Growing vegetables at home
If you are are waiting for an allotment or have decided that it is not for you, then you can grow a good supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in even the smallest of places.
Windowsills, Patios and Balconies
There are many fruit and vegetables that can be grown on windowsills, patios and in containers. All you need is an area that will catch plenty of sun, ideally for at least 5 hours a day. The key is to choose pots appropriate to the plants you want to grow and make sure that you water regularly. Plants grown in pots will always need more water than plants grown in the ground and may also need regular feeding. It is important to make sure the pots are deep enough for the type of plants you want to grow - there should be just enough room for the roots without them being crushed.
Type of Food to Grow
Salad leaves, herbs such as basil or coriander, baby spinach or leaf beet, pea tops, chillies and peppers are all ideal to grow on windowsills.
Carrots and potatoes (in sacks), herbs such as sage and thyme, spinach or leaf beet, spring greens, tomatoes, strawberries and blueberries will happily grow on your patio or balcony.
If you have a bit more space for climbing plants then you could try cucumber, beans, climbing/trailing tomato varieties, baby squash and courgettes.
In order to make the maximum use of space, you can harvest plants such as lettuce, spinach and spring greens when they are still small, and if planted close together will be smaller anyway.
Tips for Growing at Home
- Choose pots deep enough for your plants, 15cm-20cm for salads and at least 35cm for root vegetables such as carrots. Containers with a depth and width of at least 45cm will be best for retaining moisture.
- Use decorative pots for a unique or ornamental look or simply use grow bags for an economical approach.
- Alternatively be creative and recycle old or unusual containers - Potatoes and root vegetables can be grown in large tubs, trailing tomatoes varieties (such as "Tumbling Tom") in hanging baskets and courgettes or squash in an old dustbin.
- Root vegetables such as potatoes grow really well in light proof growing sacks.
- Use a multi purpose compost or compost specifically designed for container growing, which may retain water better and hold the right amount of nutrients.
- Put stones in the bottom of the pot to aid drainage and check there are enough drainage holes at the bottom of your pot.
- Water regularly but don't over water. If possible check the soil for moisture daily and remember pot grown vegetables usually require watering more often than those grown in the ground.
- If you can, collect rainwater from your drainpipe to water your plants with.
- Do not over crowd your plants - follow the instructions on your seed packet for planting distance. If you intend to harvest the plants when they are still small you may however want to plant a little closer because they will need less space for maturing.
- For greater germination success start off seedlings on a sunny windowsill and only transfer out into pots on the balcony or patio once the weather has warmed up.
- Hungry plants (like tomatoes or beans) may need regular feeding once they are established.
- If planting on your patio or windowsill you could combine your fruit and vegetables plants with flowering plants for a pretty decorative effect.
- On high balconies you will need to protect plants from potential wind damage.