“Can I grow it in a pot?” is possibly the gardening question I get asked most frequently of all. As gardens get ever-smaller and people get ever more keen to do a bit of grow-your-own, patio plots become ever more popular.
There are plenty of reasons why growing vegetables and fruit in pots makes sense. Not only can you fit more in to a tiny space, but growing in pots allows you to grow things you might not normally be able to, such as tender lemon trees or blueberries which need acid soil. Not to mention the satisfaction a home-grown fruit can bring, plucked straight from the bush while you’re sat down at a summer barbecue!
But what are the keys to having your own potted Garden of Eden?
TOP TIP 1
Big pots. Whether it’s a dustbin, a fantastic ‘shabby chic’ vintage olive oil tin, or a contemporary modern planter, make sure they’re as big as you can fit and afford. One sunny weekend away spells instant un-re-waterable death for a patio full of lots of tiny pots. I speak from shriveled experience! Big pots dry out much more slowly.
TOP TIP 2
Pick your plants: strawberries, salads, blueberries and tomatoes all do well. Don’t bother with plants that like a cool, moist root-run and deep soil, such as rhubarb and raspberries, or those that like to grow huge such as pumpkins and artichokes; they’ll need more water and space than you’ll want to give them. Modern dwarf fruit trees are particularly good in pots: imagine a summer full of beautiful peaches, plums, cherries and apples! An added bonus is that they’ll be easy to net if birds are a problem.
TOP TIP 3
Be kind. You’re asking a lot of your plants – you want them to look and taste great, and give you enough of a harvest to be worth the space. So use the best compost you can afford and feed them regularly. Water – this can’t be stressed enough – is key. Water them regularly. Or watch them shrivel (see Tip 1!)
The beauty of container gardening
A huge advantage of growing in pots is that you can grow things not normally possible in our climate, such as lemons.
From mid-May to mid-September, you can enjoy the Mediterranean experience of sitting in a garden surrounded by lemon trees, fragrant with blossom and heavy with fruit. They’re tender – even at the garden in Tuscany where I worked as a student gardener, they took their lemons inside for the winter. However, their 50-year old potted lemon trees proved that citrus are well-suited to container cultivation. Every year as the swallows arrived, the big terracotta pots would be wheeled out; it was a moment of great joy as you knew – summer had arrived.