Balconies, patios and windowsills can be productive spaces for flowers and vegetables that prove size isn’t everything.
Generally, the deeper the container the better as this will provide a reservoir of moisture and nutrients for your plants. Avoid using pots less than 23cm in diameter and deep, as these will dry out far too quickly in hot weather. Plastic containers hold moisture better than clay or earthenware
Make sure your container has drainage holes. Add a layer of drainage material at the bottom, such as broken clay pots or large stones.
Container plants need more watering and feeding than plants in the ground. Group them together to make watering easier. Morning or evening watering is best as less water is lost to evaporation. A top dressing of horticultural grit, stones or shells will retain moisture and suppress weeds.
Commercial compost contains enough fertilisers to give 6-8 weeks of strong growth. After this, you may need to feed your plants with liquid fertilisers; tomato feeds and seaweed feeds are good. Again, the larger the container the longer multi-purpose composts will last.
You don’t need an allotment to grow veg, containers can do a good job too. Well-chosen pot-grown vegetables can produce a stunning display of interesting foliage as well as delicious, nutritious food.
Sow seeds into watered multi-purpose compost and then cover lightly with more compost.
Carrots – sow 30 seeds into a 25cm diameter pot. By spacing evenly, thinning out shouldn’t be needed.
French beans – bush types (non-climbing) are ideal for pots. You’ll get a bean feast with 6-8 bean plants in a 25cm container.
Lettuce – ideal for cut-and-come again crops. Sow seeds about 2.5cm apart and cut off leaves at base when 10cm high. Sow every 2 weeks.
Tomatoes – compact bush varieties like ‘Losetto’ and ‘Tumbler’ will produce bountiful late summer crops. Containers should be at least 25cm in diameter and 30cm deep. If your balcony is high, (pollinating insects may not fly that up to 3rd floors and above) then you may need to pollinate the flowers yourself by using a pencil or cotton bud to fertilise.
Add flavour to your cooking by growing herbs which will add colour and scent to your windowsill or balcony.
Some herbs like lemon balm, chive, parsley and sorrel enjoy light shade and can be planted in a rectangular container 50cm long by 25cm wide filled with compost.
Basil, coriander, mint, dill, and parsley will grow well in pots and will come again after being cut.
Can’t buy seeds? Get supermarket pot-grown herbs, divide rootball gently and re-pot them in 9cm pots with multi-purpose compost. Cut most of foliage to lower buds and they will produce new shoots.
Lavender and rosemary can be propagated from cuttings.
Create a classic white look in a 45cm long container featuring:
Plant the pelargonium in the centre towards the back and add marguerites on either side. Put two verbenas in the back corners and Senecios in the front corners. The bacopa will trail from the front in the centre. Water well and keep in a sunny spot.