Plenty of delicious vegetables will grow well in pots and containers, helping you to get big harvests from small spaces.
Many crops look very ornamental too, so if you plant them in attractive containers they’ll look great in a sunny spot on a patio or next to paths. Water and feed the plants regularly, and site the containers close to the house for maximum convenience.
More advice on growing vegetables:
Try out these container crop combinations on your own plot.
Lettuce and tomatoes
You will need: Four cordon cherry tomato plants (‘Rosella’, ‘Sungold’, ‘Gardener’s Delight’, Ildi’); 12 lettuce plug plants (‘Salad Bowl’, ‘Red Salad Bowl’, ‘Green Oakleaf’), four bamboo canes, multi-purpose peat-free compost, large reclaimed metal tub (approx. 80cm wide x 60cm deep with drilled drainage holes), liquid tomato feed.
Grow it: Cordon tomatoes are tall but take up little space at soil level, so lettuces can be planted at their feet. Both grow well in moist, rich compost, and lettuces will grow well in the light shade cast by the tomatoes. Stand the tub in your sunniest, most sheltered spot. Plant the tomatoes 20cm apart, with a cane for support, then fill in around them with the lettuce plugs. Water regularly. Once the tomato flowers appear, start feeding fortnightly with a liquid tomato fertiliser.
Harvesting: Pick the tomatoes as they ripen in summer. With the lettuces, pick a few outer leaves from each plant every few weeks.
Carrots and chives
Grow it: Pink chive flowers and feathery carrot leaves make this a pretty combination. Both crops are tolerant of drying out and like a free-draining soil, so use John Innes No.2 compost and place the crate in a sunny spot. Fill it with compost, then take two chive plants and split both into four smaller clumps. Plant these in the crate, spaced evenly. Then sow the carrot seeds thinly around them, around 5cm apart.
Water in, and continue watering regularly – don’t let the compost dry out, especially when the carrot roots are forming. Thanks to their pungent aroma, plants in the onion family are said to deter carrot fly, so the chives may help to combat this pest.
Harvesting: Snip chive leaves and flowers as and when you need them and the plants will keep growing. Harvest the carrots when they’re about the size of radishes.
Kale and beetroot
You will need: One curly kale plant grown from seed such as ‘Starbor’ or ‘Dwarf Green Curled’, beetroot seeds ‘Bolthardy’, multi-purpose peat-free compost, terracotta pot (approx. 40cm wide x 40cm high).
Grow it: Kale leaves are beautiful, but as you harvest them from the base, the plant can start to look ungainly after a while. Underplanting with beetroot hides the bare stem. Place the pot in a sunny spot and fill with compost. Sow the beetroot seeds into the pot (4cm apart, thinning to 8cm) and leave a space in the centre for the kale.
Then sow a few kale seeds into a modular tray. When the kale seedlings are 10cm tall, transplant the strongest one into the large pot. Water regularly and watch out for slugs, snails and caterpillars. After two weeks, feed with liquid seaweed fortnightly.
Harvesting: Pick some beetroot leaves for salads when small, and harvest the kale leaves from the base up. After about 12 weeks, dig up the beetroots when golf-ball sized.
French bean and spinach
You will need: Six climbing French bean plants ‘Cosse Violette’ grown from seed, perpetual spinach seeds, multi-purpose peat-free compost, six hazel sticks (1-1.5m long), large plastic pot (approx. 50cm wide x 45cm high), liquid seaweed feed.
Grow it: Climbing French beans and perpetual spinach are a safer bet in pots than runner beans and normal spinach, as they’re more tolerant of drying out. They still need regular and generous watering though, especially when the beans are forming. Place your large pot in a warm, sheltered spot, fill with compost, then sow the spinach seeds 4cm apart.
In separate small pots, sow 12 climbing French bean seeds, then place on a sunny indoor windowsill or in a greenhouse to grow. When the bean plants are 15cm tall, push six sticks around the edge of the large pot and tie at the top to make a wigwam. Remove the young bean plants from their pots and plant the strongest six at the base of the sticks. Thin out the spinach seedlings to 8cm apart. Water regularly and feed fortnightly with liquid seaweed.
Harvesting: For the tastiest, most tender beans, pick the pods before the beans inside start to bulge. Keep picking leaves from the spinach and the plants will crop for months.
Chillis and thyme
Grow it: Make sure the trough has plenty of drainage holes in the base. Half-fill it with a free-draining soil-based compost, such as John Innes No. 2. Remove the plants from their pots, then position one thyme at each end and one in the middle, and the two chillies at the back. Fill around them with compost and firm in gently. Water well and place on a warm windowsill. Water weekly and feed the chillies with tomato feed fortnightly. Pick the chillies when they turn red.
This colourful combination is one for a sun-baked window ledge, where the chillies can ripen and the thyme develop its aromatic oils. Choose compact chilli varieties, perhaps two that ripen at slightly different times.
Harvesting: Pick the chillies at the end of the summer, as they turn red. Keep snipping sprigs of thyme and trim the plants back lightly after flowering.