Grow crops in pots

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Turn your patio into a productive patch with salads, fruit and vegin containers. Here’s how to keep them alive

You don’t need an allotment or huge garden to enjoy delicious home-grown fruit and veg. Patio containers, window boxes on a balcony or pots lining a path to the front door all have potential to produce dozens of harvests for your household. Growing gourmet crops in containers has definite advantages. First, you can tweak the growing medium and moisture levels to cater for the exact crops you’re after, and second, simply by having plants close by means you’re more likely to give them that little bit of extra care and attention to help them flourish. 

Remember that good drainage is crucial. Small pots lose water in a flash over summer and become top-heavy with taller plants, so plump for larger containers where possible.

For annual crops, fill pots with the best multipurpose compost you can source. Most composts need supplementary feeding after six to eight weeks and vegetables are hungry plants so don’t scrimp here. For all-round healthy leafy growth, use a general-purpose feed, or switch to a high-potash feed such as tomato fertiliser for flowers and fruit.

May is a glorious time to be planting container crops since lots of vegetables can now be sown or bought as plugs. As a general rule, choose smaller, quick-to-crop plants that maximise the space available and keep one eye on succession, switching in some kales or Oriental greens once summer crops are over. 

TROUBLESHOOTER

Q Where’s the best place to grow container veg?
A Beans, tomatoes, peppers and courgettes need plenty of sun, while root crops and leafy lettuces and greens can tolerate some shade. Of course the beauty of pots is that you can easily move them into a sunnier or shadier spot.   

Q Do I need to water them daily?
A Containerised plants dry out more quickly than soil-grown ones and may need watering every day in hot weather. This avoids stress to plants, which can result in lettuces bolting and tomato crops spoiling. Drip-feed irrigation is ideal for thirsty courgettes and tomatoes.

Q How often should I feed them?
A Veg that produce flowers and fruits need to have a weekly high-potash feed, such as Tomorite, when in full growth. Keep leafy crops in good health with a seaweed-based feed each month, but don’t fertilise herbs.

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