If you love to garden, few things are more satisfying than harvesting and eating delicious home-grown vegetables that you’ve nurtured from young seedlings.
If you aren’t blessed with space for a vegetable garden in your backyard or don’t have the space to squeeze a few runner beans into your borders, give container vegetable growing a go.
Many vegetables can be successfully grown in containers, here’s our pick of the crop:
Tasty potatoes are one of the best crops to grow in a pot. They’re simple to grow and you’re pretty much guaranteed a bumper harvest as they are so productive. You can expect to harvest 3-5 pounds of potatoes for every pound you plant.
It’s tempting to plant a potato from the supermarket but for the best results, you’ll need to plant seed potatoes.
Salad and early potatoes will do better in containers than maincrop potatoes and you can plant earlies from mid-March. Check the best times to plant potatoes in your region.
Before planting, it’s best to leave your seed potatoes to ‘chit’ which means grow side shoots. Pop your potatoes into a seed tray or egg carton and leave them in a cool but light location. Sprouting will take around 6 weeks.
Once they’ve grown 1-2 cm shoots, plant them into fertile soil, about 4-6 inches deep, and cover with 2 inches of soil, making sure that the baby shoots are pointing upward. You’ll need a container that’s at least 16×16 inches for your potatoes.
Pop your container in a sunny spot and keep it well-watered. When the plant is about 6 inches tall, you can start to heap the soil around the plant.
Cover the bottom leaves of the plant and keep doing this until the plant reaches the top of the pot.
Leave the top few centimeters of the plant poking out of the soil. Potatoes are fast growers so you’ll need to do this regularly.
Your pot-grown potatoes will be ready to harvest when the plant flowers. As the flowers die back, you can harvest any remaining potatoes.
Another excellent choice for container growing, zucchini are abundant fruiters. One plant can produce as much as 6-10 pounds of produce throughout the growing season; that’s about 3-4 zucchini per week!
Unless you fancy eating zucchini for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, one plant will probably be enough for your plot.
You can grow zucchini from seed or buy a young plant.
Sow seeds indoors or plant them outside in the container they’ll remain in. Once they germinate, remove the weaker-looking seedlings, leaving the strongest ones remaining.
If your seedlings have germinated indoors, make sure you harden the plants off by gradually extending the time they spend outdoors for a week or so before they move outside permanently.
Zucchini plants get pretty big so you’ll need a container that’s at least 18 inches wide. Before planting, fill the container with rich soil, add a slug of general-purpose fertilizer, and put it in a sunny spot for the best results.
You’ll need to fertilize your plant every 2 weeks. Harvest the zucchini when they are on the smaller side (around 5 inches). Regular picking will encourage more to grow.
You can also eat the flowers of the zucchini plant; they’re delicious stuffed with cheese and fried.
3. Dwarf French beans
Because dwarf french beans only grow to around 16 inches tall, they don’t need support and are perfect for container growing.
Dwarf beans are easy to sow and will grow fast, You can plant the seeds directly into the pot they’ll remain in outside. Choose a pot that’s at least 16 inches wide and fill it with good organic, peat-free compost.
Sow the beans around 5 cm deep and grow one plant per pot. Give the seed a good soaking and keep it moist while it germinates which will take up to 2 weeks. You can give a liquid fertilizer when the bean pods begin to appear.
French beans are long-cropping plants so produce beans over a few weeks. The more you pick, the more they will grow!
4. Bell peppers
With their bright, rainbow colors and sweet-tasting flesh, bell peppers are one of the most attractive container vegetables to grow.
Peppers need warm conditions to thrive so are best grown outside in milder zones; otherwise, you can grow them in a greenhouse or on a sunny windowsill.
Sow outdoor bell pepper seeds in March/April. Seeds that will stay indoors can be planted slightly earlier.
The seeds will need to be covered with a plastic bag or placed in a propagator whilst they germinate. You can also buy young plants from a nursery if you prefer.
Sow the seedlings into their own rich, compost-filled pots that are at least 12 inches wide. The young plants will need to be hardened off before they’re moved outside.
Keep your bell peppers well-watered and pinch out the shoots once the plant is around 8 inches tall. This helps to encourage the plant to branch out and ultimately produce more peppers.
Peppers are heavy so you may need to stake the plant to help support their weight.
5. Salad leaves
Delicious in the summer months, having a supply of crisp, fresh, salad leaves in your backyard is incredibly satisfying.
Salad leaves are extremely easy to grow. Choose cut and come again varieties for a constant supply or plant batches of salad seeds every 2 weeks to ensure a long-lasting supply of tasty leaves.
Salad leaves have shallow roots and will grow in almost any container as long as it’s at least 6 inches deep. Scatter the seeds over the top of compost-filled containers and cover them lightly with soil. You can sow the seeds outside, or in a greenhouse, if temperatures are too cold for the seedlings.
When the leaves look big enough to eat, you can harvest them by snipping with scissors. Take care not to damage the center of the plants.
Delicious and nutritious, carrots will grow well in containers, as long as it’s at least 14 inches deep. Fill your chosen container with a rich, non-clumpy potting compost and place it in a sunny spot.
Carrot seeds are tiny and very flyaway so pick a calm day for sowing. Scatter the seeds over the top of the soil and cover lightly with soil. Press them down slightly, water well, and seedlings should appear within 3 weeks.
You can thin the seedlings by snipping the weaklings off at the base. Leave 3-4 inches between the carrots so they have plenty of space to grow.
Keep your carrots well-watered and fertilize them regularly. They’ll be ready to harvest 12-16 weeks after sowing.
Easy to grow in containers indoors or out, beets are an ideal plant for vegetable-growing beginners.
Sow beet seeds into containers that are at least 10 inches deep, allowing plenty of room for the tasty roots to develop. Cover the seeds lightly and water well.
Seedlings should appear within 2 weeks. Thin the seedlings so there are about 3 inches between plants.
Beets like moist soil so be sure to water the pots regularly. When the plants are about a month old, you can add fertilizer to help ensure a plentiful harvest.
Harvest beets when they are about 2 inches in diameter. You can also enjoy the pretty beet leaves in salads. They are even more nutritious than the root!
8. Fava beans
Last, but definitely not least, fava or broad beans are wonderful container vegetables. Choose dwarf varieties if you don’t wish to add support.
Sow fava beans 2-3 inches deep into containers filled with multi-purpose compost in spring, or in November and February in milder areas. Different varieties will crop at different times so be sure to check the guidelines on the seed packet.
Water the seeds well and once seedlings appear, keep them well-watered. Like all container-grown vegetables, they will dry out more quickly than plants sown into the ground.
You can pinch out the tips of the shoots to encourage fruiting. Harvest young pods and eat them whole or wait until the pods mature for the larger beans. You can remove their outer casing and enjoy the bright green beans in salads.
There are many advantages to growing vegetables in pots, it’s much easier to keep an eye on pests, you can move the pots into sheltered locations if needed, and you can cultivate delicious varieties in window boxes, on kitchen windowsills, and even in hanging baskets when space is at a premium.