I am a 30-year-old married woman who cannot afford to buy a house. I am also a 30-year-old woman who is obsessed with gardening. Renting has never stopped me from growing my own food. While a pristine lawn sounds great to a homeowner, to me (a renter) it sadly means that I cannot grow anything. That is why every time we’ve moved I’ve been more than happy to have paving or decking as my back garden, because I can have pots! “But, can you grow vegetables in containers?” I hear you ask. Of course you can! And you can grow more than you think.
Root vegetables in general. You will need a tall pot, so the roots can grow down. What I also do is mix my normal compost with either seed-sowing compost or sand, because carrots will not grow through stones or bits of bark, that is what causes them to fork or grow in a funny shape.
Carrot seeds do not transplant well, so you will have to sow them directly when the packet says so. You can also research what varieties to grow. if your pot isn’t very deep, choose varieties such as Atlas, Paris Market or Chantenay Red Cored.
Yes, potatoes! Traditionally, potatoes are planted out on Good Friday weekend, but you also have to consider whether you’re growing Earlies, Second Earlies or your main crop. You can find grow bags in your local garden centre, or even use some of those bags for life we all seem to accumulate. The deal with this system is that you add about 3 inches of soil to the bag, and place your potatoes on top. Then you add enough soil to cover them. Keep adding soil every time the leaves come through until you reach the top of the bag. That’s called ‘earthing up’ potatoes. The idea is that you are protecting the plant from frosts, plus you might get some extra potatoes!
For grow bags, I recommend you grow Earlies and Second Earlies, as these are the best for salads and are smaller than main crop potatoes. Some options are Charlotte, Red Duke of York and Vivaldi.
Snap peas and beans
I reckon people are scared of climbers because they think they grow too big. Not always the case! I have grown snap peas in containers and used a wigwam made of bamboo canes. They grow pretty much the same as sweet peas which, incidentally, I have also grown in pots.
You can grow dwarf French beans in pots, and I have spotted a new runner bean variety that claims it can be grown in a container! It’s called Jackpot. I personally love growing mangetout Shiraz (purple!) and Golden Sweet. There’s a new variety called Spring Blush which I think will be going on my shopping list.
Cucumbers and courgettes
I have used the photographed galvanised bath for many crops, namely strawberries and cucurbits. While any container you use needs drainage, I decided against drilling holes into this one and what I did instead was gravel the base and put a couple of polystyrene planters which come with bedding, such as violas.
So far, this approach has worked for me, and the big leaves of the plants prevent an excess of water from oversaturating the compost. Cucumber Marketmore has always performed well for me, this year I’m going to try Cucamelons and Cucumber Lemon.
You can buy bare root strawberry plants in early spring. Until last year, I only grew (and ate!) red strawberries. Then I branched out to a white variety called Snow White, which were delicious! You can also buy alpine strawberries, which are a little smaller and look a little different to your bog standard fruit. This year I am growing some strawberries from seed! Musk Strawberry, Strawberry ‘Temptation’ and Strawberry ‘Yellow Wonder’. Wish me luck!
Let me just clarify the photo below. The forks are to deter cats from using my bigger pots as an outside toilet. Do let me know if you do this too!
Salads and herbs
Of course, I couldn’t end this post without mentioning the obvious. I love growing herbs and salad ingredients in my garden, as I can simply pop out, pick, and pop them into my lunch. It is the best feeling. I also find it’s a great way to get used to a food you don’t like. Don’t get me wrong, you should grow what you like; there’s no use in growing cabbages or parsnips if you don’t like them! But, for example, I don’t like raw tomato. So I have started by growing cherry tomatoes, to get myself used to them. This year I’ll be growing Tomatillo Purpleino and Tom Microcherry.
I also grow peppers, spinach, salad leaves, and all kinds of herbs. I have chives, thyme, rosemary, sage, you name it. For me, the best thing of the whole grow-your-own movement is that you can grow varieties you can’t find in the supermarkets. 2018 is going to be the year of growing culinary, medicinal, and fun herbs. Purple basil, hyssop, lemon thyme, blackcurrant sage, valerian – it’s going to be great. What are you waiting for?! Start growing!