THE POTTED GARDEN: VEGETABLES
If you have ever thought about growing vegetables in pots, now is the time to give it a go!
There is a huge variety of vegetables that can be grown in containers or smaller spaces to make ‘growing your own’ accessible to everyone. Some of the best veg to grow are beetroot, broad beans, carrots, dwarf French beans, herbs, peas, potatoes, radishes, rocket, runner beans, chillies and peppers, salad leaves, salad onions, salad turnips and tomatoes.
It’s just a question of the right veg and the right sized pot. Choose large deep pots to grow root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, and shallower ones for beetroots and onions. Vigorous growing veg such as courgettes, tomatoes and beans need large pots filled with good compost to accommodate their roots. Lettuce and herbs can be grown in window boxes.
Containers can dry out very quickly so need frequent watering. Beware of over watering as well. The way to test if you’ve got it right is to put a finger in the compost – if it’s slightly moist just below the surface it’s spot on.
Use compost specially designed for containers as it will hold onto water better and have extra nutrients added to get your plants off to a good start. Things to look out for when choosing the right one are soil and loam-based composts, extra nutrients, plant food and water-retaining granules. Most multi-purpose composts are fine or a soil-based compost such as John Innes No 3.
For the greatest choice of plants, grow from seed, but if you don’t mind too much about the variety, buy ready grown plants or plug plants from garden centres or mail-order suppliers. If growing from seed, check the instructions on the packet. Seed sowing time may vary depending on the crop but the main growing season for vegetables is from early spring to autumn.
Don’t forget to feed your crops on a regular basis. Pot grown veg run out of nutrients due to the limited amount of soil they have to grow in, so a feed of general-purpose liquid fertiliser should be applied every couple of weeks.
Finally, make sure you position your pots so they are in the best location for their growing needs. Most vegetable plants like lots of sun, so it’s important to site your containers where they will receive a good few hours of direct light a day. South or west facing locations are the best. Climbers such as beans or peas can’t cope with windy or exposed spaces so a sheltered spot suits them best against walls or fences.
If pots and containers are just part of your outside space then here are some gardening tips for this month from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society).
• Sow vegetable seeds and plant potatoes
• Protect new spring shoots from slugs
• Plant summer-flowering bulbs
• Feed containers with fresh compost
• Mow the lawn on dry days (if needed)
• Cut back winter shrubs
• Keep your eyes peeled for weeds starting to come through
• Start conserving water
• Re-pot houseplants
• Prune bush and climbing roses