Spring is the perfect time of year to start a container vegetable garden, the weather is looking better, and when it comes to planting options you’re spoilt for choice.
If this is your first attempt at a small space garden, you don’t need much to set yourself up for some fantastic results and a lush, bountiful garden come summer-time.
To get started all you need are some robust and reliable vegetable planter boxes, potting mix, and some seedlings.
A sturdy vessel
When choosing your vegetable pots, be sure to choose something with enough depth for root growth. Vegetables, unlike some ornamental plants, need plenty of space for the roots to become established. A depth of 18-24cm is ideal for the roots to access water and nutrients in the soil.
If you are considering very large planter boxes, be sure that you carefully choose their position before getting started, as they will be heavy and difficult to move once filled with soil and water. Smaller planters, are easily moved around a small space to chase the sun between seasons, but often don’t offer enough soil volume to grow vegetables.
Self watering planters or wicking-bed planters, are a fantastic choice to optimise vegetable growth. These planters incorporate a water reservoir in the base of the pot, and allow moisture to be continuously drawn up to the root zone. This means that the plants determine how much or how little water they receive. As the name suggests, the obvious bonus of self watering planters is that they will sustain you plants for several days or even weeks without your attention. So if you travel regularly, or only see your garden on the weekend, then they are the perfect option.
The only other consideration, when choosing a garden planter, is drainage. Vegetable planters must have good drainage to allow water to pass through the open structure of the potting mix. It is crucial, to plant health, that water is not permitted to pool in the root zone. Pots and planters must have drainage holes in the base, and not be left sitting in saucers of water. This flooding of the roots will actually drown the plants.
The ground work
A good quality, organic potting mix is the key to setting up your vegetable boxes for some serious growth. Quality potting mix is made up of a blend of organic compost matter, fine bark pieces to add structure and ensure good drainage, and slow release organic fertiliser.
You can extend the life of your container soil by adding extra structure in the form of Perlite, and by periodically using liquid fertiliser. For more information on achieving and maintaining soil health check out this blog post:
When it comes to planting vegetables in spring, the options are endless, but here are a few tips on how to narrow it down:
1. Choose vegetables that you like to eat!
Sounds silly when you say it out loud, but so often I see people growing Chillies when they hate spicy food, or Okra without a clue of what to do with it. Eating your own food is so rewarding and one of the best parts of growing your own vegetables at home.
2. Choose options that match your space and aspect
If you only have 2 square feet of garden space, plants like pumpkins, melons, or zucchinis and other large vegetable can end up a little disappointing when you realise you can fit 2 plants in total, and only get enough produce for a meal every other week. These types of vegetables are also very hungry when it comes to sunlight, and need 4-6 hours of full sun a day to produce ripe fruit.
If your area is partially shaded, or your space is on the modest side, there are still heaps of rewarding vegetable options. When choosing seedlings, a quick glance at the back of the label will tell you how much space and how much sunlight the plant needs.
3. Get creative
Growing vegetables doesn’t have to be black and white. Mixing vegetable with ornamental or flowering plants is heaps of fun, and can add colour and texture to your outdoor space. To top it off, many plant varieties have edible flowers, that will grow very happily along side your veggies, and share the dinner plate too.
Here are some of my favourite spring veggie options for small space and container gardening:
There are so many varieties of lettuce available in spring, and they all have one thing in common… they’re great for container gardens and planter boxes. Lettuces varieties are almost all fast growing, don’t require a lot of space or long daylight hours, and can be harvested leaf by leaf as you’re ready to eat them, meaning the freshest, crisp gardens salads for spring and summer.
Dwarf or Bush beans are non climbing varieties that are perfect for vegetable boxes. The plants can be nestled together, as close as 7-8cm, and are super high yielding. Within 8-10 weeks you can expect masses of crisp, shiny beans ready for the dinner table.
Another high yielding option, that can be planted close together. Spring Onions, can be harvested by cutting them off at ground level as you need them. The cut stalks will soon shoot up again and will continue to produce crop after crop.
Ok. So not a vegetable, but nasturtiums are so much fun to have in planters. They are super quick growing, and produce masses of brightly coloured flowers which are edible. In fact the leaves are too. Both young leaves and flowers add a delicate sweet flavour and pepperiness to salads.