I know, bit of a random topic for me, but these are random times! With travel off the table for a little while, everything feels a little different right now! If you follow me on Instagram, the following statement is no secret to you….. I am Kerry and I love growing vegetables. I am obsessed. It has helped keep me sane in lockdown. I promise you, there is something to be said for going into your own garden to pick ingredients. A fantastic way to be more sustainable too! I have found that I like to grow my vegetables in containers. That way, they do not take over my garden. Also brilliant if you have limited space! I get asked a lot about easy vegetables to grow in pots. I am no expert, certainly not claiming to be, but I can tell you what has worked for me. Hope it is useful!
Growing vegetables in pots – What you need
So, to state the obvious, you need pots! Container, pots, planters, call them what you like. It is basically stuff to grow your vegetables in! I would stay to use containers that are ideally, at least a foot deep. Most veg can be grown with that depth. Maybe a bit deeper for root veg like carrots. Then ideally, a minimum of 25/30 cm diameter, depending on what you are growing. The containers I have to grow my vegetables are;
- A vegetable trug – (You can see them here or this one is a little less expensive)
- two 2 foot long, 14 inch deep planters
- three 18 inch deep, 40cm diameter pots
- two hanging baskets
- a 4 foot long, 12 inch deep trough
- watering can with a fine spray (an empty milk carton with tiny holes in the lid will work just as well)
The two rectangular planters Nik built out of old decking that we took up. I am lucky that he is good at just whacking things together and making stuff! It is very handy. I have seen people use all sorts, even old drawers from unused chest of drawers though, so think outside the box a little. Re-cycle something you already have maybe! The other, 4 foot long one is ideal for herbs. Then, just grab a large bag of veg growing soil or a good multi purpose, and you are ready to start planting.
Helpful tip – In these Covid 19 lockdown times, shops are closed. However, we found our local garden centre was doing click and collect as well as local delivery. Might be worth calling your local one.
So, to state the obvious, the next thing you need is stuff to grow. You could opt for seeds if you want to start your vegetable growing from scratch. If it is a little late in the season, (or you just want an easier life), you can pick up seedling plants. These are plants that have already been started off and established as a healthy plant. Good garden centres will usually stock an abundance of the most common vegetables as seedling plants. My first year of growing veg, I bought seedlings as I had zero clue! Now I prefer to grow from seed. It is less expensive, and way more satisfying to this little veg growing nerd!
Helpful tip – If you decide to grow from seed, an old egg box makes a great little seedling tray. They already have the little pockets for the seeds to be planted in. Be even more sustainable and repurpose what you already have.
Easy Vegetables to grow in pots
This year, I have increased what I am growing. I feel like every year you grow vegetables, you learn. I have got more adventurous in what I grow now I am a bit more clued up. The vegetables I am growing in pots this year are;
- Savoy cabbage
- Orange and Red Peppers
- Plum tomatoes
- Salad tomatoes
- Cherry tomatoes
- various herbs
Growing vegetables in pots
Spinach and Rocket
Probably the easiest out of these is the Spinach. I planted two thin rows of spinach in my trug, as I did last year. They gave us a steady supply of spinach right through until about October. Rocket too grows fairly abundant. The only trouble you have with rocket is that the moths etc LOVE them. Last year, almost all of my rocket got eaten by critters. Obviously, I do not want to use chemical pesticides on my crops to stop that. I want them as organic and natural as they can be. Instead, I am covering the trug of a night, from about 6pm. So far, this is working!
My courgettes are in pots. One plant per pot as they do get quite large. I have three courgette plants on the go, but in truth, two would have probably been enough. Courgette plants are pretty generous! I started these off from seed towards the end of March. Then, once they were a sturdy enough plant, (about 6 inches tall), I was putting them out in the day, in of a night. This acclimatises the plants to being outside, and does not “shock” them into a slow growth phase. I did this for about 2 weeks. They are out all of the time now. Courgettes are an easy vegetable to grow in pots.
Helpful tip – Courgettes are not a fan of having their leaves watered. It can make the leaves a little mildewey. Try to pour your water just around the base of the plant.
Cabbages do need a bit more room. They ideally, need about 30 cm between each plant. You could grow these in a long raised bed or sectioned off vegetable bed if you have the room. If I was happy for a bit more of my garden to be taken over by veg, that is what I would do. Instead, I have mine in the back part of my trug. It has meant I can only get 3 in at a max. Like with rocket, cabbage seems to attract hungry creatures! I check them every day to make sure no crafty little bugs are hiding in the leaves. The cabbage is also in the trug, so covered of a night. Cabbages can be a little harder to grow purely down to the fact that they get eaten by the wildlife! My Dad gave up trying to grow cabbage on his allotment for that very reason. I seem to be doing alright growing cabbage in containers, but we will see!
We eat a lot of tomatoes in our house. I like to make fresh pasta sauces, so I use at least 12 tomatoes for that! That is why I have planted a lot of toms (that’s gardeners talk you know, I have the lingo off pat now…) Tomato plants tend to be pretty generous if they are doing well! I have plum and salad tomatoes in one of the planters. These are both varieties that grow up, (tomato plants that grow upwards are called Cordon, or Vine varieties). This means that they need a bamboo cane or similar, to support them as they grow. You can also get bush varieties that grow out instead of up. Obviously, growing vegetables in containers means space is more limited, so Cordon types are better. You do have to “train” your tomatoes to go up the cane. Pinching off any side shoots that grow will ensure you get the best results. This post helps explain.
I have gone off piste with my cherry tomato plants this year! I have gone with ones that can be planted in hanging baskets! They are called tumbling toms, (cute eh), and will trail from the hanging basket. I went with these as again, it meant my space could be utilised fully. I have two plants in each basket. These should provide a decent amount of tomatoe through the warmer months.
Helpful tip – All tomatoes like to be in full sun. This is what makes them ripen and taste of sunshine! Pots that can be moved into the sunniest, (but with shelter), parts of your garden are ideal.
Peppers can be a little vulnerable. They don’t like to see any frost, and they like to be kept in sunny spots. I have literally, (mid May) put my peppers out. They are protected of a night with a cover. The plants like to be about 25 – 30 cm apart, but do not need meters and meters of room. I have two plants in one of my planters. There will not be tons of peppers per plant, but they will provide well. With hindsight, I would have probably planted up four plants as we do eat a lot of peppers. See, I learn every year!
I also have two little chilli pepper plants. I still have these on my kitchen windowsill as they too can be a little tender. They are going out in the day, but I am bringing them in of a night. Acclimatising them ready to be out fully from end of May.
Helpful tip – Get into a regular watering habit. Vegetables do not like to be too wet or too dry. Inconsistency in the soil, ie letting them get too dry then soaking them, will result in poor quality veg.
Growing herbs in containers
Herbs are fairly easy to grow in pots. There are so many to choose from as well! Some are annuals, (which last a season) and some are perennial which last for years. Usually, perennials are bought as young plants. Again, garden centres are your shop of choice to get your hands on herbs. However, I have also seen them in supermarkets for sale. The herbs that I grow are
- Mint – both peppermint and apple mint
Herbs can be left alone really. Basil is a little bit more fussy. It does not like the cold, so I bring it in of a night still at the moment. It also does not like its feet wet of a night, so water Basil in the day. Mint I would strongly advise growing in a container, unless you want an abundance! It grows well so you run the risk of a minty bush…(ahem…) in your flower bed if you plant it out. The other herbs can be pretty much left alone. Keep them watered and they will keep providing!
Helpful tip – never cut back more than 2/3 of the herb plant. This could kill it.
Making the most of herbs you have grown
If you find you get more herbs than you can cope with, here are a couple of ideas.
Using up Basil – Make a pesto! It is simple to make and trust me, it will taste a gazillion times better than any shop bought one,
Freezing herbs – I learnt this tip recently and think its brilliant. Get some herbs that you think go well together, for example, thyme and rosemary. Prepare them as if you were going to use them, but instead, put some into icecube trays. Then, pour over a little olive oil into the ice cube trays. You then have herb infused oil portions to use in your cooking! You can also freeze some individual herbs, but this can be a little more hit and miss.
Dry herbs – The best herbs for drying are the drier type herbs, like thyme and rosemary. Just cut your herbs you are going to dry, and give them a wash. pat dry well and put them into paper bags. One herb type per bag if you want to keep them individual. Tied together as a bunch if you want mixed herbs. Put the bags in a warm room. Then, keep checking them every 10 days or so to see how they are drying. Once dry and crumbly, store in airtight containers. Ta-daahhh!
Well, that is it from gardening with Kerry. Easy vegetables to grow in pots. There is nothing to testing here. I am only a couple of years in to my own veg growing journey. Trust me, if I can do it, anyone can! Planning is key as you need to know what to start and when. I swear by this book and it has become my bible! I have also found garden centres to be a font of knowledge. Knowledge that they are happy to pass on. I am also lucky that I have my Dad (who is a more experienced veg grower) to call upon. You may also find that your local allotment has a gardening club. They often sell seeds and seedlings at very low prices. They are also often more than happy to share knowledge.
I hope you have found this useful. Growing my veg has been one of the things that has kept me sane in this lockdown. It brings great satisfaction! I would love to hear if you have ventured into veg growing. If you know of any other easy vegetables to grow in pots, please share in the comments. We can all learn and “grow” (see what I did there, hilarious…) together.