With spring and summer looming, green fingers start to itch and the desire to plant things sets in. We’ve rounded up fruits, herbs and vegetables you can easily grow in containers, ideal if you are short on outdoor space or a garden, simply place in pots and containers on the deck, porch or windowsill. From sweet fruits and hot chillies to the humble tomato and much-loved herbs here are our favourites and top tips for container growing.
Also be sure to take a look at our How To: Grow Vegetables Guide for a step by step guide from preparing the soil to choosing the right location.
Strawberries actually thrive in containers or pots as the plant is relatively small with a shallow root system. Although you will need a sunny spot for them to grow such as by a window. Set plants into multi-purpose compost with adequate drainage and avoid over-crowding, strawbs like their space. The soil should stay damp but not soggy and never dry, to achieve this water more often with less water. Most strawberry plants put out runner plants, which is not to good for pots, so be sure to snip the runners as frequently as possible.
Top Tip: Temperature control is crucial for strawberries, so you want to avoid the roots temperature rising. To mitigate this wrap kitchen foil around the pots to shade the pots and dissipate the heat.
Basil is a firm favourite for adding flavour to your dishes and a great choice for pots on a deck or patio. If planting from seeds, plant 5-6 seeds per pot and use seed starter mix or potting soil and mist it with water to keep the soil slightly damp but not soggy. Seeds should germinate in about a week. Easy! Once they have a set of true leaves (not the first little seedling leaves), thin them down to one or 2 seedlings per pot. Water the soil and avoid watering the leaves.
Top Tip: Remember basil likes heat, staying watered and room to grow.
Bring the heat with home grown chillies. Few other plants can match chillies, with one plant giving you around 100 chillies or more. Grow them on a windowsill where it is warm, allowing them to get at least 6 hours of sunlight a day. Use 3-4 inch pots, and sow the seeds mid-January, some varieties can however be started in March or later. Water regularly, and once the chilli plant begins to flower feed it with a tomato fertilizer once a week.
Top Tip: Chilli seeds germinate best at 25’c, so if not using a propagator (and it’s a little cold), then wrap in a plastic bag to keep the heat in.
Peaches scream sunshine and the exotic, but it doesn’t take a lot of expertise to grow this sweet fruit at home, although you will need a good deal of patience before the plants bear fruit. Many peaches can be grown in at least 45cm (18 inch) containers with soil-based compost.
Top Tip: Try patio peaches, naturally dwarf and need little pruning to keep their shape.
One of the best ways to grow tomatoes is in hanging baskets. The most popular and best types to grow in baskets are cherry tomato tumblers. They are typically bush tomatoes which require very little work and hardly any pruning, unlike other varieties. Sow your tomato seeds between March and April. You should see them germinate within 7-14 days. Alternatively use 2-3 tomato plants. Try to go for around a 14” hanging basket and a good quality potting compost, that has fertilizer mixed in. They will require sunlight to grow successfully and ripen, around 5-7 hours of sunlight per day, so place your hanging basket outside. Hanging baskets will need watering daily to keep the compost moist, or even twice on warmer days. Add tomato feed every 7 days or so to maximise your crop.
Top Tip: Mix water storing granules into the compost, which will help retain moisture for longer.
The humble carrot, a staple of most evening meals can surprising be grown in containers. Carrots need free-draining lightweight soil, that’s free of stones to give them the exact conditions they need. Therefore growing carrots in deeper pots around 12-15 inches deep is best with plenty of drainage holes, otherwise carrots will rot from water-logged soil. Space seedlings at least 1.5-2cm apart, cover with soil and water sparingly. As the plant grows keep the soil well-watered and moist to prevent the roots from splitting but avoid water-logging the soil.
Top Tip: If you don't have a deep enough pot, opt for a shorter variety like Chantenay or Oxheart.
For more green fingered inspiration, take a look at:
How To: Create A Hanging Basket
How To: Care For Your Garden Furniture
How To: Make A Bird Feeder