Growing your own fruit, vegetables and herbs is a great way to enjoy nutritionally superior and tastier organic produce at a fraction of the price of a supermarket.
Even if you don't have room for a vegetable patch in your garden, you can still successfully grow lots of fresh produce in containers. Many delicious varieties of salad, vegetables and fruit will thrive in containers, provide a good yield without taking up much space.
There is a whole range of crops suitable for growing in pots. These can either be grown from seed or from ready-grown plants from garden centers or mail-order suppliers.
It's best to try compact plants such as sweet peppers, chili peppers, aubergine and tumbling varieties of tomatoes, rather than tall growing vegetables such as Brussels sprouts that demand lots of water and can be blown down easily.
With lettuces, go for varieties that you pick a few leaves at a time rather than the whole head at once. Herbs can be planted on their own or many different herbs grown in one large container.
For larger fruit bushes such as blueberries, figs, peaches and apricots, select a larger pot and make sure you check the compost requirements on the plant label. blueberries, for example are acidic plants and need acidic, or ericaceous compost.
Choose containers that are large enough for the final size of your plant. Many herbs grow well in small containers, while some long-rooted plants such as mint will need a bigger pot to spread.
Root vegetables like carrots need deep pots with plenty of compost, and big pots are needed to support tall-growing plants such as tomatoes and peas.
How to Plant
- Fill your chosen pot with compost mixed with a handful of water-retaining crystals.
- Gently tap to settle the compost and firm down with your fingertips to leave a level surface.
- If planting a ready-grown plant, scoop out compost in the centre of the pot to leave a hole slightly bigger than the rootball of your plant.
- Remove its pot and place in the hole.
- Replace compost around the plant and firm, making sure the surface of the plant is level with the top of the compost.
- If growing from seed, check the instructions on the packet. Either raise the plants in small pots before planting into larger ones, or scatter the seeds across the surface of the compost and water well.
Caring For Your Plants
- Keep your pots well watered and feed fruit or vegetables with a suitable feed during the summer.
- Support plants like tomatoes, peppers and aubergines with canes to prevent the stems snapping under the weight of their fruit.
- Keep leafy herbs like mint compact and productive by removing flower buds and picking regularly.
Some Crops to Try
- Mixed salad leaves - salad leaves are the easiest crop to grow and mature quickly, providing you with delicious, homegrown salad in a few weeks.
- Tomatoes - these are a very rewarding vegetable if grown in the right conditions. Choose a variety that is suitable for outdoors and remember that tomatoes need plenty of regular sun, heat, food and water to produce sweet, juicy fruits.
- blueberries - these are an easy-to-grow super food and grow well in pots, providing a reasonable amount of fruit for very little effort.
- Parsley, basil, mint - growing your own herbs is not only economical, but freshly picked herbs provide much more flavor to food.
- potatoes - these vegetables need plenty of sun and water, but just a handful of tubers will provide you with dozens of your own delicious, organic potatoes.