For the past 6 years not a summer has gone by that I haven't grown a vegetable garden in Chicago. The experiment started off large, at least on the urban container garden scale, with over 10 types of plants, but over the years I've found there are a few veggies that I count on to be bountiful, easy to grow, and most importantly, delicious.
While my husband and I started off with a large variety of vegetables, it ended up being too much food, not all of the plants grew well, and it just wasn't worth the amount of work on our end. Because we're using containers, we increase our chances of a successful plant by using seedlings from the local farmer's market or greenhouse rather than seeds.
Tomatoes: We typically pick 2-3 varieties, one of which is typically a small cherry type, such as Sungold, and then one or two larger ones like a Cherokee Purple. These have always grown an abundance of fruit particularly well, and grow at different times of the summer, which ensures there'll always be some type of tomato to eat. Be sure to give tomatoes plenty of water (daily) and sun, and use cages to help support the structure of the plant.
Basil: Basil is super easy to grow — it's almost like a weed. Just make sure it gets enough sun, plenty of water, and pinch off any flowers that might start to grow. In fact, the more you pick off the leaves, the more it will grow. A single plant should suffice, but if you like making pesto, you could easily grow more.
Cucumbers: For cucumbers, try two — a pickling and slicing variety. Cucumbers can grow shockingly long, so make sure to use cages to support the plant. While cucumbers can be picked at essentially any time in their development, make sure to do it before they've turned yellow.
Sweet Bell Peppers: Bell peppers grow quickly, and round out the other vegetables we have on hand quite nicely. Many may start as a pale green or ivory color and then change to red as they mature.
If you're interested in growing more in the Chicago area, check out the University of Illinois for a list of the best varieties to grow in Illinois. Also be sure to check out our post on the 12 best bet flowers to grow in Chicago.
MORE VEGETABLE GARDENING POSTS ON APARTMENT THERAPY:
• How To: Make a One-Pot Indoor Herb Garden
• Gardening 101: Separating Seedlings
• The 10 Best & Easiest to Grow Herbs
• You Can Do It! First-Time Vegetable Gardening for the Black-Thumbed