No room for elaborate raised beds? No problem, growing edible produce in pots is a great way to enjoy a feast of fresh, home-grown produce, even in a limited space like a patio, balcony, window box, or conveniently at the back door.
So what do you need to know about growing edible produce in pots?
Make sure the pot you choose is large enough for the plant you want to grow, and with good drainage. Terracotta or ceramic pots are a good choice, as they allow air to circulate around the roots, but they can be heavy to move around. They are a good choice for growing tall, or top-heavy plants which need heavy anchorage.
Plastic pots are lightweight and portable so you can move them in and out of the sun if required, but they may not provide as much insulation for the roots in colder weather if you grow crops all year round. Pots will need to be moved to a sheltered spot or covered with a cloche or horticultural fleece if the weather is particularly cold and frosty.
Fabric pots are lightweight, often with carry handles to make moving them around easier. They may not last quite as long as plastic, ceramic, or terracotta pots but have the huge advantage that they can be folded away to store over winter if not in use, so are a perfect space-saving option.
Plants do not have to be planted in pots if you are short on space. Think about utilising window boxes, hanging baskets, or vertical planters attached to walls or fences to make use of every available growing space. Just remember to consider the depth of space available for root growth when deciding what to plant in each container.
Purpose-designed raised planters save your back from bending over when tending to crops and they look great in the garden, often offering cloche-style protection so you can get growing earlier, or keep growing later, in the season.
Use a good quality potting mix that is formulated for container gardening as it will provide an extra boost of nutrient to plants.
To grow reasonably well, containers should be positioned where they can benefit from sunshine for at least half the day, and be sheltered from strong winds.
Many plants need to be pollinated by insects in order to crop, so positioning containers near nectar-rich flowers, or even adding edible flowers like calendula, nasturtium, or viola to the same containers is a great idea.
Container plants dry out more quickly than plants in the ground, so be sure to water your pots regularly to keep them evenly moist, especially in hot or windy weather. Water deeply, until the water runs out of the drainage holes, then allow the soil to dry out slightly before watering again. Use a watering can or a hose with a gentle spray nozzle to avoid damaging the plants.
Container plants need regular fertilisation to thrive as they will exhaust nutrients in the potted compost, especially if it is a small container, so it is a good idea to add a slow-release fertiliser when planting up, then use a balanced fertiliser through the growing season.
Much of the nutrition in the container’s compost will be spent after harvesting your pot-grown crop but that soil can be tipped out onto flower beds as a weed-suppressing mulch.
Some crops are better suited to container growing than others. Look for dwarf varieties of vegetables which are bred to grow in pots, and which will not get too tall, risking the pot toppling over.
It is possible to enjoy a bountiful harvest of year round, home-grown produce from your pots and containers in even the smallest growing space. And if you can nestle some flowers in beside, or between them, even better!