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Growing veg in containers

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Growing vegetables in containers.
Planting in containers is a versatile way of growing edible crops in the garden, and is particularly useful where space is restricted.

Container choice

Pots, troughs and growing-bags allow gardeners without time or room for a vegetable plot to grow fresh, tasty produce. Containers can be started in a glasshouse, conservatory or porch for early crops.


Use sterile potting media to obtain good results. Soil-based John Innes No 3 is easy to manage, but other media including peat-free materials are of equal quality. Compost in growing-bags can be of good value and quality.

Selecting size

Aim for containers with a depth and width of at least 45cm, otherwise frequent watering and feeding will be needed. Organic growers who prefer not use the highly effective liquid chemical fertilisers will get best results from mixing well-rotted manure into the potting media in the lower half of their containers - 20 percent by volume should be sufficient.

Crop selection

Rewarding crops include:

Beetroot: sow in March with 10cm spacing. The young leaves can be used as ‘spinach’. Follow these with quick growing crops of late summer salads.
Broad beans: sow from February at 20cm spacing. The tops can be pinched out to reduce blackfly attacks and also for use as ‘greens’. When they come out in June follow with beetroot for late summer crops.
Carrots: sow cultivars from the Nantes or Amsterdam groups from February for June pullings, thinning to 8cm between plants. Cover with fleece from April to exclude carrot fly. After carrots, sow the pots with French beans to gather in September.
Herbs: parsley, for example, can be sown from March to be ready from June; coriander is also an attractive and popular crop. Repeat crops can be sown for late summer harvest.
Lettuces: mini lettuces such as ‘Little Gem’ and ‘Tom Thumb’ spaced at 15cm can be sown from January for June onwards crops. Follow these with leeks for the winter.
Peas: sow cultivars with edible pods from March; plant every 15cm. Gather these in June and follow with salad leaves for late summer.
Potatoes: plant early cultivars from March with one tuber for every 30cm of pot diameter
Salad leaves: sow from February aiming for 5cm between plants. Rocket, coriander, lettuce, chicory and spinach are tasty choices. Pick by pinching off the top few leaves leaving a stump to re-sprout for follow-on crops.
Salad onions: sow from February with 3cm between plants. Pull when they get big enough. By July, you should be able to re-sow with finger carrots for bunches of baby carrots in October.
Spinach: sow from February aiming for 10cm between plants. Spinach quickly runs to seed, so sow courgettes in June for late summer fruits.

Further care

Aftercare should involve provision of a constant water supply, but avoiding prolonged waterlogging. A feed of general-purpose liquid fertiliser can be applied every two weeks. If frost is likely, cover the plants with horticultural fleece and move pots to a warm, sheltered spot.





Alford U3A Gardening group