Published: 4th May 2020
We are all trying to be a bit more healthy right now, improve complexions, fit in more exercise and boost energy levels and a great way to feel more positive is to eat well, so why not try growing your own?
You don’t need to have a garden or even a substantial space available to start planting out a few healthy treats in containers.
And planning, planting and maintaining your mini garden is something your children can get involved in too.
Q: What size of space is best suited to the growing of vegetables?
Vegetables can be grown in the smallest of spaces: a pot on a windowsill can provide you with a few salad leaves. On a balcony you can create a container vegetable garden by arranging the containers to maximise the space, perhaps using trellis to provide support for climbing plants, such as beans.
Q: Is it important to have a space that catches the sun?
The amount of sunlight your container garden receives will help you determine which crops will grow best. Generally, leafy crops, such as salad leaves, spinach and parsley can tolerate partial shade better than root and fruit bearing vegetables. Root vegetables, such as beetroot, will tolerate more shade than fruit bearing vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers, as these require plenty of sunlight in order to thrive.
Q: Should it be sheltered from the wind?
A sheltered position will provide the best microclimate for growing vegetables. You could try positioning some larger plants or shrubs on your balcony to filter the wind if it is a problem. If it is not possible to buffer the wind, you could try growing lower growing plants such as salad leaves.
Q: Which vegetables could potentially be grown in a container?
Aubergines, broad beans, beetroots, carrots, cabbage, cucumbers, French beans, herbs, lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes, salad leaves, salad onions, tomatoes and turnips will all thrive. There are many interesting varieties available from seed companies that have been adapted for container culture.
Q: What containers can be used?
There are many possible containers for growing vegetables. Clay, wood, plastic and metal containers are all suitable. You could recycle old olive oil tins to use as a container, or use a drainpipe to sow seeds in. If you get a bit creative the possibilities are endless! The important thing to remember is to choose a container that is adequately wide and deep enough to allow your choice of vegetables to thrive. Ensure that there are drainage holes and use sterile potting compost for good results.
Q: At what time of year should seeds be sown or seedlings planted out?
Many vegetables can be sown under cover in March. It is always a good idea to check the seed packet of your chosen variety for sowing instructions. Start your seeds in a warm place that receives sufficient sunlight. Transplant your seedlings to their final container when they develop their first two or three true leaves.
Q: How much care will the plants require as they grow?
Your plants will need to be watered regularly, probably once a day, be guided by the weather. Apply water until it runs out of the drainage holes.
Q: When would the vegetables be ready to pick and eat?
Depending on what you have chosen to grow, your plants will take time to mature before you can harvest them at their optimum state of ripeness. Check the seed packet of your chosen variety for information on harvesting your crop. If, for example, you have chosen to grow salad leaves, you can harvest your first crop of leaves when they are 2.5cm to 7.5cm in height. Most salad leaves are cut and come again varieties, so you should be able to harvest another crop of leaves in a few weeks time.