If anyone has ever told you that you need an allotment or a big garden to grow veg, then I’m here to change your mind. You don’t need a big garden – in fact, you don’t need a garden at all! Even a balcony or a little courtyard will become a marvellous haven for fresh food when you realise just how much you can grow in pots and containers! It’s also a great option for rented homes or for caravan and holiday home plots.
Here are my top 6 veg varieties to try in containers. You’ll be amazed how much food you can harvest from such a small space!
These are great container crops, and one of the healthiest veg around. To avoid a glut, sow a few seeds every couple of weeks and you’ll be harvesting them all through summer.
Beetroot like a sunny and open spot. Soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours before sowing to speed up germination. Sow the seeds 1-2cm apart, and thin out the seedlings as soon as possible.
Don’t let beetroot dry out or they will turn woody. And make sure you harvest them before they get to cricket ball size.
Twist off the leaves rather than cutting, which causes the vegetables to ‘bleed’. Leave a 5cm crown of stalks above the beetroot
Grow tomatoes in pots, growbags and even hanging baskets! Bush or trailing varieties are best for containers. They like very rich, well-drained soil, and a sunny spot.
Keep evenly watered to prevent the fruit from splitting – they may need it every day. Once the fruits appear feed with a high-potash tomato fertiliser every time you water for even more tomatoes.
Crispy, peppery radishes are great in salads and a good crop for beginner veg gardeners. They are trouble-free and ready to harvest in as little as a month.
Radish like rich, light, well-drained soil with very low nitrogen levels. They like sun or partial shade. If you grow them in hot weather they will have a hotter, more peppery taste; milder weather produces milder radishes.
Sow very thinly about 2.5cm apart and 1cm deep. Thin them out if necessary as they grow. Sow every two weeks for a continuous supply, and water well or they may split and turn woody. Harvest them as soon as they mature – when they are about the size of a 10p coin.
These are the ultimate container crops and are perfect for vegetable salads. Try sowing a mix for a range of textures and flavours – there are loads to choose from. I love peppery rocket.
Salad leaves are a cut-and-come-again crop, meaning they keep growing as long as you keep harvesting the leaves. It couldn’t be easier. And most of them grow very quickly.
Many people think potato plants need lots of room to grow, but what they actually need is deep soil. They will grow in long containers like barrels or plastic dustbins.
Try earlies which are harvested early in the season. Put up to three tubers in a 40L capacity container and earth up the soil around the plant as it grows.
You’ll need to prepare the tubers before planting by chitting them. Don’t worry, it’s not difficult! They need to sprout before they go in the ground.
Stand them rose end up (that’s the end with the most eyes) in an old eggbox on a cool, well-lit windowsill. The eyes will sprout naturally, and the tubers are ready to plant when they are about 2.5cm long.
Remember, it is vital when the shoots begin to emerge from the earth to keep them as far away from the tubers as possible.
Bank up the earth over the emerging shoots, forcing them to grow up and away towards the light. Repeat until the shoots and ensuing leaves are well removed from the tuber.
Once the potatoes have begun to grow underground, your plants will need lots of water. If you have a dry spell, water regularly or your spuds will be stunted.
Early varieties should be ready to harvest from June. I lift mine when I see the flowers.
Kitchen herbs are the easiest edible plants to grow and deserve a spot on any container gardening list. Try thyme, chives, mint, sage, parsley, oregano and rosemary outdoors, and basil and coriander on the kitchen windowsill.
Always choose herbs you love to cook with and keep them by the kitchen or back door so you remember to use them.
So don’t let the size of your plot hinder you – pretty much anyone with an outdoor space can be a grower. And when you take your first bite of veggies fresh from the plant, you will never turn back.