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Fruit and veg on the patio3 June 2011
No space in the garden? On a long allotment waiting list? Grow-your-own on the patio instead, says Kris
It seems everyone wants to grow their own fruit and veg these days, but not everyone has the space to do it. There’s the option of signing up for an allotment plot, but if your local waiting lists are anything like mine, it’ll be years before you can get on-site and get growing.
While I wait for my council plot, I’m fortunate to have space for a small veg patch at the back of the garden, but it’s surprising how quickly it fills up, so I’m limited in what I can grow. Looking to boost my crops this season, I’m taking up some spare space on the patio to grow a range of fruit and veg in a variety of pots and containers.
Seed and plant suppliers are making it easier to grow veg in a limited space with the development of ‘mini veg’ and compact ranges, made up of varieties with compact habits and the ability to produce good yields despite being planted closely together.
Don’t worry about ruining the look of your patio: as you can see from the pictures here, veg containers can be made to look attractive as well as productive.
Add one veg plant to every summer bedding container you make – cherry toms are a good bet
Plants or seed?
At this stage in the season it may be better to buy young plants rather than grow from seed, to ensure crops come in before weather turns cold. So keep an eye out at the garden centre – and online from the likes of T&M, Suttons and Unwins – for anything with a compact habit. That said, results can still be had from seed if you get organised and sow very soon.
Which composts? (pic veg compost bag)
Any general multipurpose compost should be fine for growing most vegetables in containers.
For soft fruit and top fruit, which will stay in their containers for several years or more in containers it is best to plant with nutrient rich, loam-based John Innes no.3 compost. Each spring remove the top few inches of compost and replace with fresh.
It’s tempting to use the feed that you apply to your flower displays on your veg crops, especially when they are growing side by side on the patio, but do be careful. Some flower feeds are likely to contain ingredients that you wouldn’t want to eat, so stick to natural or veg-specific feeds where possible.