Grow Your Own Food in Containers
In my last post I gave a list of bits and pieces you’ll need to grow delicious fruit, veg and herbs in containers, plus a list of seeds and plants I recommend growing.
Seed packets usually have clear sowing instructions on the back, but growing food in containers is slightly different from growing in the open ground.
Before putting compost in containers, a few sheets of folded newspaper lining the base of the pot will stop water draining away too quickly.
Growing Courgettes and Cucumber Indoors
Courgettes and cucumbers are the only seeds on my list which are best sown indoors. These plants need warmth to germinate.
Fill a little 4”/10cm pot with compost. Push one seed lengthways into the compost (at the same depth as the length of the seed). Then water well and cover with a piece of cling film or plastic wrap to create a warm, moist environment. Put the pots on a tray or saucer and leave on a warm windowsill. Check that the compost is moist each day.
I usually grow 3-4 courgette plants and 6 cucumber plants a year which is plenty for my family and there are always enough courgettes to make up some tasty dishes for the freezer.
The little plants will produce two small leaves first called cotyledons or seed leaves (these are not true leaves) and as soon as they appear, remove the cling film. When 3 true leaves have grown they’ll be ready to pot up into larger 18”/45cm pots.
– lettuces, baby spinach and rocket – fill wide pots or troughs with compost leaving a 1”/2.5cm gap between the compost and the top of the pot. Scatter a few seeds (about 4”/10cm apart) then cover with ½ “/1.2cm compost. Water well and leave in a sheltered position outside.
Runner and Climbing French Beans
– These are hungry plants and will grow tall so use a large container (at least 18”/45cm across), with a few small holes in the base. If you have some well-rotted manure, add about 6”/15cm to the base of the pot and fill the rest with compost within 2”/5cm of the rim. Take 6 strong bamboo canes and push down evenly around the inside edge of the pot. Pull the canes together at the top and tie securely with twine or string to form a wigwam. Gently firm down the soil.
The idea is to grow one plant up each cane, but often, not all seeds germinate. To overcome this, sow one seed next to each cane, 2”/5cm deep, and an extra 3-4 seeds spaced around the pot just to make sure. If all the seeds do germinate, the extra plants can be planted in another pot.
Place the pot(s) in a sunny to semi shaded position, sheltered from wind and watered well.
– Use a 5 gallon/22 litre pot for sugarsnap or mangetout peas, again, with a few small holes in the base. Almost fill the pot with compost, make a bamboo wigwam with 4 canes and sow 2 peas 2”/5cm deep, either side of the canes. Water well and leave in a sunny position. Keep the soil moist at all times – but not waterlogged.
If all 8 seeds germinate, make up another pot then carefully lift out the 4 plants, keeping the roots intact, and plant in the new container.
Grow Lavender and Borage for the Bees!
Pots of flowers dotted around will look beautiful and will attract bees. Lavender is fantastic, and borage is beautiful – and edible too! Sweet peas will happily scramble around beans and French marigolds and nasturtiums (also edible) will help to keep aphids away. If you’d like to read more please look at my post on growing things on a budget.