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Food growing for small spaces: growing food in containers

You don’t need a lot of space to harvest your own fresh homegrown produce. With a little creativity, it is possible to grow almost any vegetable in containers and pots, with a range of varieties that are perfectly suited to the smaller garden. Pots are also portable, so they can be moved around according to the seasons and can move with you if you move house!



Think about where you might be able to grow

  • Food plants generally like a lot of sun, around 5-6 hours a day

  • Grow outdoors - on a balcony, in a small raised garden bed, or vertically to maximise space

  • Growing indoors – think about growing smaller plants, like herbs in pots in your kitchen or try sprouting sprouts in a jar and make sure they are next to a sunny window


Containers and soil


  • Always use a good quality potting mix with good structure and drainage. You can find this readily available from your local gardening store.

  • Think about the types of containers you will be growing in:

- How much space do you have and what do you want the space to look like?

- Get creative with containers – repurpose tins, watering cans, or hessian sacks

- Arrange small pots in groups or use several larger pots to maximise space

  • The size and depth of the container will influence the type of vegetables that you can grow. Generally, shallow-rooted vegetables, like lettuces, require a soil depth of 20 to 25 cm is needed.

  • Larger crops like tomatoes or capsicums will need a depth of about 30 to 40 cm.


Choosing plants

  • Grow what you like to eat!

  • Choose your plants based on your available sunlight

  • Don’t overcrowd your containers! Give your plants space to grow and develop

  • Perennial herbs such as sage, rosemary, and thyme can be added to any meal

  • Try  growing a Silvery Fir Tree Tomato that is a great early ripening variety that doesn’t need staking or grow a Cherry Tomato Tumbler in a hanging basket

  • Bird’s Eye Chilli, capsicums, and mini Lebanese cucumbers have great compact forms for container growing

"Try out some easy annuals that are highly productive. Quick greens are great for small spaces and are fantastic cut and come again options like silverbeet, kale, parsley, or basil ."

Watering

  • Rather than sticking to a specific watering routine, stick your index finger up to the second knuckle into the potting media - if the tip of your finger feels moisture then hold off watering, if it feels dry then give the plants a drink.

  • Pots exposed to full sun will dry out very quickly, so remember to check them regularly and surface mulch the top of containers to reduce any water loss and the need for frequent watering.

Feeding

  • Nutrients can leach from containers quickly when watering regularly, so veggies in pots should be liquid fed roughly once a fortnight

  • Fish emulsion and seaweed liquid feeds are great organic and affordable options. Products to try include Charlie Carp and Seasol.

  • If you compost your food waste, top dress the pots with compost for a nutrient-rich feed, or liquid feed with worm tea made from 1 part worm wee to 10 parts water.


Harvesting

  • Some plants, like herbs, are healthier the more that you harvest them. Pinch out the tops of the plant to encourage the plant to shoot out more delicious foliage

  • If you have too much produce try preserving! You can make jams or chutneys from tomatoes, eggplants or berries, pickled cucumbers and root crops such as radishes or freeze herbs in oil in ice cube trays for later use!

Big or small, there is still nothing quite like the satisfaction of harvesting and eating your own homegrown vegetables.


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