Alice, Gardening, Grow Your Own, How To

Growing your own vegetables is not only a fun and rewarding pastime, but it provides you with a crop of tasty, fresh, chemical-free produce for your kitchen. But if you don’t have a large garden or an allotment on hand, never fear. Most varieties can be grown in containers, so even if you only have a window box or a small patio area at your disposal, growing your own is still an option. Pots and containers are great because they allow flexibility, you have control over the soil type, and they can look great on a balcony, patio, or placed in a border on a plinth. So read our guide and find out how to grow vegetables in containers.

how to grow vegetables in containers

Choose your containers

Any garden centre should have a good variety of pots and planters to choose from. However, any container with some drainage and an opening can be used to grow plants. Barrels, recycled buckets, washing up bowls, dustbins, and even an old pair of boots can be used with success. Hanging baskets and window boxes can also be a great option for smaller vegetable plants and herbs.

The important thing is to make sure there will be enough space for the plant to grow. The size required will depend on the variety of vegetable, but most will need a pot with a depth and diameter of at least 45cm (18in), however smaller varieties such as spinach and lettuce can be grown in smaller containers. 

You must also make sure your container has a drainage hole. If it does not already have one, drill a hole (or many) at least half an inch wide into the bottom. If your pots are kept inside or on a balcony, place a tray underneath to catch the drips. 

Add soil

A good, peat-free potting compost should be sufficient to grow your vegetables. However, you could also mix in leafmould, garden compost, and horticultural grit to ensure drainage. Do not use soil from previous crops as this can spread infections. Fill the containers up to one or two inches below the rim. You can also supplement with a weekly liquid feed, but do not make the mixture richer or add in too much at once. Broken pieces of pot, pebbles, or polystyrene chips can be added into the bottom or larger pots to prevent compost falling through the drainage holes. 

Plant your vegetables

There are three methods of growing your own vegetables in containers. More hardy varieties such as beans, beetroot, carrots, and radishes can be sown directly into an outdoor container. Sow the seeds as directed on the packet, however not all the seeds will germinate, so you can plant more than you need, then thin once the seedlings have two pairs of leaves. Shop our vegetable seed collection for a variety of quality produce. 

Half-hardy or tender vegetables such as cauliflower, lettuce, aubergine, peppers, and tomatoes need to be planted indoors. Try your kitchen windowsill, or your greenhouse if you have one. You can use a seed tray, small pots, or recycled yoghurt pots filled with compost to grow the seedings, then transport outside to larger containers in early summer. Sow according to the packet instructions, then thin once the seedings have two pairs of leaves. 

You can also purchase vegetable plug plants from a garden centre. Dig out a space in the container soil, then set in in the plants at the same level as they were growing in the pot they came in, apart from tomato plants where you can remove the lower leaves and plant them deeper into the soil. 

Water

Once you have planted your seeds or plug plants, water gently but thoroughly, then water every few days to get your seedlings established. However, if you are using small pots indoors, take care not to overwater as the soil can turn mouldy. 

After the seedlings are established, give them a good watering once a week. Watering thoroughly once a week is better than a light watering every day, as light watering does not penetrate the soil deeply which encourages roots to grow to the surface where they can dry out. 

If you are often away, an irrigation system can be a great way to make sure your plants stay hydrated. These have individual lines going into each container from a ring hose, and drip water slowly around the roots of each plant to avoid evaporation or splashing. 

Watch out for pests and disease

Plants grown in a container can be more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Take care not to overfeed, as this can produce a lush growth that is a magnet for aphids, slugs, and snails. Make sure to remove any weeds as they appear, and watch out for signs of insects or damage from disease, and remove or treat. Beer traps, copper tape or a pesticide can deter unwanted pests. Check out our guide to natural slug repellants.

Harvest

Start harvesting your crops as soon as they reach a size where you can eat them. Most vegetable plants are most productive when you harvest early and often, and letting plants “go to seed” can cause a drop in yields. 

Now for the fun part- enjoy the fruits of your labour! Cook up a feast in the kitchen, or perhaps gift produce to your friends or neighbours. Often, home-grown vegetables are tastier than their supermarket counterparts as the soil tends to have more nutrients and they are not genetically modified for a longer shelf life. So enjoy the bounty of your efforts and spread the word about the joy of home-growing!

Check out our full guide to how to grow vegetables here.

Which vegetables have you been growing in containers? Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram!

 

Gardening, Greenhouses, Grow Your Own, Scott, Vegetables

Greenhouse Gardening

Greenhouses help us in creating stable conditions for nurturing and growing a wide variety of plants. During the colder parts of the year, greenhouses allow us to store, prepare and grow so we can extend the success of our gardens throughout the whole year. Below are just a few greenhouse gardening ideas that you can make use of throughout the changing seasons. 

Autumn

Autumn

Maintenance

The perfect time to prep your greenhouse for the cold months ahead. Some essential maintenance will put you in good stead for keeping everything functioning at its best:

  1. Clean the glass to make sure you’re getting the maximum levels of light in.
  2. Check for cracks in the glass and seal appropriately to keep insulation efficient. 
  3. Organise your inside space making sure everything is tidy and easily accessible.

Grow Your Own

Though the warmer months present the height of the growing season for vegetables, greenhouse gardening means there’s no reason to stop growing produce through the winter.  Some ideas for planting are:

  1. Potting potatoes to harvest for Christmas.
  2. Potting up hardy herbs like chives, parsley and mint to continue growth through the winter.
  3. Sowing spinach, rocket, kale and pak choi seeds in trays before transferring seedlings to larger containers for use in winter salads.
  4. Sowing brassicas like cabbage, broccoli and brussels sprouts that can be enjoyed later in the year.

Planting

The colder months can be an ideal time to get a head start on your plans for next spring too:

  1. Lots of perennials can be kept in the greenhouse over winter to keep them alive until the return of warm weather. Fuschias, Pelargoniums and Dahlias are ideal for bringing inside or taking cuttings from which to propagate.

Winter

Winter

Temperature

As we head into the coldest part of the year, temperature control can be your biggest challenge to greenhouse gardening:

  1. At the start of the season, you should monitor the temperature and consider opening the greenhouse door on warmer days to keep everything ventilated.
  2. As the temperature drops, covering your greenhouse glass with large bubble wrap is a cost-effective way of providing extra insulation.
  3. You may want to consider getting a greenhouse heater. Both electric and gas heaters can be purchased depending on your set up and both will permit more accurate and consistent temperature control.

Grow Your Own

Making use of a greenhouse heater and the consistent temperature it provides makes it ideal for planting in preparation for spring:

  1. With a stable warm temperature, you can start growing peppers in the greenhouse. These can be transplanted outside when warm weather returns or kept inside the warm greenhouse. 
  2. Peas, squash, cucumber, courgettes and aubergines can all be started in late winter in preparation for planting in the spring. Getting a head start now will set you up well for success later.
  3. Towards the end of winter, you can begin planting seeds for spring and summer flower beds. The seedlings can be incubated before being transplanted outside in warmer weather.

Frost Protection

Now is also the time when our greenhouse can act as a refuge for tender plants in the garden:

  1. Potted plants can be moved into the greenhouse to avoid damage from changing temperatures and frost. Consider some greenhouse staging to organise your pot storage.
  2. Move tropical specimens into the greenhouse perhaps with an insulating layer of fleece and straw. 
  3. Your perennials can be kept in the greenhouse ready for spring. 
  4. Remember to water sparingly at this time and according to each plant’s separate needs.

Spring

Spring

Freshening Up

As we move into spring and the warm weather starts to return we can begin moving things out of the greenhouse back into the garden:

  1. With the warm weather returning you can give the glass another good clean to remove the marks left by winter and maximise the amount of light getting through.
  2. With changing temperatures, it may be good practise to heat your greenhouse at night and ventilate it during the day at the start of spring.
  3. Setting up a water source like water buts or a connected hosepipe will make greenhouse gardening much easier when you start watering more regularly.
  4. The arrival of spring can also mean the emergence of pests so keep an eye out and rid accordingly with sprays.

Grow Your Own

Now is an ideal time to begin planting your summer vegetables:

  1. Courgettes, cucumbers, squashes and sweetcorn are ideal for planting in the greenhouse ready for transplanting to the outside when the summer warms the garden properly. 
  2. Plant tomato saplings in grow bags so they can establish through summer when the greenhouse doesn’t require additional heating.

Back Outside

When the warm weather makes itself felt across your garden you can start moving overwintered plants back outside. Bear in mind that your plants that are cultivated inside will need a period of “hardening off” with increased ventilation and cooler temperatures before being moved outside fully.

  1. Perennial cuttings can be transported to pots or flower beds perhaps with the protection of a cloche until the warm weather fully returns. 
  2. Tender potted plants can be moved back outside, though you may remove any fleece insulation at a later stage in spring or summer. 
  3. Towards the end of spring, you can plant more seeds to transplant during summer such as marigolds. 

Summer

Summer

Sun Protection

With the warmest part of the year now in full swing you can make full use of all that light and energy coming into your greenhouse: 

  1. You may need to add netting or some light shade to prevent overheating or scorching during higher temperatures.
  2. Make sure you have enough ventilation, keeping vents and doors open on warm days and some nights if occasion requires it.
  3. Dampening the floors and staging each day can help add humidity to the greenhouse on warmer days. 

See What Grows

Greenhouse gardening means having a lot more control over the immediate environment. Have fun and experiment with some other plants:

  1. Harden off your summer bedding blooms to clear room in the greenhouse for other plants.
  2. You can make use of the hottest part of the year by growing some different plants; maybe try propagating some house plants for inside the home like crassulas or sansevierias.
  3. Feed and water your plants regularly to make full use of the peak growing season. 
  4. Take cuttings from perennials like fuschias and pelargoniums.

Harvest

This is also a great time of year for harvesting your well-earnt produce! 

  1. Tomatoes, cucumbers and chillies can be picked regularly to encourage further growth. 
  2. Plants moved outdoors for the summer should begin to reach full maturity towards the end of summer and can be incorporated into your summer meals. 
  3. There is still time through summer to plant crops that have a fast yield such as carrots, beetroot, beans, spinach and kale.

Follow us on Instagram and tag us in a photo of your greenhouse. We love to see great gardeners in action and we may even feature your photos on the Primrose feed. 

Scott at PrimroseScott Roberts is a copywriter currently making content for the Primrose site and blog. When at his desk he’s thinking of new ways to describe a garden bench. Away from his desk he’s either looking at photos of dogs or worrying about the environment. He does nothing else, just those two things.

See all of Scott’s posts.

Animals, Charlotte O, Container Gardening, Gardening, How To, Planters, Plants

If you don’t have your own small animal audience, store-bought is fine.

Exciting news folks! Primrose has recently got in a whole new selection of terrarium making tools, the first on the site made specifically for closed-system terrariums! Well since they’re so new, and terrariums are finally making the come back they deserve, I went and wrote up the journey through creating my own closed-system terrarium.

You will need

All of this and a good dash of patience.

The sets we have online also include a very handy shovel and rake set that extends to reach the bottom of your jar, these are indispensable if you have a very deep terrarium! (Although you could always wrap some wire around a fork and a spoon, no judgement here.)

If possible, it’s recommended to find a piece of plastic mesh to help keep the stone and soil layer separate, but don’t worry if you can’t get hold of any, I didn’t use it in my terrarium.

Also handy:

  • A lot of newspaper to work on (it gets messy!)
  • A funnel (I made one out of a cereal packet)
  • Scissors (for pruning if needed)
  • Small hand trowel (for removing soil from roots)

And last but not least, the plants and accessories you want in the terrarium.

These are the two species I used, Tradescantia Purple Passion at the front and a Chlorophytum Comosum behind.

The process

The idea of a closed terrarium is to create an ecosystem that will sustain itself. Both the plants and soil release moisture that becomes water vapour, and condenses against the walls of the terrarium during the warm daylight, falling back to the soil in the cooler evenings. This creation of an enclosed watering system is what will keep your terrarium growing, but just throwing dirt and plants at it isn’t going to work, an irrigation system is needed to stop the soil from rotting under too much water.

At this point you’ll want to grab the funnel, or if you’re on a budget, make one out of cardboard or paper to make for easier application of the materials.

First pour in a layer of small stones, pebbles, or gravel. There’s no hard and fast measurement as it depends on what size receptacle you’re using, a good rule to stick to is one-quarter stones to three-quarters soil. Remember this layer has to be deep enough to stop any pooling water from sitting in the soil.

I’d highly recommend checking out this video on youtube for a visual representation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Lg4tzkHgVo

Check your terrarium from all angles, sometimes it’s hard to judge the level of coverage with curved glass.

Next is activated charcoal. This is an integral ingredient in the tasty soup that is your closed terrarium. It absorbs chemicals in the soil, water, and air that could otherwise build up over time and damage the plants. Charcoal also cleans up unpleasant odours that are released from the decomposing soil and helps stop mildew forming.

You don’t need a whole layer of the stuff, but make sure there’s a good handful being placed in, it’s going to do a lot of work after all!

If you’ve been able to source some plastic mesh, now is the time to cut it to shape, fold it up and pop it in. You’ll need some long tools to push and pull it into place, and then you can add the substrate. (Note that the charcoal seems fine both above and below the mesh layer.) Again, if you don’t have a mesh layer don’t worry! You can still power on!

Okay, let’s layer up some soil! You’ll need a decent amount, remember we’re working to approx one-quarter stones to three-quarters substrate. Don’t worry if your measurements aren’t perfect, it’s all a learning process!

Make some small divots for the plants to sit in, and let’s move on to prepping some plants!

Easy as 1, 2, 3!

Plant choices

A closed terrarium is a specific type of environment. There’s a lot of damp warmth in there, and if left in direct sunlight, the refraction of the glass will cook everything inside. So we need moisture-loving, low light-thriving, quite small plants. Which admittedly cuts down our options somewhat, but here are some plants that I’ve discovered-

Small ferns will help fill out any space, and they’re relatively easy to come by. Try and find a miniature variety if you can, as some ferns can grow pretty big.

Some that come recommended:

Peperomia, Maidenhair fern, Pteris, and Adiantum. I chose a variegated fern to place in mine, the pot I purchased had three separate plants in it so I picked out the smallest to place in my also quite small terrarium.

Soleirolia variants are perfect as well, and have a variety of amusing names such as, mind-your-own-business, baby’s tears, angel’s tears, friendship plant and Irish moss. (It is in fact, not a moss, but a plant from the nettle family.)

Tradescantia- also known as Spiderwort, is another plant that does well in humid climates. There are a lot of variants though, and I’d recommend staying away from any that are flowering as they will wilt and die quickly in the terrarium. I chose a Tradescantia Purple Passion to place in mine.

Other tropical foliage such as Dizygotheca and Neoregelia ‘fireball’ enjoy a humid environment, making them other possibilities for your display.

To finish it off I would recommend some moss. I took a trowel and dug some out of my garden. Moss is a great way to fill out your terrarium, it helps to cover bare soil and brings more diversity into the jar.

Trixie spent the whole time trying to eat my plants and the moss. Thanks Trix.

Preparing plants

This section entirely depends on what container you’re using for your terrarium, but for brevity’s sake I’m going to assume you’re using the same line of terrariums that I am, and in that case you’ve got some trimming to do. The opening of the bottle is a lot smaller than you first think, so you’ll need to carefully extract the plants from their pots, and gently scrape or shake off most of the soil around the roots so you can fit it through the top. This is where having another container or a lot of newspaper down comes in handy to catch all the soil!

Move the plant around after it’s fallen inside, and make sure you push soil back around the roots when you’ve confirmed the placement.

Now is a good time to consider the layout of your terrarium. Instagram and Pinterest are great sources of inspiration, just make sure whatever you use is small enough to fit!

In my terrarium I used some old chunky sticks to create a divide in the middle, putting the fern one side and the tradescantia on the other, with moss liberally applied all around. To finish it off, I added some more height with a mossy stick reaching up through the bottle, remember to consider your layers to make for a more visually interesting display!

Here’s my finished terrarium! I’m very pleased with how it turned out, and it didn’t take more than about half an hour to put together!

Finishing off

Before adding the cork, make sure you give your terrarium a good spritz with a spray bottle, or pour a little water down the side. You don’t need to add the cork straight away – allow the bottle to stand for a day to let the plants settle, and for the first week or so, take the cork off for a few hours every day. This allows you to adjust the water, and allows the plants to breathe and accumulate to their new closed-system environment a little easier.

Keep your terrarium out of direct sunlight, and rotate it every day or so to allow all sides to soak up some heat.

And here’s my beauty after 2 weeks! The tiny wild clover in the moss are loving it!

Troubleshooting and the future

There’s always the fear that your terrarium won’t last the weekend. Fear not! If you’ve used the right plants and followed the guide you should be safe. One thing to bear in mind is the water cycle, moisture should build up over the day, then drip back down to the soil overnight. If there is too much condensation then plants might start to rot, so remove the cork and allow it to dry out a little. If there’s no moisture on the sides by late afternoon, it may need a spritz of water to keep the cycle going.

If it does unfortunately go wrong, there’s no shame in calling it a day, dumping it all out and starting again. We all have to start somewhere, and I’m sure your next terrarium will look amazing!

If you do make up one of our terrariums, be sure to snap a photo and send it in!

Bonus points for getting your pets involved!

 

Charlotte at PrimroseCharlotte is a Copy Writer at Primrose, writing product descriptions and about anything else that comes her way. She owns 2 rabbits and 5 chickens that she loves very much. (Her garden is most certainly not tidy).

When not at her desk you can find her attempting to find her way back to Japan again, or drawing.

See all of Charlotte’s posts.

Gardening, Grow Your Own, Megan

Garlic. It’s one of the most important ingredients in cooking. In the same family as onions and shallots, garlic is bursting with a bold savoury flavour, making it a staple in many of the world’s cuisines. It is one of those ingredients many people always have in their cupboards. But what about their gardens?

You can grow dozens of garlic bulbs from single cloves, giving a great return rate. Growing garlic is very simple, and autumn is the perfect time to start planting cloves. To find out more about growing garlic in your garden, so you never run low on this essential ingredient, read on!

Growing Garlic - Garlic Bulbs

Garlic Varieties

With an abundance of garlic varieties available, it can be hard to know which one to choose. Whilst softneck varieties are the most common type found in supermarkets, they are best suited to the milder climate of the south due to hardiness. Hardneck varieties are hardier, more suited to the climate and can be grown all over the UK.

  • Chesnok White – with purple striping bulbs, this hardneck variety has a strong flavour which makes it great for garlic bread
  • Bianco Veneto – a softneck variety that thrives in colder conditions and stores well
  • Early Purple Wight – bred on the Isle of Wight, the purple-tinged bulbs of this softneck variety are best used within three months
  • Iberian Wight – originating from Spain, Iberian Wight is a softneck variety which produces large cloves
  • Solent Wight – also bred on the Isle of Wight, this softneck variety is particularly suited to the UK climate and is an overall winner in terms of taste and lifespan. Its large bulbs are easily plaited.
Growing Garlic - Garlic Bread
Garlic Bread

Planting

As mentioned previously, garlic is best planted in autumn to late winter when the temperature is cooler. Planting depends widely on climate. In milder southern regions, cloves can be planted directly into the ground and protected with cloches. If you live a colder part of the country, plant cloves in seed trays ready to set out into the ground in early springtime.

Planting garlic is pretty simple. Each clove will produce a plant. Preferably, buy your chosen variety from a garden supplier rather than the supermarket, as these will be especially bred for the local climate. Break the garlic bulb up into cloves, being careful not to damage them.

If planting directly into the ground, after preparing your soil, simply push the cloves into the soil at 10cm intervals. Make sure the tip of each clove is left exposed.

In colder areas, fill a seed tray with multi-purpose compost and plant one clove in each space. Water and place in a cold frame; the garlic plants should be ready to be planted in the ground from march onward.

Growing Garlic - Garlic Cloves

Maintenance

Growing garlic is relatively low maintenance, so you will not have to be tending to you garlic for hours each day, you will be pleased to hear. Just ensure you weed between the plants so that the garlic plants have enough space and there is less competition for water. If your garlic plants begin to flower, remove them as soon as possible, but do not throw away! These flower stalks are great in salads and stir fries. If the flowers are left, the garlic will produce a smaller yield.

To ensure the juiciest bulbs, check to see if the soil is dry every couple of weeks, and water sparingly if there is a dryer period.

Growing Garlic - Garlic Flower
Garlic Flowers

Harvesting

Garlic is ready to be harvested in early summer. The telltale sign is when the leaves of the garlic plant turn yellow and begin to wither. To extract the bulbs from the ground, take a trowel and loosen them taking care not to cut them; this reduce the length of time they will store for. If the bulbs are left too long, they will re-sprout or start to rot in the ground so make sure to harvest them opportunely.

Growing Garlic - Trowel

Storage

Lay the garlic bulbs out in a warm place until they are dry. Garlic can be stored by plaiting the bulbs together and storing in the kitchen. Alternatively, keep garlic in a bowl containing holes to ensure the bulbs are able to ‘breath’. Do not make the mistake of storing garlic in the fridge – it causes bulbs to go off faster. Garlic stores best at room temperature.

Growing Garlic - Garlic Bulbs

Overall, growing garlic is easy, low maintenance and hassle free. Plus, you’ll never be low on garlic again!

Megan at PrimroseMegan works in the Primrose marketing team. When she is not at her desk you will find her half way up a hill in the Chilterns
or enjoying the latest thriller series on Netflix. Megan also enjoys cooking vegetarian feasts with veggies from her auntie’s vegetable garden.

See all of Megan’s posts.