Container gardening

Information sheet

Container gardening will enable any school to grow herbs and vegetables without needing a garden or allotment.

  • School term: Early Autumn, Late Autumn, Late Spring, Early Summer
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
  • Subject(s): Science, PSHE

The advantages of container gardening

  • Containers can be sited close to the classroom, reducing problems of supervision
  • They are small and maneagable so children can care for them easily and even take them home for the holidays
  • Smaller containers can be started indoors and transferred outside when the weather improves
  • Containers that are accessible for everyone can be used
  • Growing in containers enables you to grow plants that are unsuitable for your school soil, such as blueberries that need ericaceous (acid) soil
  • Containers can brighten up an area or be used to disguise 'eyesores'
  • There is less chance of pest damage in containers

The disadvantages of container gardening

  • Containers can dry out easily so need watering and feeding more frequently
  • They are easy for intruders to steal
  • Only small amounts of vegetables can be grown in containers, so match the size of the crop to the container
  • Pots can restrict plant growth. This can also be an advantage making some plants a more manageable size

Vegetables to grow in containers

Aubergine 'Adona' or 'Bonica', begin indoors or under glass
Beetroot 'Boltady', 'Pable' or globe varieties
Capsicum (Sweet pepper) 'Canape', 'Ace', 'Gypsy' and 'Ariane'
Carrot 'Paris Market - Atlas', 'Adelaide', 'Caracas' and 'Royal Chantenay'
Chilli 'Orange Wonder', 'Super Chilli', 'Razzamatazz' and 'Prairie Fire'
Courgette 'Bambino', 'Early Gem', 'Floridor' and 'Venus' are good in grow bags
French beans 'Ferrari', 'Maja', 'Sonesta', 'The Prince' and 'Purple Tepee'
Lettuce 'Little Gem', 'Red Salad Bowl' as smaller varieties also use salad leaf mixes
Onions 'White Lisbon' and spring onions
Potatoes Buy seed potatoes such as 'Swift' and earth up in the container as they grow
Radish 'Cherry Belle', 'Scarlet Globe', 'Topsi', 'Sparkler', 'Bright lights' and 'French Breakfast'
Ruby chard 'Bright Lights' is a colourful spinach-like plant
Runner Beans use a compact variety such as 'Hestia'
Salad leaves such as mustard, rocket, sorrel, mizuna, lambs lettuce and many more, can all be grown in containers
Spring onion 'White Lisbon', 'Ramrod', 'Katana', 'Gaurdsman', 'Lilia' and many more
Tomatoes check which varieties are compact and suitable for gowing in containers. Tumbling types are good for hanging baskets

Herbs, strawberries and many edible flowers are also suitable for growing in containers.

Types of readymade containers

  • Grow bags
  • Various pots and troughs in plastic or terracotta
  • Plant bags
  • Hanging baskets
  • Window boxes

Recycled containers

  • Old boots/shoes
  • Bricks with holes
  • Old pots, pans, colanders etc.
  • Tin cans
  • Baskets or wooden crates
  • Anything else with drainage holes

Important points to remember when container gardening

  • Containers not intended as plant pots may need drainage holes drilled into them
  • 'Holey' containers may need a lining of horticultural fleece or plastic netting such as shade cloth.
  • Standing containers on bricks or tiles may avoid waterlogging
  • Where plants are permanent (for more than one year) use a soil based compost and a slow release fertiliser to keep them healthy

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