Potty about pots

We took bank holiday Monday as the perfect opportunity to spend a day in the garden – the weather was fantastic! As many people (especially newer growers) do not have that much space to devote to growing vegetables, we thought we would share with you the types of things it is possible to grow in pots and containers.

Something that is perfect for this is salad veg! Therefore, we planted out some red onions, cos and little gem lettuces and some of the beetroot which we sowed the other week into c.30 litre pots.

To prepare the pots, we shovelled some soil out of the garden into the pot to fill them about a third full. This is to give the pots a bit of weight and stop them tipping over once the plants are growing in them. We then filled the pots to the top with a multipurpose compost and watered them well.

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The lettuces, onions and beetroot had been sown previously in cell trays, so these were carefully removed from their cell tray and planted out into the pots. After planting, they were given another light water to settle them in.

Other salad veg that you would more typically sow in the pot from seed are spring onions and carrots. Carrots are about one of the only vegetables that do not deal with transplanting particularly well. It is certainly possible with some varieties such as the “ball shaped” carrots Paris Market Atlas, however we were sowing Ideal Red which are a fast maturing Nantes type and therefore prone to forking and misshapen-ness if transplanted. Before sowing the seeds, we sieved a fine layer of the multipurpose compost on to the top to act as a great seed bed.

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The seeds were then sown directly on to this, pressing them gently into the seed bed we’d just created and then covering with a further coating of sieved compost.

We also thought we’d try some runner beans in a large container. We worked out that we would fit roughly 8 runner bean plants in a circle round the container, so set about creating a topper for the wigwam to keep the canes in place. Although it is possible to just tie them at a single point at the top, our aim was to create a topper which did not taper the canes to a single point, therefore giving the plants more light and space to grow at the top.

We used an old bucket and marked out and drilled 8 holes for the canes to be pushed through. We then cut the base of the bucket off to create a topper and pushed the canes through before assembling the wig wam in the container.

A runner bean plant was planted to one side of each cane and watered in thoroughly.

There were some beetroot plants left over, so we planted these out in a spare spot in the garden. They were planted around 3″ apart, watered in and then covered with a cloche to keep them protected from the wind and any cold weather which we may still have to come.

When getting plants out of the small cell trays, we find it is much easier using an old pencil. Push the pencil up through the hole at the bottom of the cell tray and release the plant. Although squeezing the sides to release a plant works brilliantly with larger pots and plants with a more established root system, it can sometimes do more harm than good to smaller plants and seedlings.

We also got round to thinning out the carrots we cored the holes for and sowed a number of weeks ago. To do this, you first pick the strongest, most upright looking carrot out of those which have grown at each sowing station. You then firmly grip each carrot which you want to remove in turn as close to the compost as possible and pull it out, trying to pull away from the carrot which you intend to leave. This is in order to try and prevent any damage to the carrot which you are leaving to grow to maturity.

After thinning, a collar made from plastic piping is put over each sowing station and the carrots are doused with a solution of liquid seaweed. The purpose of the collar is to prevent greening on the shoulders of the carrot later in the season. You will find that as a carrot grows, its shoulders will push up out of the soil slightly. Before this happens, we fill each collar with some compost to stop the carrot coming into contact with the light as it pushes up and going green.

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The seaweed solution is used as a preventative method against carrot root fly. Carrot root fly can smell carrots a mile off, and the last thing you want is for the carrot root flies to know where your crop is! Therefore, by watering the carrots after thinning with a solution of seaweed which is equally if not more pongy than the carrot seedlings you have just extracted, we hope to confuse the carrot root fly and prevent them from finding our carrots!

The potato we planted a number of weeks ago has also started to sprout. We’ll keep you updated with progress!

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