Having a small or no outdoor space doesn't have to stop you from growing your own delicious food! Did you know there are several varieties of fruit and vegetables for growing in containers, on a patio or balcony, so you can enjoy fresh produce from your own home?
From juicy tomatoes, fragrant herbs or deliciously fresh salad leaves to chillies, potatoes and garlic, there is a vast array of compact container vegetable plants to choose from.
You really cannot beat the taste of home grown, sun ripened tomatoes, picked and eaten fresh. Bush tomatoes have a fantastic ability to grow in smaller spaces as they grow as low plants with multiple side-shoots, making them the perfect choice for growing in containers and pots. They are also so a good choice for first-time gardeners as they need lass training than cordon varieties. Look out for ‘Tumbling Tiger’ and ‘Montello’ which will spill over container rims, and will yield a high number of fresh, tasty fruit for the entire summer, perfect for crisp salads.
It is recommended that you start sowing seeds indoors from late February to early April. Sow the seeds thinly in seed trays filled with compost, and cover lightly with a 1cm of compost. When the seedlings have two leaves, gently ease them out of the compost before transplanting into 9cm pots filled with multipurpose compost and place in a warm, bright position to grow on. As they get bigger and stronger, you can then transfer to your chosen container.
You can also buy young tomato plants grow them on indoors until the weather is warm enough to plant them outside.
Growing potatoes in a container is an ideal way to grow fresh produce as it minimises the amount of space you need, making them ideal for small spaces like balconies, yards or patios. The best varieties to grow are Charlotte, Duke of York, Maris Peer and Pentland Javelin. Start by chitting the potatoes until sprouts begin to show. It is advised that you plant after the last frost as they take 12 weeks until they are ready to be harvested.
We recommend using a pot that is approximately 15in in diameter and depth. To grow, fill the bottom of the pot with a 10cm of multi-purpose compost. Place up to five chitted seed potatoes in the pot, then cover with another 10cm of compost. When green shoots begin to show, cover with another 10cm of compost and continue to do this until you have reached the top. Your potatoes are ready to harvest when the plant is in flower.
Short rooted carrot varieties such as Chantaney, Oxheart and Round can be grown in a container of at least 30cm depth. They prefer soil that is lightweight with good drainage and free from twigs and stones. Make planting holes 1.5cm deep and 1.5cm apart in your compost then sow your seeds from April onwards with approximately 3/4 seeds in each. Water and your seedlings should appear within 14 days. If seedlings are too close together, thin out the weakest plants. The carrots can be harvested between 12 and 16 weeks after sowing.
If you love hot chilli peppers and a little bit of spice in your life, then you won’t be disappointed with the range of container chillies that can be grown both indoors and out. Attractive dwarf varieties such as ‘Apache’, ‘Hot Thai’, ‘Lancer’ or 'Mirch Masala' are perfect for growing in windowsill pots, as a focal point in a conservatory, boost a balcony or on a sunny patio, creating a fiery display with their bright red fruits.
Chilli plants will grow to approximately 60cm high and their seeds can be sown indoors from early spring.
Garlic can be successfully grown in pots of approximately 10in for 8-10 bulbs. Separate the bulbs into individual cloves, place them just under the surface of the soil, pointy end up. Garlic needs a long growing season so needs to be planted ideally in early spring. You will know when to harvest your crop when the leaves start to die down and turn yellow in autumn. They can then be stored in a cool, dry place at 5-10°C until you're ready to use them. We recommend using varieties such as Solent White AGM, Carcassonne Wight and Picardy Wight.
A vast array of herbs can be grown in containers as they are compact and can be easily accommodated in a small space. Chives, bay, mint, basil, parsley, rosemary, sage and thyme are just some of the herbs that can be homegrown over a long season and can add zing to your daily dishes.
To raise these herbs from seed, it is recommended that you sow in warm conditions and soil-based compost from early spring, before hardening off and planting outside in your containers in late spring or early summer.
Swiss chard is a versatile crop with a long season and is an attractive addition to a container garden. It can be sown in mid spring to harvest in summer, then again in summer to harvest in mid-winter. The nutty and peppery taste of rocket leaves are suited to container growing and can be harvested at the seedling stage and then allowed to regrow for a successional harvest.
Baby salad leaves are also ideal for container gardening, by growing range different types and sowing at different times of the year, you can have fresh salad all year round. Look out for Chinese cabbage, lamb’s lettuce, cress, purslane, mizuna and mustard greens which all can be grown on containers on the windowsill.
A large number of trees and climbers that produce fruit can be grown in containers. Harvests will be less than those in the open garden but you can still get one of your five a day from a home-grown pot! Citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons are often container grown and can be placed outdoors in warmer weather. However, as they are naturally used to tropical climes, they should be moved indoors if there is due to be a sharp drop in temperature.
Other fruit that can be grown in containers include figs, strawberries, dwarf rootstock apple trees, peaches and even grapes thrive when grown in compact spaces.