How To Grow Fruit and Veg in Containers

If you have a small garden or patio area or even just window boxes it is still possible to grow a good selection of fruit and vegetables.
You can grow a huge variety of herbs, vegetables and fruit in pots and containers, they are perfect if you have very little room and are just starting out. Pots and containers come in a number of different materials from terracotta to metal, however, by following these simple rules you should see a successful crop.

1. Choose the right sized container
You will need large deep pots to grow root vegetables such as potatoes and carrots, whilst crops such as beetroot and onions can be grown in shallower containers. Big, vigorous plants such as courgettes, tomatoes and beans need large pots filled with plenty of organic matter to accommodate their roots.

Lettuce and other leaves can be grown in window boxes along with beetroot and small carrot varieties such as Chantenay.

Need more plant pots? We have a range of colourful pots and containers that are perfect for growing fruit and veg.

2. Make sure you water
Pots and containers will dry out very quickly, especially in hot weather. Even when it rains the soil may not get wet enough so regular watering is a must. The compost should be moist at all times but not waterlogged. Raingel crystals are ideal as they will help to retain moisture, releasing it slowly back into the soil. Mulching the surface of the pot will also help to retain moisture.

3. Good drainage
It’s important to keep your pots moist but you must also ensure you’ve got good drainage. Roots will quickly rot in the waterlogged soil. Drill additional drainage holes in the bottom of your container and line the base with stones or old broken pots and gravel. Use light, free-draining soil and ideally raise the pots off the ground as well.

4. Good compost
Different varieties prefer different compost. Tomatoes, beans, potatoes and courgettes all prefer plenty of rich organic matter whilst herbs and carrots prefer light, well-drained soil. Most multi-purpose composts are fine, add sand or grit to give a free-draining soil or mix in grow bag compost and well-rotted manure for plants that prefer rich soil.

5. Regular feeding
Because of the limited amount of soil in pots they can quickly run out of nutrients. Regular watering exacerbates this as nutrients can be flushed out as well. Use a good slow-release fertiliser mixed in when planting and depending on the variety, a high potassium feed for fruiting plants such as tomatoes and peppers or a feed high in nitrogen for leafy crops. Root vegetables will need a phosphorous rich fertiliser.

6. Good positioning
Where you position your pots is very important. In full sun they will quickly dry out and climbers such as beans and peas will not tolerate windy or exposed sites. The best fruit and veg for growing in containers:
Most vegetables and soft fruit can be grown in containers; some varieties are better suited than others. It is worth experimenting with as you will quickly find out what works best.

Sow outdoor varieties such as Gardener’s Delight in grow bags and keep them supported. Alternatively, try bush tomatoes such as Micro-Tom for growing in pots and cascading varieties such as Tumbling Tom for growing in hanging baskets. If you are unsure, choose a good outdoor tomato collection.

Read our How to Grow Tomatoes Guide.

Short varieties such as Chantenay are great for growing in window boxes, especially as carrot root fly won’t be able to reach them. Other varieties can be grown in deeper containers in light, sandy soil.

Works well in long, shallow planters and window boxes. You’ll need to thin them out as they grow to allow them space. Don’t worry; the thinnings taste great in salads.

Salad Leaves
Most lettuces and salad leaves will grow well in pots and containers. Choose a ‘cut and come again’ collection if you have limited space and you’ll get a regular supply.

Read our How to Grow Lettuce Guide.

The easiest thing to grow in large containers. Use good, rich compost and make sure the container is at least 20” (50cm) deep. Slowly pile up the soil as the green shoots appear and keep moist at all times. For a good supply throughout the season choose a Potato Collection comprising 1st Early, 2nd Early and Main Crop varieties.

Ideal for containers or grow bags, they’ll need plenty of rich organic matter, some people even grow them on open compost heaps! Choose a compact variety as they can sprawl, keep moist at all times and harvest the courgettes when they are 4” (10cm) long.

French and Runner Beans
Choose the dwarf varieties for growing in pots. Runner Bean Hestia is particularly well suited as is Dwarf French Bean Tendergreen. Use tall containers filled with manure-rich compost as the roots like to grow deep. Keep picking the beans to encourage more pods. If space is limited choose a collection and grow several varieties in one tub. Climbing varieties can be grown in larger containers, arrange the canes in a wigwam for best results.

Read our How to Grow Beans Guide.

The queen of container fruits, they are ideal because they don’t need much room and don’t need much looking after. Plant in ordinary-sized tubs, pots, containers and window boxes in August and pick the fruits in June or July next year. Some varieties can even be grown in hanging baskets.

Read our How to Grow Strawberries Guide.

Autumn fruiting Raspberries are the best for growing in containers. Varieties such as Autumn Bliss are ideal; they will thrive in sun or partial shade and will fruit until the first frosts. To prune, cut down the canes to the level of compost in February to give a good crop in autumn.

Read our How to Grow Raspberries Guide.

These make excellent container plants. You will need a tub that is at least 45cm (18”) deep filled with ericaceous (acidic) compost. They are long-lived, hardy and self-fertilising so only one bush is needed.

Read our How to Grow Blueberries Guide.

Figs benefit from having their roots restricted to make ideal container plants. Plant in a large tub against a south-facing wall and train as it grows. Protect from frost the tiny fruits that form at the end of summer – they will form into next years figs. Re-pot every 2 to 3 years.

Inspired to grow fruit and veg in pots? Take a look at our fruit and vegetable collection.