Grow vegetables and herbs in pots
Growing herbs and vegetables in containers is the perfect way to either add additional plants into your existing garden area, or to use in the instance that you do not have a garden, or large outdoor area. Many vegetables are well suited to growing in pots, and thankfully they include many of those that can be planted to provide a year-round supply of fresh greens to add to your meals.
Choosing your pots:
A herb such as chives may grow for a short time in a very small pot, but overall the plants needs space for the roots and plant to grow large enough to produce. The larger, width and depth of a pot the better. As a general rule I recommend pots of a minimum of 20 cm depth – unless growing lettuce. Lettuce has a shallow root system and may be grown in a shallow pot.
Ensure the container has holes in the base for drainage.
Consider the material of the pot you plant in. For example, terracotta is porous and will require watering more often than plastic or sealed ceramic pots. Plastic pots are also more durable. Concrete is not likely to be suited to a balcony. Foam, tin and wood are other options, each with drawbacks to consider.
If you are planting pots on a balcony avoid those with a narrow base and wide top as they are prone to tipping in strong wind.
If you are growing on a balcony place a tray under the pot to capture water to avoid issues with the neighbours below your balcony.
Prior to filling you pot think about the positioning carefully. Most vegetables and herbs require at least 3-4 hours of sunshine per day, the more the better.
If you think you may need to move your pots around this may influence the size as once filled with soil they are heavy and not easy to relocate.
For the best results, observe the area you want to position the pots for a day or two to see how the sun falls and for how long.
Place your pots somewhere they are easy to access as you are more likely to harvest and use the things you are growing.
Choosing the soil:
The better the soil, the better your plants will grow and produce. Soil in pots should be loose with good drainage. Dirt taken from a regular garden area will compact and result in poor growth when placed into containers. Remember that good quality soil will result in healthy plants.
The plants will quickly delete soil in a contained space of nutrients when it is growing. It is important to maintain a healthy soil in pots. Re-planting a new plant straight into the same pot, or growing the same thing in a pot for a long period of time will lead to stunted growth as the plant has no nutrients to draw upon, or space to spread.
Remove seasonal plants at the end of each season once they have finished producing. Remove and replace the soil with new soil. If this is not possible, remove half the soil and add compost and fertiliser such as blood and bone, as well as well rotted manure prior to add the new plant(s).
Pots and containers dry out much quicker than the soil in a garden. They will need to be watered often, especially in very hot weather.
Avoid placing pots against a wall (unless it is unavoidable or it is the only place to capture sunshine in the day).The wall will retain heat and in addition to the confined space of the pot will dry the soil even quicker, and may result in the plants being burnt.
Avoid dry soil. Keep a regular watering cycle in place, rather than ad hoc watering. This may need to be adjusted on a seasonal basis – Eg: watering may be required once a day in summer but only once a fortnight in winter.
It is tempting to fill the space of a new pot when it is first planted. Allow ample room around new seedlings for the plant to grow and develop. Failure to do so will result in stunted growth and poor harvests. Imagine what the plant looks like when it has grown and plant the pot accordingly (eg: to the future space it will occupy).
Avoid planting vegetables that are “heavy feeders” amongst other plants. They will steal all of the nutrients in the soil.
Add flowers that are considered to be companions to the vegetables you plant. They will attract bees, pollinators and beneficial insects. This helps you to get good harvests and keep pests at bay without the need for chemical sprays.
Some good flowers that act as companions in the vegetable garden include: alyssum and marigolds. I have written more on planting flowers in a vegetable garden here.
The Small Space Garden Kit has been designed to provide all of the key information to grow vegetables in pots. It includes certified organic seeds, organised by season, with all of the contents are specific to container growing.
You can find it here.
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