Growing Herbs or Vegetables in Garden Pots and Planters

herb garden planter

So, You Fancy Growing Something for the Pot?

Try Your Hand at Growing Herbs or Vegetables in Garden Pots and Planters or Even Window Planters

To grow something delicious to eat if you have no garden or only a minute one may seem a bit of a pipe-dream. But with container gardening it is surprising how many fruits, vegetables, and herbs can be grown. They not only give crops but look interesting at the same time. You can even grow ‘baked beans’, the 12-inch-tall bean plants called Pearly King to serve with tomato sauce!

And what could look more appealing than a smart row of crisp green lettuce in the box outside the kitchen window? They could be interspersed with chives and parsley for variation of leaf, or with Swiss ruby chard which is edible, has attractive green leaves and plum-pink stems, and is decorative all winter if you don’t eat it. Chives have an added bonus – purple mop-headed flowers. Even a radish has a neat leaf rosette, and could be sown along with ornamental cabbages or red, pink, white, and green decorative kale.

Here are some edible possibilities, depending on the size and depth of your window planters or other suitable garden pots or planters:

Lettuce springs immediately to mind. It can be raised so easily from seed, which germinates readily out of doors or in the kitchen window. Sow the seed sparingly about 1/2 an inch deep. A first sowing can be made on a mild day in March. The butterhead or crisphead lettuces are more attractive visually than the cos, and can even make a pleasing accompaniment to a few scarlet geranium plants or dwarf African marigolds if you don’t mind mixing the edible and inedible. Seed catalogues list a wide variety of lettuce, including one called Windowsill. Webb’s Wonderful is a favourite, with its close-packed centre giving it a Peter Rabbit look. Tom Thumb is also good for this purpose, and what about a red-foliaged lettuce such as Red Grenoble, adding colour not only to the planting but to salads?

With sheltered window planters, garden pots or planters or patio pots tucked out of sight, you could do as a flat-dwelling friend of mine does and put plastic cloches right over the containers, sowing in autumn Arctic King lettuce for early spring salad crops. There are also small plastic domes on sale under which lettuce will survive the winter. Lettuce does not like to dry out, and is best kept out of hot situations. Regular watering is very necessary or your lettuce will be inclined to run to seed — though this can be quite pretty to look at.

If you like garlic in cooking, buy a couple of bulbs, split off the individual cloves as though you were going to cook with them, and plant them in February. They like a light soil, and the cloves should be just covered with soil when planted. Water and feed regularly and lift the crop when the leaves die down in late summer, hanging the bulbs up to dry in the sunshine. A few cloves planted in the autumn in a sheltered box will supply fresh garlic early the following year. The foliage of garlic is onion-like and not particularly great, except that it gives a long-pointed leaf shape to a window box.

Strawberry plants give a touch of luxury to a window box or hanging basket in a sunny aspect, though they will not tolerate a dry, ‘mean’ soil. I have had great success with them in deep, rich loam which has been well manured, and with copious watering — really good soakings —particularly in dry weather, and regular liquid feeds. If strawberry plants are allowed to dry out the fruit shrivels, the plant looks sad, and possibly will not fruit again that year.

I find that a deep, average-sized hanging basket will support only two plants at the most, and needs constant attention. Deep window planters and tubs are probably easier, and there are large strawberry pots which look elegant standing in tall windows. However, the little alpine strawberries are suitable for shallower garden planters, and look very pretty trailing their doll’s house size fruits. Where some protection is available — for instance, in a conservatory or sun lounge — you can buy a special strawberry growing kit. Tubes of polythene are hung vertically, filled with the growing medium provided. With the kit comes a sachet of plant nutrient, a trickle irrigation system, and a dozen strawberry plants. They are planted in July through holes made in the tubes. The whole thing is interesting, decorative, and takes up hardly any space.

Alpine strawberries are grown from seed in the early part of the year and fruit within three months of sowing. The small sweet fruits, usually sold only in the most exclusive shops, are really rather special. With all strawberries, take off the runners on sight the first year; in subsequent years runners can be allowed to grow on to make a new plant and so increasing the stock, for strawberry plants need to be replaced every three years. Buy virus-free plants rather than taking gifts from a friend, for these may have become diseased.

An enthusiast will never be defeated. A friend of mine who has only a tiny garden grows magnificent strawberries overhead by using an old length of roof guttering lined with polythene. It has holes in the bottom for drainage. The strawberries hang down clean and free of snail-bites and look superb.

Outdoor tomatoes have really come into their own with the advent of the special plastic bags full of compost or other growing medium, marketed under various names including Gro-bag and Growing Bag, into which the tomatoes are planted through holes cut in the top. Feeding is begun as the first truss of flowers begins to set fruit, using special liquid tomato feeds. The amount of watering required depends on the weather and the size of the plants, though the compost must always be kept thoroughly moist and an astonishing one-and-a-half gallons of water per bag per day may be required in very hot weather. This crop needs a sunny, sheltered position to succeed.


Dwarf tomatoes such as the two-foot-high Pixie could be planted either side of a deep window box. A friend of mine who always grows them gets an early and plentiful crop, even in a poor summer. A friend of mine who owns a garden nursery says that Pixie is the fastest-ripening tomato in the world. At any rate, it can be grown not only in outside window planters, garden pots and planters, etc., but also as an attractive indoor cropper for winter if a few plants are raised in late summer.

Tiny Tim is a 15-inch-high baby which gives many bright scarlet small fruits. There is even a tomato offered specially for hanging baskets, as well as window boxes etc. It is called Sub Arctic Cherry; it makes a low, spreading, pendulous growth. Other useful kinds include Primabel, Roma, and the F.1 hybrid Sigmabush; all do well outdoors. For something unusual there are tomatoes with yellow and red stripes — Mr. Stripy and Tigerella — and the gold-fruited Golden Sunrise. Or you could try a packet of Mixed Ornamental, which produces a mixture of miniature fruits, red and yellow and pear, plum, and currant shaped, for use in salads and hors d’oeuvres. Sow the seed from January to March in heat, such as a warm kitchen. Prick out into garden pots and plant outdoors no earlier than late May to June.

Discover the world of vegetable container gardening and see how satisfying growing herbs and vegetables on a small scale can be.

04. September 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Berries, Container Gardening, Fruit & Veg, Gardening Ideas, Herbs, Salads | Tags: , | Comments Off on Growing Herbs or Vegetables in Garden Pots and Planters


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers: