This is the time of year that thoughts turn to future growing plans for the garden. There are all sorts of ways to organise your growing space, and we’ve come up with a little guide…
Pots & Containers:
There is very little that you can’t successfully grow in a pot or container. They are ideal for smaller gardens where growing space is restricted, particularly if your ideal growing space is on decking or patio. They are also really useful for popping just outside the front door so that you can easily access herbs or salad leaves which you will regularly use.
The key is to ensure the shape and size of the pot is suited to the plant. For example, spring onions, wild rocket and beetroots don’t need a huge amount of depth or space, so you’ll find growing them in a relatively shallow window box will be ideal, especially as the rectangular shape allows you to plant a couple of neat rows. In contrast, potatoes love depth, so a deep, wide bucket will be great. We would advise you get a rough plan together of what you want to grow, establish the type of container it will be best suited to, and then decide whether you have something suitable already or whether you need to find something new before you go out and buy/source lots of new pots.
There are loads of different types of planters available, and really they are not that different to pots and containers, just a bit bigger and promoted on the basis of doing a particular job – for example, we have a “potato planter“, a “tomato planter” and a “pea and bean planter“. Each is different in shape, depth and size, and thus serves a particular type of plant better than others. There’s also the more generic, traditional planter, which is kind of like a mini raised bed. You can plant various different things in this, but be mindful that root veggies like carrots, parsnips and potatoes need greater depth so won’t be well suited to this one. This planter makes a great starter veg patch for children to experiment with, and can be a good solution if you have very minimal space (for example on a balcony or patio) but want to grow several different crops. They are particularly good when used as a cut & come again salad patch as you can fit a lot of plants in.
Grow bags can be a good solution for making the most of little nooks and crannies in the garden. Most people immediately associate them with growing tomatoes, although we tend to find that the tomatoes don’t thrive as much as they do in deeper containers or in the ground. This is because their roots are somewhat restricted to quite a shallow area. In our opinion, grow bags are better for shallower crops like salad plants. If using them for tomatoes, we would suggest cutting the grow bag in half width ways and standing each half up on end in order to grow two tomato plants, rather than trying to grow three tomatoes with the grow bag lying flat.
Where they do come in handy is using them for temporarily heeling in plants and seedlings. When you Rocket Gardens plants arrive, for example, and you are too busy to plant immediately, you can simply cut off the top of the grow bag, water it and then loosely plug the plants into the compost until you are ready to plant properly. Likewise, when harvesting in the winter, you could pull up leeks and parsnips etc whilst the ground is soft, and heel them in in the grow bag until you are ready to use them. This is a good way to clear beds so that you can get to work on them again, and also helpful in avoiding your plants from being difficult to pull out of hard frozen soil!
Raised beds are probably the most popular option if you have a reasonable amount of space. They offer the benefits of improving drainage and soil type due to the addition of soil/compost. Since there is no base to the bed, the plants have access to the soil below as well which means that you can grow anything in a raised bed without worrying about depth. They’re quite aesthetically pleasing too, and require little digging as you can simply fill them with fresh compost which essentially blocks the weeds. You can build a raised bed at any height you like, which means you can grow your veg nice and high and thus limiting the amount of bending and kneeling you need to do. Typically, a raised bed has wooden edges. This does two things, it keeps the soil inside the bed and limits the number of weeds that creep in from outside, but it also provides a lovely habitat for slugs! Pros and cons.
These beds are not raised, but at ground level. These could be running along the edge of the garden around the border, or in the middle of the garden in a single patch with everything planted in rows. We like this option a lot as you can really fit a lot of veg in a small area, although it does often require a little digging and can be frustrating to keep the edges clean from weeds. If you go down this route, think about using a no-dig approach to improve the soil and restrict weed growth. This would involve starting off with raised beds by laying cardboard down and then filling with compost, and eventually removing the sides once the soil has settled. After that you would simply top up with fresh compost once a year.
When you are approaching your growing space, try to work out what YOU need. For example, do you need easy access from the kitchen? Will you be growing a lot or a little? Will you have time to tend your veggies in a large plot, or will you be better off with a few pots? Are you up for a bit of digging or do you have a bad back? There are no rights or wrongs – all gardeners have a different style and find that different things work for them. What we would say is that at the end of the day it really doesn’t matter whether you are using pots, grow bags or raised beds – as long as the plants have access to good soil, sunlight and water, then you’ll be able to get growing!