Not all of us have perfect ‘Gardener’s World’ type affairs outside. Many of us have micro gardens with no room to dig up the soil. Some of us are renting. This is not an excuse! You can still grow your own vegetables. Container grown veg is just as tasty as soil grown, and you can easily manage pests.
What Type of Container Will I Need to Grow Vegetables?
It doesn’t matter so long as it’s got drainage holes and will hold soil in place. Some veggies need a deeper amount of soil, but that’s below.
Wooden containers: They look lovely and keep out the heat. I highly recommend the VegTrug, it’s a great container that will last many years.
Stone or Terracotta: Looks great, heats up well to provide warmth for your veggies. Problems are dry soil from the heat and their weight.
Plastic: Cheap, deep, easy to obtain. Some have handles, but they don’t look as good as terracotta or stone.
Growbag: buy a grow bag and stick your shallow rooted plants straight in. It’s that simple.
Everything else: If you can put drainage holes in the base you can use literally anything. Old welly boots, a sink, a bucket, or an old crate lined with a rubbish bag all work.
Here are a few of the best vegetables to grow in containers:
How to Grow Tomatoes
Tomatoes are a summer favourite and one of these easiest to grow in pots. In fact, I don’t even bother putting them in the soil anymore.
There are three types. Tall tomatoes that need canes to support them, bush tomatoes and trailing tomatoes.
You can buy these as young plants or grow them from seed. If you want to grow from seed pop a few in a flower pot, cover it in cling film and place them on a sunny window sill in spring. Transfer them into a container at the end of May or June when it’s warm enough for them to grow outside.
If you’re a fan of unusual looking tomatoes, the Wacky Tomato Kit is a fun option. It contains seeds for:
- Zlatava tomatoes
- Duo tomatoes
- Taiko tomatoes
- Radana tomatoes
- Black Russian tomatoes
- and Green Envy F1 Tomatoes
Tall tomatoes need a growbag or container that can hold stakes, but bush varieties will be fine without supports. Trailing types are best planting in a hanging basket or tall container to keep them off the ground.
Plant tomatoes deeply because you’ll find the stems put out extra roots to steady the weight. Push soil up to accommodate these new roots.
Tomatoes grown in containers will need regular water and food as they are thirsty and hungry plants. Pop a few marigolds in to keep the greenfly off – and some basil too because, well, they go together don’t they?
How to Grow Potatoes
You’ll need a deep container to grow spuds. There are plastic bags available specifically to grow them, or you can use rubber trugs, or empty compost bags.
Chit (careful now!) your potatoes on a sunny window sill as this encourages shoots and gives them a head start in the pot. When the shoots are an inch long plant them out.
Fill your container with compost to a third of its height and put the spud in with shoots facing upwards. You’ll need to keep raising the soil level as greenery emerges. Cover leaves and shoots with compost until you reach the top of the pot. Water it well and when the flowers bloom you’re ready to harvest. This is much easier in a container. Just turn it upside down – no spade required. You might want to dig one out first to check its big enough for harvest before emptying the entire pot.
How to Grow Lettuce
These can be grown in any shallow container that’s at least four inches deep and has drainage holes. You can even use the old potato compost to fill them.
Sprinkle seeds directly on top of damp compost and cover lightly. You will need to water salad a lot and keep it in partial shade, but cut and come again salad leaves can last all summer.
Slug and snail treatment is vital!
How to Grow Carrots
Carrots are great in containers because stones and heavy soil prevent them spearing downward.
Your container will need to have at least eight inches of depth. Sow seeds thinly on top of damp soil and sprinkle cover them. Keep them damp but not soaking.
When carrots are about an inch high you’ll need to thin them out. Eat the tiny pulled ones in a salad. Try not to damage the leaves as that attracts carrot fly and then its game over. Pop some chives in to fend off pests – that’s companion planting at its best. We could learn lots from medieval gardeners.
How to Grow Runner Beans
Beans are excellent in containers, particularly runner beans and French beans. You can try the dwarf version Hestia as this doesn’t need support, but other climbing beans need canes or net to clamber up.
Your container should be at least eight inches deep, preferably more. Press your beans about an inch down into warm earth after frosts have gone and the sun is truly here.
Beans are constantly starving but that’s not surprising given the heights they reach in a few months. If you can get some horse manure put a good amount in your container. If not, feed them once a week with a good liquid fertiliser. Keep them damp and protect against slugs. As the beans grow tie their creepers gently against your bamboo poles. When they reach the top, pick out shoots to encourage bushiness. The more beans you harvest the more you’ll receive – as long as you keep them well watered and fed.
How to Grow Strawberries & Raspberries
What summer garden is complete without our favourite fruiting plants?
Strawberries love pots. They have the added benefit of being up and away from slugs and they’re easy to net too.
You’ll need a container or grow bag (even a hanging basket) that’s at least four inches deep. You can put six plants in a 14 inch wide container. Keep the crowns free of soil and put them in a sheltered but sunny spot. Water them well and put straw around the plants to keep the moisture in as they are shallow rooted. If you’re using growbags don’t worry about the straw because the plastic will do the hard work. Once a week feed your strawberries with a tomato or seaweed based food.
Raspberries are good pot growers too. They also need a sheltered sunny spot and regular food and water. Plant two or three canes in a pot around 12 -16 inches across and add some canes to help manage their weight.
Bees love the flowers and birds love the fruit so be quick and net them if you want a taste! You can grow any berries this way – blueberries, gooseberries, blackberries. Your pie quota will be massive this year.
Over To You!
There is no excuse, all manner of vegetables and fruits can be grown in a variety of containers on the balcony, patios, or even hung from trees.
On a personal note, I’ve found rubber storage tubs with handles are excellent for vegetables. Punch some holes in the bottom and you’ve got a cheap, sturdy and deep container in a choice of colours.
Happy growing – just remember to water and feed your container bound plants regularly.