Saturday, 27 April 2013

How to grow vegetables WITHOUT a garden!

Ever wanted to grow vegetables but don't have a garden? Start a container garden!

If you have a sunny spot outside, or even a south-facing windowsill, you can grow your own vegetables! 

What to grow
It's a good idea to plan what you want to grow. If you are limited on space, grow small plants that produce expensive foods like lettuce and cherry tomatoes, NOT huge cheap crops like potatoes! Make sure you're growing things you actually like to eat or you won't be saving any money!

Even if you don't have any space outside, you could grow plants on your windowsill. Think small but expensive to buy, for example herbs or cherry tomatoes.

How much space will I need? 
The types of vegetables you want to grow will dictate how large a container you need. Use advice for Square Foot Gardening to determine how much space you need for each plant, or to calculate how many plants you can grow in a set area. For example, I have three tubs that measure 1.5' x 1.5' (46cm x 46cm), which is 2.25 square feet. I could grow 32 carrots in each tub, or mix and match and have half carrots with a few pea plants on the other side.

So what can you use for a container?
I have three large tubs, some large plant pots and... lots of milk bottles! If you cut the top off a milk bottle it makes a perfectly sized plant pot for a pea plant or a lettuce. Make sure you "black out" the sides to prevent sunlight getting to the roots. You can do this using non-toxic paint or, as I've done, wrapping them in aluminium foil!

If you're using an unconventional container, like an old welly or an ice cream container, make sure that you poke several holes in the bottom to allow water to drain out. This will prevent the roots rotting.

Caring for your container plants
Place your plants in a sunny location (a patio, balcony or windowsill works well!) and look after them in much the same way as a normal vegetable plot.

The main thing you need to keep an eye on is that plants in containers dry out a lot faster than if they are in the ground, so be prepared to water them once or even twice a day during hot summer days!

Luckily plants grown in containers are at less of a risk of soil-borne diseases like certain fungi and nematodes, but watch out for aphids munching on your plants!

Smaller containers holding top heavy plants are in danger of blowing over in the wind. Stand your pots against a wall and consider putting up a wind break if they are in a breezy location.

Buying compost for containers is expensive, so make the most of what you have by reusing last year's compost. Be sure to add a little fertiliser to the soil to replace the nutrients that were used last year. Where possible, try and rotate vegetables between containers from year to year.

Has anyone done this before? What's your favourite vegetable to grow in a container garden? :)

1 comment:

Justine said...

Good tips there. I am lucky. I have an allotment. It isn't fully established her. We grow alsorts on our window sill before planting them out. Chillies is Nother one to grow on the windowsill.