Growing Asparagus, Herbs and Things in Garden Pots and Planters
There is no reason why in a very big box you should not grow the lovely and delicious asparagus. The foliage is light and airy, it has red berries in late summer, and if you are patient for several years you will be magically rewarded with sticks big enough to eat. When growing asparagus, it really does need a very rich compost and regular feeding and watering. In a bigyou could grow it with sweet peas, for asparagus foliage is often cut to go with sweet pea .
Although I have never tried them personally, figs are said to do well when grown in pots, enjoying the restriction of the roots. Hardyare also said to fruit well in a tub. I have, however, grown the ornamental purple-leafed vine which gives decorative little fruits.
I can see no good reason why raspberries, loganberries, and other soft fruits should not be grown in large garden pots and planters.
There are so manywhich make very satisfactory plants, and I have even grown some in wall baskets where space was at a premium. You may like the gold and silverleaved forms of thyme as well as the familiar green, and there are both white and pink flowered forms. All make pleasant additions to small container gardens and are also excellent for lining hanging baskets. Devoted cooks add thyme to stews, casseroles, and cheese and egg dishes. Parsley, which is said ‘to go to the devil and back’ before it comes up can have its germination speeded up slightly, if, after sowing you water it once with boiling water. It will grow in either shade or sun, and must not be allowed to dry out.
Pot marjoram can be produced in a big box or a tub, and the golden form makes a delightful foliage plant. This is a perennial but can be kept neat by trimming back. It likes full sun. Chives make a green grassy crop, with very pleasant purple drumstick flowers. The leaves are delicious chopped in salads, served on scrambled egg, and so on. The subtle onion flavour is said to ease coughs and colds. Chives are supposed to cureon , so may be worth planting in association with in containers. Again, in bigger containers grow yellow or purple forms of sage as well as the green which is traditional in stuffing for duck and with pork dishes. If pruned hard back in spring, sage can be kept within bounds.
There are dwarf lavenders arid ones with pink, white, or deep purple flower-heads. Control the growth by clipping back in spring. The flowers can be picked and dried for fragrant use in potpourri, lavender bags, etc. Ruta (rue) Jackman’s Blue makes lovely neat mounds of blue-grey. The bitter flavour of the filigree leaves makes it unsuitable for cooking but it is very decorative. It is reputed to have medicinal properties ; years ago people used to make ‘rue tea’ as a kind of cure-all.
Pieces of mint will quickly grow roots in water in summer. There are many sorts – apple mint, peppermint, variegated green and white mints, all of which are easy to grow as container plants.
A range of white plastic pots each holding a different herb keeps the spreaders such as mint in their rightful place and can look well edging steps or on a ledge, perhaps by the kitchen door.
Worth thinking about if you become really keen on growing greenhouse-type crops, but have no space for a real greenhouse, are the miniature glass houses now available to stand against a sunny wall. These are ideal for a balcony, patio, or terrace, and will accommodate plant boxes or growing bags. The Victorians used similar glass structures outside a suitable window.
Finally, two very useful kitchen crops which can be grown in big outdoor containers areand special offered by nurserymen specifically for outdoor cultivation. are raised from seed; sow the seed singly in 3 inch peat pots in a warm place in April. Plant outside in late May, or you can sow directly outside in May. Most courgettes are green, but there is a yellow one available which would look good in a window box. plants take up a lot of space, and one per window box would probably be enough unless your boxes are enormous.
Outdoor varieties of cucumbers are grown from seed sown from January to May in good seed compost with one seed to a 2 1/2 inch pot. Warm, moist conditions are necessary to get the young plants established. Water the pot and cover it with a plastic bag; a shelf over a radiator or in an airing cupboard could supply the heat. Plant out in late May. Alternatively, you can sow the seeds directly outdoors in late May. Particularly suitable for container cultivation are Patio-Pik (which my garden-nursery owner friend points out, takes up no more room than a cabbage) and Pot Luck. Both are compact hybrids. Patio-Pik should, even if neglected, produce 30 or more cucumbers per plant. It is an early producer. Pot Luck is another variety that I particularly recommend for garden pots and planters, and window boxes too.
There is not a great deal of interest commercially in forcing Asparagus officinalis, a member of the Lilaceae. But it is worth while lifting a few plants to produce succulent early shoots. Make up a hot bed out of manure and old leaves in a corner of the greenhouse; rapid fermentation should take place. When the temperature has dropped, put a thin layer ofor peat over the manure and pack in the asparagus plants tightly before covering with a further layer of soil or peat.
Alternatively they may be planted up in the greenhouse border, or in boxes of soil, in early mid-winter, and early shoots will be produced according to the temperature level provided. After harvesting the plants are generally destroyed.