As a container gardener the most common question I get is, “Can I grow X in containers?”. I get this question a lot and about all sorts of different veggies and the broad answer is, yes. Yes, you can grow leeks in containers. Yes, you can grow courgettes in containers. Yes, you can grow all sorts of peas and beans in containers. And, yes, I’ve even seen someone grow a pumpkin in a container. But, there are rules.
Go Big or Go Home
Generally speaking, you want a big container. The bigger the container, the larger the reservoir of moist soil, so the less you have to water it. In the height of the summer I have at least three small terracotta ‘water twice a day’ pots which are just such a pain to keep on top of. If you want that lazy gardener lifestyle, then big pots are the way to go.
Generally speaking, plants produce bigger crops if they have more room to grow. Of course, this depends on the crop. Always check the minimum soil depth for whatever plant you are planning on growing and adhere to that.
Pick the Right Varieties
This is an important one. There are smaller varieties of most types of veggies out there, you just have to pick the right one. Going back to the pumpkins I mentioned, my friend managed to get a decent pumpkin crop from her containers because she picked the right variety. You are looking for compact growth and small fruits like in varieties such as Jack be little, Baby-boo, Wee-be-little, Pumpkin Hooligan, Mini-jack, Munchkin, and Lil pump-ke-mon. Always be ambitious, but always plan ahead.
Of course, the variety is important, but do not assume container gardeners are relegated to dwarf plants! Although there are varieties of peas specifically made to be grown in containers and take up as little space as possible – such as Patio Pride and Tom Thumb peas – nothing beats a good climber. When in doubt, grow up!
I’ve grown large pea varieties on my balcony for years now and I always get a bumper crop.
I usually pair my peas with sweet peas and grow them up the wall which separates my balcony from my neighbours. Growing climbers such as climbing beans, climbing peas, and nasturtiums allows me to pack more into my small balcony space and actually makes the space look bigger because I am creating height and levels.
Don’t Be Scared to Combine Crops
Lots of people who plant in containers are more than happy to combine flowering plants in one pot but shy away from combining veggie crops – don’t! Some veggies are perfectly happy growing together so there is no reason not to combine them in one pot, especially when space is a premium.
Just be sensible about what you plant together and make sure they favour the same growing conditions. For example, basil and tomatoes are perfect growing buddies: they both thrive in sunny spots, they both need to be sheltered from the wind, and they both love nice damp (but not saturated) soil. Basil even protects tomatoes from whitefly. Result!
Lucy Bloom is a container gardener living on the side of the Forth and Clyde canal. Lucy has been gardening for five years and has been on Beechgrove showing off her wee balcony in Maryhill. Her gardening philosophy is: buy local, recycle, keep it cheap, and balance beauty with practicality.