi (8’x 4’7″) or a Small (8’x7.5′) may be all you’ll ever need. However, if you are more ambitious and want to grow a variety of yummy, healthful fresh vegetables, herbs, spices, and perhaps some fruit, then you’ll want to think about a Medium (8’x12′) or a Large (8’x15′). This thinking also applies to those who want to aggressively cut into their grocery bills. The more space you have to grow, the more you can grow, and the less you’ll need to buy at the grocery store. BUT BEWARE…we’ve never had a Solar Gem Greenhouse owner tell us that they regretted buying a size larger than they thought they would need, but we have had many who have regretted buying a size smaller than they thought they would need. Choose a greenhouse that projects forward and can grow with you. Seems that a new Solar Gem Greenhouse can really motivate the average gardener into growing lots of things they never imagined they would!

No matter which Solar Gem Greenhouse you decide is right for you, know that you have the finest year-round backyard greenhouse available anywhere. Grow whatever your hearts desire, eat healthier, go organic, cut your grocery bill, and enjoy every wonderful minute of it. And remember, setting up a greenhouse in your backyard is a snap if it’s a Solar Gem…no assembly required, no special foundation needed, and no ongoing maintenance. THIS is how smart, highly successful backyard gardeners do it.

We hope that this brief foray into how to best choose your backyard greenhouse has been helpful and enlightening. If you have any questions, please call or send us an e-mail…we’re here to help you be the best gardener you can be. The factory staff, and our wonderful independent dealers across the U.S. and Canada, are ready to help you get the most from your Solar Gem Greenhouse. Happy gardening.


HOT Topic: HOT Peppers!

HOT Topic: HOT peppers! Solar Gem Greenhouses

HOT Topic: HOT peppers! Solar Gem Greenhouses

Hot peppers are a favorite item to grow for many backyard gardeners, and particularly owners of a Solar Gem Greenhouse. Known for their hot and spicy nature, hot peppers come in many varieties, in many shapes and colors, many types of hot peppers, and boy can they bring the heat to any meal!  Peppers are often categorized by the quantity of spice they commonly contain, and that’s what we want to focus on today.

Scoville scale and the classification of hot peppers

One of the popular ways that peppers are classified is by the Scoville Scale…the official hot pepper scale. According to the popular website Wikipedia, “The Scoville Scale is a measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville heat units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration. The scale is named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. His method, devised in 1912, is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.” So, the higher the number of SHU’s assigned to a particular variety of pepper, the spicier it will taste.

Hottest hot peppers in the world

Red Savina Habenero peppers just barely made the top 10 list of the hottest hot peppers in the world in 2014 coming in at number 10. Your average Red Savina Habenero has 500,000 SHU’s (Scoville Heat Units). Trinidad Moruga Scorpion peppers, by contrast, contain a sinus-melting 2 million SHU’s and are rated as one of the hottest of hot peppers in the world! Which makes a fire extinguisher and 911 on speed dial “must-have’s” if you ever plan to sample one yourself. [Sidebar: we recommend that you don’t]

Need some perspective on how hot that really is? Have you ever eaten a super spicy jalapeno pepper that set your mouth afire and made your eyes water profusely?? Think about this…your average jalapeno pepper has just 1000-4000 SHU’s. It could take 2,000 times the capsaicin concentration contained in just one spicy jalapeno to come close to that which is contained in an average Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper. WOW. Muy caliente, amigo!

An interesting question we asked ourselves as we researched this topic was “who are the poor souls who had to personally test these fiery hot peppers that make up the hottest hot peppers list?!” Ouch!

Growing your own hot peppers

No matter how daring you are in your pepper cultivation (and sampling), a Solar Gem Greenhouse can open up your world of backyard gardening and help you to be a year-round grower of the freshest and healthiest vegetables, herbs, spices, HOT PEPPERS and more. Looking for a hot pepper challenge that doesn’t require testing the hottest varieties yourself? Grow some of the milder, most flavorful hot peppers in your own Solar Gem this year!

Here’s to the wonderful world of peppers…a hot topic, indeed…may they spice up your life.

Let’s Grow!

Solar Gem Allies With

Want to know the best ways to get started growing tasty tomatoes, fresh herbs, hot peppers, crunchy cucumbers, yellow squash, crisp lettuce, sweet cantaloupe and MUCH MORE in your Solar Gem Greenhouse? Marcus the Gardening Guru at will show you how to do it easily.
Solar Gem Greeenhouses is thrilled to announce our gardening alliance with the premier backyard vegetable gardening site on the web! It there that you will find tips, ideas, how-to’s, soil prepping advice, recipe’s and lots of other helpful information. Marcus is a regular columnist and contributor here on our Solar Gem website and our Facebook page.
Whenever you ally or recommend another company to a friend or family member, you do it very thoughtfully and deliberately because you want to be known as someone with quality, discerning tastes who properly vets the people they refer. This is just such as case as we have always felt that Solar Gem Greenhouse owners are an extension of our family and we care deeply that you succeed in your backyard gardening endeavors. This is why we can recommend Marcus, and his terrific website to all of our Solar Gem Owners. It is a web resource for gardeners par excellence and rich with vegetable gardening information that will surely enrich your gardening experience.
Got a vegetable gardening question? Be sure to post it on our Facebook page .
Let’s Grow!!

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Everyone Should Try Growing Radishes In Winter

Growing radishes in winter Solar Gem GreenhousesRadishes are usually thought of as one of the first crops to produce in the spring, but have you ever considered growing radishes in winter? If you own a Solar Gem Greenhouse, you can be growing radishes throughout the winter months without much effort. The key is making sure they get enough sunlight and maintaining a growing temperature of 50 degrees F for most of the day. So, as long as your Solar Gem is in a fairly sunny spot and you keep it in that temperature range during the day, we can get started.

Growing radishes in plastic plug trays

We’ve found that a good way to grow radishes is by using plastic plug trays, growing 1 radish per cell. For radishes, we like the cells to be about 2″ across and 3″ deep, but you can go a bit smaller if you like smaller radishes. Make sure they have a drainage hole in the bottom – most do.

Growing radishes from seed

You can get radish seeds from mail order companies. Some of them have seeds on sale this time of year, just because they are trying to clear out their stock before the spring. We like medium-sized, round varieties – Cherry Belle, Red Head, Early Scarlett, etc… You can also try the larger round varieties – German Giant, Crimson Giant, etc…, but be ready to pick them before they get too big for the cell they are growing in. We’d probably stay away from the long, cylindrical varieties – the cells usually just aren’t deep enough. But no matter which variety you prefer, growing radishes in winter is something everyone with a greenhouse should try at least once.

Fill the trays with a decent soil mixture. Radishes aren’t fussy at all and will grow in most soil conditions. We usually use a 50/50 mix of top soil and composted manure – the inexpensive stuff from our local big box store. Fill the cells up most of the way with soil, leaving about 1/4″ of space at the top for watering. Plant 1 seed per cell – poke your index finger into the soil, a little deeper than your fingernail, drop in a seed and cover it with loose soil. Water it in and let nature work her magic.

Keep the tray in a warm, sunny spot. The seeds will germinate in temps as low as 45 degrees F, but they’ll do better at 50-60 degrees F. Once established, the plants can handle near freezing nighttime temps, and the cooler weather makes for a milder radish with more complex flavors. In addition, the plants will do best with at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. Keep the soil in the trays moist – usually a squirt of water every 2-3 days will be enough. Most varieties are ready for harvest in about a month.

Radish recipe

If you end up with a lot of radishes and you get sick of eating them raw, you might try cooking them. Surprisingly, most radishes taste a little bit like brussel sprouts or cabbage when you cook them. We like to halve them and put them in a foil packet with a pat of butter and some salt and pepper to taste. Seal the packet by folding the edges, place it on a baking tray and cook in the oven at 350-375 degrees F for 30 minutes or until tender.

Give it a try and you’ll find that growing radishes in winter can be fun, rewarding, and delicious.

Got a vegetable gardening question? Post it on the Solar Gem Greenhouses Facebook page and I’ll be happy to answer it!

Happy Gardening!

Marcus, your Gardening Guru

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Now find us at your local garden center!

Solar Gem Greenhouses is establishing a great dealer network across North America.  We may have an independent dealer near you now (or soon) – check our “Find a dealer” tab to find out.  If we don’t have a dealer near you yet, tell your favorite garden center owner to call us.  But in the meantime, you can order your new Solar Gem by visiting our “Shop” tab today.

You’re gonna be gardening in no time!