With a few pots and containers placed on windowsills, you can have fresh veg and salad leaves within snipping distance of the kitchen table.
Spring provides the ideal growing conditions to get your containers off to a flying start, whether you're growing from seed or planting up potted or plug plants.
Multi-purpose compost is perfect for most veg, but do boost it with slow-release fertiliser granules. Group plants together that enjoy the same conditions or make good companions – for example, marigolds exude chemicals that repel pests, while nasturtiums attract pollinators. They'll also make your containers more colourful.
- Companion planting combinations
- Tips to get the best from veg in pots
- Low maintenance veg and fruit to grow
Check out these ideas on windowsill veg containers to plant up, for delicious harvests.
Lettuce and radish
In just a few weeks from planting plugs, this lime-green baby lettuce will mature – just enough time to grow a filler crop of pink and purple radishes at the edges. Harvest the lettuce's outer leaves to encourage more leaf growth. Purple salad leaves are a great fast-growing, cut-and-come-again crop, so keep sowing seedlings to fill gaps.
Time to harvest: lettuce, 30 days from plugs; radish 25-50 days from seed.
Kohlrabi and beetroot
Use an inexpensive watering can to create a fun container. Pierce the base for drainage and add stones for ballast. This combo is about giving a home to any leftover veg plants or thinnings. We used beetroot, kohlrabi and salad leaves with trailing nasturtium to attract pollinating insects and draw pests away from the kohlrabi. Keep well watered.
Time to harvest: beetroot and kohlrabi, 35 days; lettuce, 30 days – all from plugs.
Peas, beans and carrots
Peas and beans grow up and carrots down, so they're not competing for the same space. Dwarf varieties are best for growing in pots. The container should be big enough to anchor twiggy pea sticks in deep compost to support the growing veg. Harvest frequently to encourage more pods. Water regularly, especially when pods are swelling.
Time to harvest: beans, 30 days; peas, 60 days; carrots, 80 days – all from plugs.
Carrots and spring onions
Carrots don't mind jostling among other veg, but they need depth, so a round variety is essential for container gardening. Grow spring onions with them as they're an easy filler crop and will help deter carrot root fly, as will chrysanthemums. Carrots are not as sensitive to drought as many veg, so should be happy until they mature in this unconventional home.
Time to harvest: carrots and spring onions, 45 days from plugs.
Tomatoes and chives
This rustic woven-willow planter contains tomato plants that should fruit prolifically if kept evenly watered and fed with tomato fertiliser once the flowers appear. The chives will repel aphids and can be added to tomato salads, and the marigolds will help prevent whitefly. If there isn't enough room for companion plants, plant them in pots close by.
Time to harvest: both tomatoes and chives, 120 days from plugs.
Chillies and herbs
Long-term container residents such as chilli plants need plenty of food to fruit, so add a slow-release fertiliser to the compost at planting, and give weekly potassium-rich feeds when they start to flower. Pick frequently to encourage more fruits. The onion is planted to repel aphids, while oregano covers the soil like a mulch. Mint is also good for repelling pests.
Time to harvest: 3-5 months for plugs.
Tips for container success
- Extend your sills by placing an old garden table, bench or chair in front of it. The extra warmth means you can experiment and keep sowing to keep your outdoor larder well stocked
- The bigger the container, the better, but almost any receptacle can be used if it fits on the windowsill, has drainage holes and is secured safely
- Salad leaves can tolerate just 15cm of compost, but most veg needs more, especially heavy crops like tomatoes and peppers. Anchor containers with stones in the base
- As soon as plug plants are delivered, give them a good soak and get them planted, even if just temporarily. Keep pots irrigated daily, especially in hot weather, as they dry out quickly
- Tomatoes need picking when ripe or they quickly go over, chillies should be harvested frequently to keep the plant producing fruit (and get hotter the longer they're left on the plant)
- Pick peas from the base of the plant up and spring onion leaves from the outside in. Use small scissors to cut just what you need