Growing Vegetables In Pots And Containers
Pot growing is an excellent way of starting to grow vegetables, and it is surprising just how much can be grown in a small space. Many people who have an allotment choose to grow salad vegetables at home and use their allotment to grow crops that require more space.
If space is short, vegetables can be grown indoors in a conservatory, on a balcony, around the edges of a patio, dotted around a garden, or in a greenhouse or polytunnel. With careful planning, a sizeable quantity of vegetables can be grown in a small space, taking full advantage of vegetables that grow vertically.
Fresh vegetables can be harvested from mid-year until well into the autumn, and enjoyed for even longer when properly stored. Being close to home, the plants are easy to care for, and can be picked when needed for cooking.
There is a wide choice of vegetables to choose from including garlic, shallots, peas, beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, and chillies. Scroll to the bottom of this article for a more complete list and suggested varieties.
Nevertheless, growing vegetables in pots is not as straightforward as it may seem. Whilst it is possible to grow pretty much any vegetable in a big enough container, this is not the focus of this article. Big containers in many ways are similar to raised beds, and if this is your interest, you may like to see this article on allotment no-big beds, or shop here for a variety of raised beds.
It is rather more tricky to grow vegetables in the pots that are commonly found in garden centres for use on patios and other small spaces. The smallest pots I like to use are about 7 inches high (20 cm). The largest I use are about 15 inches high (38 cm). Any larger than this size becomes difficult to manage for one person alone, due to the weight of the pot when filled with soil, and its awkward size to lift.
The challenge with growing vegetables in patio sized movable pots is that not all plants suit this method. Some plants develop large root systems, sending their roots deep looking for water. Keeping up with their demand to keep the soil moist requires consistent watering. There are plants that do not like their roots getting warm. In hot sunny weather, the high surface area of pots combined with relatively little soil, means that the soil can become too warm for some crops. Finally, there is also the question of physical size. Some plants are big, growing tall with long stems and large leaves, and these may require support. In strong winds, a big plant in a small pot has a good chance of being blown over.
The next sections provide example growing techniques to help overcome these challenges, as well as tips on how to protect crops from being eaten by common garden insects and animals.