Don’t let small spaces stop you from reaping the rewards of homegrown organic vegetables. With the advent of organic potting mix and fertilisers, you can now grow organic produce successfully in pots in just a few simple steps!
Benefits of potted vegetables over garden beds
- Pots are easier to hand water than garden beds during periods of water restrictions,
- Easier to find a ‘babysitter’ with pots when you go on holidays, take to a friends house or pop in a bath tub of water,
- Pots are relatively easy to shift around the garden to find the right position and sunlight,
- Pots come in many shapes and sizes therefore they can be an extra decorative feature in the garden,
- You do not need to do heavy digging and turning of the soil.
Simple steps for growing your own organic produce in pots
Step 1: Choosing your pot
The first step to success is to use a large pot. As vegies are vigorous growers and require a large amount of soil for their thirsty and hungry roots, large pots are essential. Pots 40cm to 50cm in diameter (across the top of the pot) are ideal. In fact, a 40cm pot will hold about one 30 litre bag of potting mix and a 50cm pot will hold about 2 bags of potting mix, making it easy to calculate how many bags you will need for your pots.
Step 2: Which Vegetables
Almost all vegies can be grown in pots with just a small number of exceptions. The most popular varieties such as tomatoes, spinach, lettuce, cabbage, beans, peas, capsicum, chillies, carrots, celery, bok choi, pak choi and herbs are all great candidates for pots. Basically, vegies that are not too large and cumbersome. For example relegate sweet corn to the garden bed, due to it’s height it may cause pots to become top heavy & topple over, possibly causing injury.
Step 3: Selecting the Organic Planting Medium
Never use garden soil mix or compost in pots. These products are designed specifically for use in garden beds and when used in pots, they tend to hold too much moisture and do not provide adequate aeration of the soil. This all leads to water logged root systems and less than ideal plant growth. Searles Kickalong Organic Potting Mix is a certified organic product and is structured to provide ideal aeration and water retention for optimum growth.
Step 4: Planting
Plant seeds or seedlings according to the directions on the packet or punnet. Seeds work very well in pots as potting mixtures provide good conditions for seed germination. Because seedlings start out so small, a common mistake is to plant them too close together. As the plant matures however, they become crowded and do not perform or taste as good as they would have if they had had plenty of space. Tomatoes will do best with one strong plant per pot. Beans and peas will do equally as well with 2 to 3 plants per pot. Remember to water well!
Step 5: Mulching
Mulch well to save water and keep the potting mix in good condition. Seedlings can be mulched immediately after planting. If planting seeds, wait until they have sprouted before mulching, otherwise the mulch can prevent them from growing through the surface.
Step 6: Fertilising
Potted vegies can be fed the same way as vegies in garden beds. All good potting mixes will contain a starter fertiliser but for good vegie growth, you will need to apply more fertiliser through the growing period. Apply Searles Kickalong Organic Plant Food (Vegetable & Herb) to the soil after seedlings have established and hardened off. You can also apply liquid plant foods while you are watering the pots. Use organic plant foods such as SeaMax Fish & Kelp, a mixture of both fish and seaweed fertilisers. Apply this over the plants’ foliage and the soil to drench the roots. For best results repeat every 1–2 weeks to grow vegetables with the absolute minimum of pest problems.
Continue to feed the plants up until maturity of fruit set, then stop fertilising through the plants final stages.
Step 7: Pest Control
This is one area where pots really trump over garden beds as vegies growing in pots are relatively insect and pest free. Typical culprits like snails find pots less attractive and are easier to spot. If you do notice insect activity, use a soft organic spray such as Searles Bug Beater (pyrethrum spray) or flick them off the plant and squash them.
When growing tomatoes in tropical areas, attached fruit fly traps to the tomato stakes above the pots for added pest protection.
Step 8: Eat!
Homegrown produce always tastes so much sweeter, whether it’s the extra formula of ‘love’ added in every watering or the fact that your vegetables ripen on the vine, you’ll never taste anything more delicious!