Spring is finally here and this article by Wyevale Garden Centre is an excellent guide to growing early vegetables in containers…
Most garden vegetables cannot be grown outdoors until the last frost of the winter has been and gone. However, there are a number of hardy vegetables that can hold their own against the cold and begin to thrive as early as March.
If you choose to grow them in containers, you get the added flexibility of being able to bring them indoors at night when it is coldest, and moving them back outdoors to a sunny location during the day. This a great method for getting your garden started in early spring, well before the traditional planting season begins. Container gardening is also a nifty solution for people who don’t have a lot of space in their gardens, or live in apartments or other buildings lacking a garden.
Read on to find out about the cool-weather vegetables that will help you kick-start your garden this spring.
There are several varieties of spinach that you can grow in containers. You can broadly classify them into two categories: savoy and semi-savoy, which tend to have crinkled leaves; and smooth leaf, which has a more even, softer texture. If this is your first attempt at growing spinach, you should try a few different kinds to see which will thrive in your climate.
The remarkable thing about spinach is the speed at which it grows — only taking around 40–45 days to reach the point that it’s ready to harvest. For the best results, keep your spinach in a shady spot during warmer weather, and fully in the sun during cooler weather. You will also want to keep the soil moist, but not soaked. You can read up on how to care for your container spinach on Balcony Container Gardening’s advice page.
Lettuce is a staple vegetable in most salads, which makes it very popular for container gardeners who like to harvest fresh leaves for their meals. Like all of the vegetables in this list, it can thrive in a container that is brought indoors in the cold, and put outdoors in the warmth. Having lettuce in a container also allows you more control over pests and weeds than in an open bed.
In terms of planting space, lettuces need quite a lot of room to spread their roots so you will need a 6 x 12-inch container at the very least if you want to plant more than one. Green lettuces require a constant supply of water, but cannot tolerate soggy roots, so a pot made from a porous material like clay is essential. Gardening Know How has published a detailed guide on planting, growing, and harvesting lettuces that contains specific advice on how to care for container-grown produce.
Radishes are known for their speedy growth and hardiness as a cool-weather crop. After planting, you can expect to harvest your radishes in around three weeks with the right conditions and care.
If you have children, radishes are a great crop to get them interested in growing their own vegetables, as they are quick and easy to plant and harvest. They are also popular among impatient adults too.
There are a number of pea varieties that thrive in container gardens, such as Mangetout ‘Sweet Horizon’, Pea ‘Avola’ and Pea ‘Bingo’, among many others. It will take around 45–50 days until they are ready for harvest, and grow as either vines or bushes depending on the variety.
Peas will need a container that is at least 12 inches across, with holes in the bottom for good drainage. They plant quite shallow, so bury them about 1 inch below the surface, with 2 inches between each seed. For watering, keep the soil moist, but be careful not to drench as it can be detrimental to growth. Take a look at The Container Garderners book. It provides information on how to plant them, as well as caring tips, harvesting, and storing your harvest.
There are many cool-weather vegetables that you can plant in your container garden, but the four we have listed here are some of the most adaptable and quickest growing around. Buy your seeds in advance this spring, and get sowing.