Spring has officially sprung here in Normandy, and the garden is in full swing - as you have seen in some of our recent videos. This year, we are putting more focus on growing our own vegetables. The joys of planting a seed, watching it sprout into a seedling, nurturing it into a full-grown plant and reaping the tasty rewards of homegrown veg is priceless. I can guarantee that you can’t buy better-tasting veg in the supermarket, than the veg you can grow in your own garden. We have plenty of space in our garden to plant a wide variety of greenery - from beets to brassicas and spinach to squash. However, not everyone is as fortunate to have as much potential growing space in the garden as us here in Normandy. So in today’s blog, we will be looking at a great alternative - container planters.
Limited garden space shouldn't deter you from experiencing the joys of growing your own vegetables. With container gardening, even the smallest of spaces can be transformed into flourishing vegetable gardens. Even if you have a decent-sized garden, container planting can still be a great way to grow vegetables. It is no-dig, it can offer more protection from pests (or some free-ranging feathered friends, in the form of chickens) and can be moved about. In fact, we are using containers to grow our carrots this year - this can help protect from carrot-fly and allows you to create a stone-free sandy soil so the carrots can thrive. We are using blue storage boxes. And, I upcycled an old wooden drawer from a wardrobe to make a compact and portable raised bed! All that I did was lined the drawer with plastic, reusing the soil bags, drilled some holes in the bottom, and filled the bed with soil. It should start to produce some fresh home-grown Bok-Choy and Beetroot within a matter of weeks. And of course, plant pots are not just for flowers. You can plant fruit and veg in them too. I will be planting peppers and strawberries in large pots to have the freedom to move them to sunny positions. It can also help you protect your plants by moving them inside or into your greenhouse during the night if it gets too cold, or if you are worried about slugs and snails.
So without further ado, let’s look further at the benefits of this space-efficient approach and unlock the potential of your perhaps limited garden space to cultivate a bountiful harvest. Here are some container gardening benefits and tips:
Container gardening opens up a world of possibilities for individuals with limited outdoor space. Enjoy the advantages of greater control over soil quality, improved drainage, and optimal sunlight exposure. Additionally, container gardening allows for easy mobility and the flexibility to experiment with various vegetable varieties throughout the growing season. So, to get started, choose containers that suit your space and aesthetic preferences. Consider factors such as size, material, and drainage capabilities when selecting your containers. If your container does not have drainage holes, it will be worth adding some - I recommend drilling at least one hole 4 square inches, using a regular drill-bit. It is also worth noting that different vegetables have varying space requirements, so choose containers that accommodate their growth habits. For example, deep-rooted vegetables like tomatoes and peppers require larger pots, while shallow-rooted crops like lettuce and radishes can thrive in smaller containers. Hanging baskets and vertical planters are excellent options for utilizing vertical space and maximizing your limited garden area.
When it comes to soil, opt for a high-quality potting mix or create your own by combining equal parts of compost, peat moss, and vermiculite. This combination provides the necessary nutrients, moisture retention, and drainage required for healthy plant growth. Ensure that the soil is well-draining to prevent waterlogging, which can lead to root rot. You can also add organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, to improve soil fertility.
Select vegetable varieties that are known to perform well in container gardens. Tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, radishes, and herbs like basil and parsley are excellent choices. Consider compact or dwarf varieties to maximize space. Avoid overcrowding by providing sufficient spacing between plants to allow for air circulation and discourage pest and disease problems. Additionally, consider staggered planting or succession planting to extend your harvest season. By planting new crops as others are harvested, you can ensure a continuous supply of fresh vegetables throughout the growing season.
Planning is crucial for a successful container garden. Utilize techniques like square-foot gardening, companion planting, and vertical gardening to make the most of your limited space. Square-foot gardening divides the container into square-foot sections, optimizing space utilization and providing a systematic approach to planting different crops. Companion planting involves growing complementary plants together to enhance growth and deter pests. For example, planting marigolds alongside tomatoes can help repel nematodes and attract beneficial insects. Vertical gardening utilizes trellises, stakes, or hanging baskets to grow vining vegetables upward, further maximizing space. Cucumbers, beans, and peas are great candidates for vertical growth.
Proper care and maintenance are vital for the health and productivity of your container garden. Water your plants regularly, ensuring that the soil is evenly moist but not waterlogged. Container gardens typically require more frequent watering than traditional gardens, as they tend to dry out more quickly. Consider using self-watering containers or installing a drip irrigation system to simplify watering tasks. Fertilize your vegetables regularly, following the instructions for the specific varieties you're growing. Container plants often require more frequent feeding, as nutrients can leach out of the pots with regular watering. Choose a balanced fertilizer or opt for organic alternatives, such as compost tea or fish emulsion, to nourish your plants naturally. You don’t need to feed your plants often, although they do of course require regular watering - little and often is generally key, and ideally in the morning or the evening, to avoid excess evaporation and sun-scolding.
Regularly monitor your container garden for pests and diseases, and take prompt action if any issues arise. Inspect your plants for common pests like aphids, caterpillars, and snails, and use organic pest control methods, such as handpicking, insecticidal soaps, or natural predators, to keep their populations in check. Protect your plants from diseases by providing adequate air circulation, avoiding overwatering, and promptly removing any diseased leaves or plants to prevent the spread of infections.
As your vegetables mature, harvest them at their peak ripeness. Regular harvesting promotes continued production and ensures the best flavour and quality. Enjoy the satisfaction of using your homegrown vegetables in fresh, delicious meals. Container-grown vegetables are perfect for adding a touch of freshness to salads, stir-fries, and other culinary creations.
Container gardening provides an accessible and rewarding way to grow vegetables, even in limited garden spaces. With a thoughtful selection of containers, appropriate soil, and suitable vegetable varieties, you can create a thriving vegetable garden in any outdoor space. By nurturing your plants, experimenting with different varieties, and enjoying the fruits of your labour, you'll discover the joy and satisfaction of cultivating your own bountiful harvest, no matter how small - or large - your garden may be. Give container growing a chance - it is not too late to get planting!
Before you go, have a look at how Sam and Sean transformed this lovely copper canne-au-lait - it has been repurposed as a strawberry planter: