Growing Food In Containers
5: Seasonal planting
We’re in Autumn now and in this episode we take a look at our successes and challenges over the summer as well as plan for winter.
Leafy greens and tomatoes
- Our leafy greens have been a real success as have the cherry tomatoes. The upside-down hanging tomato didn’t do as well as the others, due to our humid climate which led to a bit of fungal infection from the dripping of water on the main stem of the plant. That affected plant growth, but we still enjoyed fruit from it. This idea will probably do better in climates that don’t experience humidity.
- And while lots of air movement is generally good at reducing fungal issues, too much wind can damage plants. We had too much wind at Chantal and Clinton’s and had to make a windbreak for the tomatoes, and we had to tie our upside down bucket to the container below as it was swinging around too much in the springtime.
- The herbs enjoyed container life. We had mint, sage, oregano and thyme at Leila’s and basil and parsley at the other two households.
- Leila got aphids on her eggplant and capsicum. We advised her to use Neem Oil in the evening 3 times, each application being 3 days apart and that worked well. We recommend wearing a pair of disposable gloves when applying Neem Oil.
Capsicums and cucumbers
- The capsicums are turning red, the cucumbers produced prolifically and at the time of filming we were on our second plants at Chantal and Clinton’s and Leila’s.
Carrots and beetroot out, broccoli and cauliflower in
- Carrots at Pascale’s and the carrots and beetroot at Chantal and Clinton’s are ready and even though you could just eat them when you’re ready to, for the purposes of filming we’re harvesting the lot and planting one broccoli and one cauliflower in each of the bags instead.
- Comparing the number of carrots and beetroot we get out of one bag to getting one broccoli head or one cauliflower from the same space, you can see it’s not really worth growing these vegetables in a small container garden. We’re putting these plants in though so the children can experience what they’re like when they’re growing.
- Out of our harvested crops we make an easy raw energy salad with the beetroot and carrots. With the tomatoes and cucumbers we make a Greek salad.
- If, and it’s a big if, you can, try rotating the type of crops in your containers. Ideally it goes root crop to fruiting crop to leafy green. And if you can manage it, you could put a nitrogen-fixing crop like broad beans or lupins into the mix as well. The point of this is so that the soil is not constantly depleted of the nutrients that one crop in particular likes.
- So the root crops of beetroot and carrots are followed by a leafy green broccoli and cauliflower. We suggest replacing the tomatoes with a small variety of cabbage, so that’s a fruiting crop changing to a leafy green crop.
- When re-planting we also need to top up the container with potting mix if it’s become compacted and sunk down, add a nitrogen source when planting leafy greens like sheep pellets or chicken manure and we recommend a well-balanced fertiliser like Natures Organic Fertiliser as well and this is for all vegetables.
Potatoes and zucchini
- Our bag of potatoes at Chantal and Clinton’s matured just before Christmas and we left them at the doorstep of the family.
- Into that bag we planted a zucchini – a root crop to fruiting crop rotation. It’s developed powdery mildew due to our humid climate. Firstly take off the worst affected leaves. Solutions that help alkalise the leaves and prevent it getting worse include 1 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 litre of water, or one part of milk to 10 parts of water or a solution of Flowers of Sulphur. Alternatively apply a foliar spray of liquid seaweed during the growing period as that can head off powdery mildew.
- We’ve changed out our summer flower pots to flowers that do well in winter – in one we have viola and alyssum, and in another we have calendula and lobelia.
- Our strawberry patch at Chantal and Clinton’s grew well but didn’t produce as many strawberries as we’d hoped. Next time we’ll add more potassium, comfrey spray and/or Sulphate of Potash, to the soil to encourage fruiting.
- The plants are putting out runners, so we create new plants from the nodes on these runners by pushing the nodes down into potting mix in pots and securing the runner with a pin (we made ours from paper clips). Leave the runner attached to the mother plant until the plant starts growing on its own. After 2-3 weeks and signs of visible growth you can detach the new plants. At the end of autumn, ideally in a First Quarter moon phase, take the old plants out, fill the containers with more potting mix and plant out the new plants you’ve made. Apply a well-balanced organic fertiliser round the new plants.
Celery and Florence fennel and lettuces
- Other vegetables that do well in winter are cutting or Chinese celery and Florence fennel – they both like lots of water. They also need at least 500mm of potting mix to grow in as they’re deep-rooted, unlike our lettuces which will grow in a small pot as they’re shallow-rooted. Lettuces are hungry though, so don’t forget sheep pellets or chicken manure.
- Our citrus trees are doing well – still tiny but most have at least 2-3 fruit on them this year, and next year they’ll put on lots more growth and produce more.
- After 3-4 years in a container the plant will need a root prune. After the tree has finished fruiting, extract the plant from its container. If that’s difficult lay the plant and container on its side and let it dry out a bit. Then you’ll be able to pull it out easily. Using a regular saw take off a bit from the bottom and a bit off one side – around 25% in total. Add more potting mix to the bottom of the container and some fertiliser, then place the tree back in the container and backfill with fresh potting mix. Water in well.
If you have any questions contact us on email@example.com
Happy food gardening!
Camera: Davian Lorson
Editor: Michael Hardcastle