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Growing Vegetables in Containers

If you don’t have the garden space then growing vegetables in containers will still enable you to enjoy the delights of growing and eating your own home-grown veggies.

Not only are there loads of different types of vegetables and herbs which can be grown in containers, but the maintenance is generally quite easy – the only real con is that you have to remember to water them more frequently, as most containers can only contain a small amount of water.

What type of containers can be used for growing vegetables?

Just about anything which holds earth and water is suitable for growing vegetables in containers! Plant pots of various sizes, window boxes, hanging baskets, tubs, wooden barrels, old Dublin sinks, tyres, even old baking trays or crockery can make comfortable homes for container grown vegetables. It all depends on what type of vegetable you want to grow. Any garden centre or online gardening retailer will have a mass of plastic, concrete or wooden planters from which you can choose, or alternatively, look around junk yards or recycling centres for suitable items. Children might even enjoy growing some veggies in their old out-grown Wellingtons!

Which vegetables can be easily grown in containers?

The answer to that is also just about anything. Which vegetable is comfortable in which container depends mainly on the root system: vegetables with shallow root systems are quite happy in window boxes or old baking trays, while plants with deeper root systems will need deeper planters. Some types of vegetables have specifically been breed to grow well in smaller spaces or for container vegetable gardening. Check out the seed catalogues for miniature versions of cauliflowers, sweet corn or carrots (try Sutton Seeds or Unwins), or for starters, buy a complete windowsill kit for growing strawberries or other vegetables, and see how you get on.

Some basic considerations when growing vegetables in containers

Depending on where you want to grow the vegetables, consider the weight – a large pot filled with earth or potting compost and thoroughly wet through will be quite heavy ... suitable maybe for a patio, but possibly too heavy for a balcony. Window boxes can also be quite heavy, especially the deeper ones, so they need to be firmly attached to the outside window sill and if possible need to either include a drip tray (a lot of commercial ones do) or have enough space for a drip tray to lie underneath them, as otherwise you may end up either with marks down the side of your house, or a rather unhappy neighbour who was passing by just as you were watering your young plants! If you are trying to grow vegetables in hanging baskets, ensure they are sufficiently well bracketed to the wall to bear the weight, high enough not to keep banging your head against them, but not so high that you cannot reach them either with the watering can or to pick the fruits of your labour.

All container grown vegetables will need to be watered on a regular basis, especially the ones with shallow root systems. It is possible to find pots and hanging baskets with built-in reservoirs, and these are ideal for growing vegetables in containers.

Also consider where you position the container and whether it is suitable for the type of vegetable you are planting, e.g. plants such as lettuce prefer a shady spot to one which is in full noon sun, so an east or west facing window sill would be better suited, while pumpkins or melons will benefit from as much sun as you can possibly expose them to, so a south-facing patio would be ideal.

Some vegetables need supports while growing, for instance runner beans are usually grown up bamboo poles or similar equivalents. You can grow them in pots on the patio instead and either use a very large pot and create a wigwam of poles for the shoots to climb up, or put some trellising against the wall of the house.

For some examples of growing vegetables in containers and a list of suitable vegetables for different types of vegetables, check out vegetable container gardening.

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