Many of us have modest outside spaces but they needn't be unproductive and, as David Hall finds out, containers and planters are a brilliant way of growing vegetables and herbs.
While window boxes and planters are normally full of colourful flowers, they can easily be used to grow edible plants and herbs, many of which are just as attractive in both texture and colour.
Regular watering and feeding are necessary but digging and weeding are easier as well as pest control. If adjacent to the kitchen, the produce is literally on your doorstep. Beetroot, carrots, peas, potatoes, onions, salad leaves, tomatoes, cucumbers and chilllies together with many varieties of herbs can all be within picking distance and ready to put in the pan.
Containers of all sizes and shapes can be used, from a traditional herb wheel to deep root planters from Zest, Rowlinson and Forest.
Make sure the growing medium has good moisture retention but on the other hand will not be affected by waterlogging. A soil based compost with loam and organic matter or a proprietary potting compost might be best and most vegetables prefer a neutral pH.
Position the container in a sunny sheltered position, and during the course of a year the container can be moved to suit the prevailing conditions.
Maintenance and Problems
Your most important task will be watering daily and feeding with a liquid fertilizer about every ten days. Make sure there is access to a butt or tap, especially if you want to install an automatic watering system that will prove its worth when you are on holiday.
As long as the plants are kept moist with good drainage, are regularly fed and there is enough space for good root development, problems should be kept at a minimum and you'll be rewarded with a fine harvest.