Top 10 crops for pots

Growing your favourite crops in pots can turn even the smallest of spaces into a home allotment. Container gardening offers a world of opportunity in tiny town gardens, concreted areas, and even on balconies.

Savour the flavour of healthy, home grown fruit and vegetables picked straight from containers outside your back door.

Take a look at our top 10 crops for pots to discover how many of your ‘5 a day’ could be growing in your patio containers.

What to consider about container gardening

  • You can grow almost any fruit or vegetable in a container, but where space is limited its best to concentrate on crops that deliver high yields from compact plants. Avoid large crops like giant pumpkins that need lots of space to produce just a few fruit.
  • It’s best to avoid slow crops too – brassicas and asparagus need a relatively long growing period taking up precious space that could be given to a several consecutive quick crops.
  • Most importantly, grow what you like to eat! Think about the fruit and vegetables that you regularly buy from the supermarket – growing these crops will save you a small fortune, and often have a much better flavour too!

1. Potatoes

The humble spud is perfect for growing in containers – and great fun to harvest too! Early and second early potatoes give the best results in containers, producing lots of delicious new potatoes. Grow potatoes in patio bags or if you are on a tight budget you can even use old compost bags. Depending on the variety, you can harvest them after just 10 to 13 weeks by simply tipping the bag out, before hunting through the compost for tasty tubers!

2. Peas

Peas are quick growing and prefer cooler conditions, so they are ideal for harvesting early in the season while many crops are still getting going. Try compact varieties such as Pea ‘Twinkle’, or if looks are equally important then try purple podded variety Mange Tout ‘Shiraz’. Regular picking will extend the cropping period, and once they are finished you can pull them up and use the containers to grow a different crop for the rest of the summer.

3. Tomatoes

Growing tomatoes is extremely rewarding so it comes as no surprise that this is often a first choice for many beginner gardeners. In fact a healthy tomato plant will produce higher yields than almost any other container grown crop! Grow upright bush and cordon tomatoes in pots and growbags, or where space is limited, choose trailing varieties and try growing tomatoes in hanging baskets.

4. Salad Leaves

Salad Leaves are quick and easy to grow and make the perfect vegetable crop for growing in shaded containers. Choose ‘cut and come again’ blends of salad leaves such as Colourfully Mild Mix so that you can harvest a few leaves at a time, as and when you need them. Grow salad leaves in convenient window boxes just outside the kitchen window. Why not sow some quick growing radish to accompany your salad leaves?

5. Courgette

Courgettes are prolific croppers and you can achieve a really good harvest from container grown plants. Some varieties are larger than others though, so be sure to choose a compact variety such as Courgette ‘Midnight’ for growing in pots. Courgette plants will need a sunny position but don’t let the soil dry out as this will reduce your crop. Try growing rounded, ball-like courgettes or brightly coloured yellow varieties for something a little different.

6. Strawberries

A classic container crop for a sunny spot! Strawberries are a popular choice for their delicious sweet fruits that taste so much better than supermarket varieties. Unlike many crops, strawberries are hardy perennials so you can enjoy a new crop every summer. But this does mean that they will need a permanent container all year round. If space is an issue then grow strawberries in hanging baskets or a ‘Stackapot’.

7. Patio Fruit Trees

Don’t be put off of growing your own fruit in a small space – choose fruit trees grafted onto dwarf rootstocks. They are ideal for containers, producing normal sized fruits on tiny trees! If you only have space for one tree then try a family apple or pear tree with 3 varieties grafted onto one stem.

8. Runner Beans / Climbing Beans

What better way of saving space than growing crops vertically! Runner Beans can be trained up a tripod of canes to make an attractive and productive container crop. A single plant will produce a decent supply of beans throughout the summer, but if you have room for a few plants then you will have plenty for the freezer too. Pick the beans regularly while they are young and tender to encourage more beans to be produced. Climbing French Beans make a great alternative if you’re not keen on runner beans, although they tend to produce slightly smaller yields. For a colourful crop try Blauhilde with its deep purple French beans.

9. Herbs

Frost tender herbs such as Coriander and Basil are ideal for a sunny windowsill indoors, while perennial herbs like Mint and Thyme are best grown in a sunny pot outside. There are so many herbs to try that you will need to be selective – only grow the herbs that you will use the most of to make the best use of the space available.

10. Chilli Peppers

Whether you prefer them mildly warm or blazing hot, growing your own chilli peppers has become increasingly popular with different varieties to suit different tastes. Chillies need a long growing season so start them off on your windowsill in early spring before moving them to a really sunny spot outdoors in the summer. Just one chilli plant will be sufficient to keep you supplied with these fiery fruits all summer long!

Source : Sue Sanderson

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