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Mini Vegetables for Small Space Container Gardening

Mini Vegetables for Small Space Container Gardening
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Short on garden space? You can still grow your favorite vegetables on a balcony, on a deck, on a roof top, or in a small side yard. Growing vegetables in small urban spaces is easier however if you opt for growing baby vegetables (aka mini vegetables).

Hand holding a variety of mini vegetables
Hand holding a variety of mini vegetables

Jump to: Benefits and Nutrition of Baby Veggies | Popular Baby Vegetables for Containers | Garden Design with Baby Vegetables

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What Are Baby Vegetables (aka Mini-Vegetables)?

As the name suggests, baby vegetables are tiny versions of the common “regular” veggies. There are loads of different baby vegetables, but they can be divided into two main groups based on how they’re produced.

Baby vegetables (or mini vegetables) typically fall into one of these categories:

  1. Selectively bred dwarf varieties that will always produce smaller fruit (and often mean a smaller plant). Examples would include:
    • determinate patio type of tomatoes
    • dwarf carrots,
    • dwarf cucumber
    • Tom Thumb shelling peas
  2. Vegetables that are picked earlier than usual, but the plant itself would be a normal size. Examples would include:
    • baby spinach & greens
    • baby cauliflower
    • baby zucchini
Fresh baby carrots harvested while still small.
Fresh baby carrots

And by the way, baby fruits also exist. If I lived in a warmer climate, for example, I would definitely grow my own dwarf pineapples!

Benefits of Growing Mini Vegetables

If you haven’t tried mini vegetables before, it can be difficult to see why someone would choose to grow tiny veg. Isn’t that just the same amount of effort, but with a smaller yield at the end?

Well, yes, the vegetables themselves will be smaller, but there are actually a lot of advantages….

The #1 advantage for urban gardeners is making the most of a small space.

Shorter root systems make them easier to grow in containers than full-sized veg, and the plants can be placed closer together. Saves room on the balcony for a small table and chair to savor the harvest!

Balcony garden with container-grown vegetables.
Balcony vegetable garden

Saving space is not the only benefit of growing baby vegetables however! Here are a few other advantages of including these miniature veggies:

  • They taste great. The flavor tends to be less bitter, and the vegetables are noticeably more tender.
  • They’re so cute! A beautiful baby vegetable salad or crudité platter looks great for Summer entertaining.
  • Most are easy to grow, even if you’ve never had a veggie garden before.
  • They grow fast and mature quicker. This means you’ll get smaller amounts of produce, but you’ll get it more often—perfect if you don’t like the regular “get nothing for months and then receive a vegetable tsunami” type of gardening.
  • Extending the season: You can keep starting new seeds for things like carrots and beets (aka succession planting).
  • Variety: growing smaller plants allows you to try more varieties than if you went for full-sized vegetables, so your urban garden will be bursting with colors and textures all summer long.

Are Mini Vegetables as Nutritious as Traditional Veg?

As often happens, the answer is: it depends. Annoying, right?

An interesting 2021 study, for example, found that mini cabbage and corn were a little less nutritious than their full-sized counterparts. However, it also found that mini pineapple was more nutritious, and that baby carrots had more vitamin C than large ones.

A 2015 study that looked at Micro-Tom mini tomatoes found them to have very similar profiles to normal sized tomatoes.

A 2017 study showed that across three cultivars, kale had more minerals when it was picked early.

Lastly, I want to point out something very important. Home-grown vegetables are always more nutritious than store-bought ones that have had to travel far to reach your table.

Researchers have found that in 5-10 days, the loss in nutrients can be a whopping 50%!

Ingredients for Italian white bean and kale stew laid out on a cutting board.
Ingredients for Italian white bean & kale stew (store-bought kale)

Did you know that baby versions exist for pretty much all popular vegetables? Even a mini veggie garden can burst with variety, and the fact that less space is available doesn’t have to limit you at all.

Balcony garden with container grown vegetables
Balcony garden with container grown vegetables

Here are my favorite mini vegetable varieties. Both the plants and the crops stay small in most cases, and they can be grown in containers:

VeggieVarietiesContainer Tips
Baby carrots‘Thumbelina’, ‘Babette’, ‘Minicor’8″ deep; 1-2″ apart in pot
Tomatoescherry tomatoes, ‘Yellow Pear’; ‘Patio’, ‘Tumbler’, ‘Red Currant’5+ gallon pot or hanging basket
Baby bell peppers‘Baby Belle’, ‘Yummy’8″ deep – 12 ” diameter
Chile peppers‘Pretty in Purple’, ornamentals
Baby cabbagesPixie’, Gonzales5 gallon pot – 12″ diameter
Baby pumpkin‘Jack Be Little’, ‘Baby Boo’5 gallon; vertical trellis
Baby eggplantBambino, ‘Little Prince’, ‘Slim Jim’1 plant per container; 2 gal. minimum
Baby broccoli (broccolini)‘Small Miracle’, ‘Green Midget’pot with 12″ diameter
Baby cauliflowerIgloo’, ‘Snowball4 plants per 18″ wide pot
Baby green beans‘Astrelle’, ‘Dandy’, ‘Mini Green’2″ apart in 18″ side pot
Baby beetsBabybea’, ‘Baby Ball’, German baby’4-6″ deep; 2-3″ apart in pot
Baby corn‘Chires Baby’pot with 12-16″ deep
Baby cucumber‘Bush Pickle’, ‘Green Fingers’space 4-6″ apart & use trellis
Shelling peas‘Tom Thumb’use vertical trellis
Baby greens & Mesclunbok choy, & Asian greens, spring mixes of lettuce and greensminimum of 6″ deep
Baby potatoes‘Red Thumb’, French fingerling (‘Larette’). Rose Fin Apple’
Zucchini‘Black Forest’2′ wide pot; trellis

As mentioned, there are also vegetables that are referred to as “baby” vegetables because they’re picked early. You can do this with zucchini, leeks, bok choy, and many more.

Just know that even if you harvest vegetables early to get a smaller size, the plants themselves can still become huge if you let them grow.

Tip: Keep a close eye on your mini veggies in summer. Their small root systems can dry out quickly, especially when they’re grown in containers.

Designing an Urban Kitchen Garden with Mini Vegetables

Don’t have much space to spare? As mentioned, baby or mini vegetables are the perfect choice for urban gardens.

Example of vertical garden using pallets.
Example of vertical garden using pallets.

Here are some of my top tips, many of which I expand upon in the post on vertical gardening for small spaces.

Cooking with Baby Vegetables

Miniature vegetables will take a much shorter time to cook. They are often used to dress up salads or add to a party platter (aka a crudités platter).

Platter of vegetables with pesto dip.
Platter of vegetables with pesto dip.

Try this brunch recipe from the Pioneer Woman for something fun at Easter!

Stay tuned to my evolving recipe index this Summer. We are designing an Italian kitchen garden, a French potager garden, and an herbal tea garden. There are sure to be recipes from early harvests of tiny veggies in these gardens.

If you like my articles about cooking and gardening, subscribe to my weekly newsletter, where I share free recipes and gardening tutorials.

Sources & further reading
  • Bellows, A. C., Brown, K., & Smit, J. (2013). Health Benefits of Urban Agriculture, paper and research conducted by members of the Community Food Security Coalition’s North American Initiative on Urban Agriculture.
  • Flores, P., Hernández, V., Hellín, P., Fenoll, J., Cava, J., Mestre, T., & Martínez, V. (2016). Metabolite profile of the tomato dwarf cultivar Micro‐Tom and comparative response to saline and nutritional stresses with regard to a commercial cultivar. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 96(5), 1562-1570.
  • Waterland, N. L., Moon, Y., Tou, J. C., Kim, M. J., Pena-Yewtukhiw, E. M., & Park, S. (2017). Mineral content differs among microgreen, baby leaf, and adult stages in three cultivars of kale. HortScience, 52(4), 566-571.
  • Wang, J., Ma, T., Wang, L., Lan, T., Fang, Y., & Sun, X. (2021). Research on the consumption trend, nutritional value, biological activity evaluation, and sensory properties of mini fruits and vegetables. Foods, 10(12), 2966.

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