Spring is upon us and many of us are looking forward to this year's growth, but an issue which I and many others struggle with is limited garden space and poor quality ground soil. Luckily, you don’t need a huge garden to grow your own vegetables. Here’s how you can grow your veggies in pots (and which of those vegetables thrive in this environment).
Most vegetables will require pots to be of a certain depth or at least a little room to grow. This is important as it allows vegetable roots plenty of room. Pots which are too shallow will stunt growth. The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) recommends “a depth and width of at least 45cm (18in)” and that anything smaller will require much more frequent watering and feeding, so in order to give your plants the best start, ensure that pots are spacious enough.
Whether you make your own or buy it from the shop, compost is a key component in any gardener's arsenal and is especially important when it comes to growing your own potted vegetables. Nutrient-rich, peat-free compost is the recommended choice when it comes to giving your plants the best chance at flourishing. Alternatively, multi-purpose compost can be used if supplemented with a slow-release organic fertiliser or poultry manure.
In addition to our earlier point regarding pot size, ensure that you use the correct amount of compost per pot. Smaller pots will require a 100% compost composition, whereas larger pots will suffice with 40% soil and 60% compost.
Best veggies to grow
You may have thought that growing veg in pots would limit your selection; think again! Many vegetables are actually easy to grow in pots and of these, many are bee-friendly. Grow your own vegetables in planters and you’ll not only save money but you’ll also help the bees in their important mission to pollinate the plants of the world.
Tomatoes (Bees love me)
Tomatoes are a popular choice for many gardeners, both when planted in pots and the ground soil. Tomatoes can be grown in a variety of containers, including hanging baskets.
Tip: A high potassium fertiliser works wonders for tomato plants
Kale is a hardy plant so it is well equipped to survive life grown in a pot. As a general rule, kale plants will grow in relative proportion to the size of the pot they’re grown in, so if you want more kale, choose a bigger pot!
Tip: Kale especially loves well-fed compost with the addition of poultry manure
Cucumber (Bees love me)
A great plant to consider growing in pots is cucumber. As cucumber plants are very ‘viney’, many gardeners shy away from planting these within their actual gardens. Growing cucumbers in pots can be a good way to conserve garden space but also doesn’t impact the yield when it comes to harvest. Cucumbers do need plenty of water though, so ensure that your plants are well watered and have good drainage to prevent oversaturation.
Tip: Hybrid, salad and picklebush cucumber varieties fare the best when grown in pots.
A fun way to start your potted vegetable garden is by growing potatoes. These are often chosen by new gardeners as they are resilient and fun to grow, which is perfect for any budding gardener who is still learning the ropes. Your first potato harvest can be exciting, so to avoid any disappointment, make sure that your potato plants are damp, dark and have good drainage for the best results.
Tip: Spread your potatoes evenly in a large container and provide each plant adequate room to grow for a bigger and better harvest.
Broccoli (Bees love me)
During winter, broccoli can become a good food source for bees and helps them to survive when other nutrients are scarce. It is also a plant which is more than happy to grow in pots. Gardening Knowhow advises “plant only one per 5-gallon container. You can fit two to three plants in a 15-gallon container” as broccoli has a tendency to grow with a very wide spread.
Tip: Avoid black containers for broccoli as the plant is heat sensitive and shouldn’t be exposed to temperatures above 27C.
Here’s a handy tip from one gardener to another, split your planter space between two complementary plants in order to lessen the strain on you and encourage healthy growth in your plants. According to Gardeners World Planting basil alongside your tomatoes is known to prevent whitefly, while lavender can be known to deter aphids.
There are many benefits to growing vegetables in pots, regardless of whether you have garden space or not. The fact of the matter is that some plants just thrive in pots, even producing healthier plants with better yields much of the time. If you’re looking to start creating your own potted vegetable garden then my best advice is to choose your containers and compost carefully and research your plants well prior to embarking on your journey.