Growing vegetables in containers is becoming increasingly popular – and not just for gardeners with limited space. Today I’m going to share some ‘recipes’ for themed edible garden containers.
Why grow in containers?
Aesthetically, containers are a stylish choice which can be personalised to match and enhance existing décor. With large containers, an entire edible garden can be planted, giving you everything you need in one place. There are many other advantages to using containers:
• They’re easy to access
• It’s easy to fertilise and protect from pests
• There’s a reduction in soil borne disease as disease can’t spread from one container to another.
• You can move them to take advantage of the sun
Choosing a theme
With so many vegetables and herbs to choose from, selecting a theme for each container will help focus your planting, adding fun and interest to your vegetable garden. Colour, taste, scent and cuisine all influence the choice. The first thing to consider is what you and your family eat. It might be a great idea to plant a hot flavoured Mexican garden – but not if you’re the only one who likes chillies. Also consider the plants’ requirements – don’t mix and match plants with completely different watering or sunlight needs. Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. An Asian Oasis
Love Chinese food and Thai curries? Then an Asian themed garden is for you. Place in full sun and provide regular, deep watering.
What to grow:
• Lemon grass grows quite tall so plant it to the back. It loves being regularly cut. It will die down in frost but pop up in spring
• Asian lime leaves add a distinct lemon flavour to coconut soups and curries. A small citrus tree, it does well in containers as long as it’s fed regularly with slow release organic 3:1:5 fertiliser.
• Chillies provide essential Asian heat. Plant it near the front edge, where it is slightly hotter and dryer.
Asian greens (bok choy, mizuna, Chinese cabbage, tat soi and mustard) grow well grouped together. They prefer cooler weather – during hotter months use the lemon grass and Asian lime for shade.
• Coriander also goes to seed quickly in hot weather – but the seeds are delicious. For continual leaf supply, sow seeds every few weeks.
2. A Gourmet Salad Box
A raised box is ideal for salad ingredients. If you choose a large box you can include a lime or lemon tree for a salad dressing. Position in full sun or with some afternoon shade.
What to grow:
• Cherry tomatoes Grow them up a tall tripod in the centre.
• Mixed loose-leaf lettuce Sow in a block on the southern side of the tripod to prevent them from getting too much sun.
• Swiss chard Choose ‘Bright Lights’ to add robust flavour and colour. Plant on the northern side of the tripod as they love sun.
• Basil and spring onions Plant on the other sides of the tripod. Choose a selection of basils – from lemon flavoured to mint. Leave some spring onions to flower and they will re-seed seed themselves.
• Pansies and dianthus Plant around the edges to add colour to salads.
3. Essential Italian herbs
The flavours of Italy combined in one box makes for easy picking whether you are cooking pizza, pasta or creating a robust salad. This container is filled with herbs that like full sun and don’t need too much water. Use a well-drained growing medium.
Plants: Oregano, marjoram, rosemary and thyme.
• Oregano and marjoram are undemanding plants. Marjoram is mere sensitive to frost, whereas oregano is hardy.
• Rosemary will grow tall so keep it towards the back. It benefits from being regularly pruned to prevent it becoming woody. Cut it back in late spring.
• Perennial thyme bears pretty pink and white flowers in summer. Plant a selection (such as lemon, golden and variegated) to provide colour and flavour variation.
4. Other ideas to try:
• Cottage garden (mixed edibles and flowers)
• Mexican (chillies, coriander, tomatoes)
• Vegetable soup (onions, celery, carrots and chard)
• A First Aid box (herbal healing plants such as calendula, thyme and aloe vera)
Containers dry out more quickly than garden beds and need regular watering, sometimes as often as once a day in mid summer. The bigger and deeper the container, the less quickly it will dry out. Get into the habit of checking every day.
Drip irrigation works well in containers. Position the drip hose evenly across the surface and connect it with a hose attachment. The hose can be moved to adjust the amount of water different sections of the container receive.
As with watering, containers should be fed more regularly as the nutrients are washed out of the potting soil. Use a dry organic fertiliser every three to four months and a liquid organic fertiliser every month.
Looking for a really functional container to grow your own fresh organic vegetables? The Urban Box is a stylish yet practical option as it can be personalised to match and enhance the existing decor of any indoor or outdoor space. Utilising recycled wood from strong shipping pallets, its unique and innovative design allows for numerous variations of colour, size and height. With waterproof paint on the interior The Urban Box is a perfect growing container and will provide space-pressed gardeners with fresh, home-grown produce for years to come.
Plus you can buy a few matching ones to store your patio cushions in or use as seating. Optional wheels and handles make them easy to move. It is ideal for those with mobility or back problems and is an excellent choice for patios, balconies and rooftop gardens. With space saving Urban Boxes an abundant harvest can be gained from a relatively small area. To order, South African readers can call Jane on +27 82 898 6953, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
[Photographs: Jane Griffiths and Keith Knowlton]