3 easy vegetables to grow whether you have a balcony or a back garden
Living in Ireland today, space can be at a premium, for many of us the back gardens we grew up with are confined to memory as we struggle with small gardens and apartment balconies. The good news is, we don’t have to sacrifice our green fingers. As we become more and more conscious of:
- Where our food comes from
- Our food’s carbon footprint.
- The harm pesticides might be doing to our health.
The idea of growing our own food is more appealing.
As we (hopefully) roll into summer when longer evenings mean we have more time to use the outside space we do have. Don’t worry, it’s not too late to plant some vegetables either, we have found 3 that are suitable for summer planting for autumn stews and salads.
Suggestions for a container vegetable garden
We have chosen 3 vegetables that can be grown in confined space. We are not suggesting you grow all of them in one pot – that’s unlikely to work well! Best to pick and choose what you like best. Start small and if space permits create another container.
How to grow beetroot in a pot
Beetroot is perfect for growing in pots. It can be planted until July
so there’s still time to have a supply of this earthy vegetable this autumn.
- Chose a round variety of beetroot as they will grow better in a container than the cylindrical versions.
- Fill the pot with a compost leaving a 4cm gap between the soil and the top of the pot.
- Sow the seeds a few centimetres apart and cover with a thin layer of compost.
- Leave in sunlight and water regularly if needed.
- Once they grow to about 2cms in height thin out the seedlings leaving about 10cm between each plant.
- Over the next few weeks keep an eye out for weeds and pests, treat or remove them.
- The beetroot should be ready to be harvested after about 3months.
- To harvest, gently hold the tops and use a hand fork to lift the roots.
How to grow lettuce in a pot
A crunchy and delicious addition to salads and sandwiches lettuce is another veg that it is not too late to plant. In even better news, if you plant small amounts of it every few weeks you could have fresh lettuce each week over autumn. Although it will grow best in full sunlight, unlike lots of plants lettuce can be grown in partial shade.
- Lettuce needs regular watering but it also needs good drainage so the roots don’t get too wet. Best to ensure the container you pick has particularly good drainage.
- Sow seeds 3cm deep and about 10cm apart so the leaves have room to spread.
- Lettuce needs very nutritious soil to grow so consider adding fertiliser before planting the seeds.
- Unfortunately there are lots of pests who enjoy lettuce as much as we do. Protective netting or moving the slugs and snails by hand after dark (once you aren’t squeamish!) are effective ways of preventing pests from eating your lettuce before you get to. Using salt as a barrier is another option but remember, it will get washed away in the rain.
- It takes lettuce 5-6 weeks to be salad ready
How to grow beans in a pot
Perfect for a sheltered balcony and still not too late to sow, beans make attractive plants as well as a delicious addition to dinner! To grow beans successfully you will need a deep container to hold the canes they need for support. Be aware, beans don’t like frost, it can kill them. Start seeds indoors if there’s any chance of frost…which hopefully there isn’t in July!
- A pot with a 75cm diameter should hold 8 or 9 bean plants.
- After the last frost plant beans outdoors with a 3cm covering of soil.
- Use garden trellis or bamboo for support of climbing beans.
- Water beans as needed apply a layer of mulch to retain water.
- Don’t overfeed beans or you will end up with lush leaves and not very many beans!
- Weed regularly.
- Beans take about two months to mature.
- When harvesting snap or cut beans off the plant. Try not to tear the plant.
What do you need for growing vegetables?
There’s no getting away from this one, vegetables like light, as much of it as possible. It’s great if you have the space to move containers into the sun. If you have a small north facing balcony, it’s going to be a struggle to grow vegetables successfully but all is not lost. There are lots of herbs that grow with less sun so they are still an option.
It is worth giving this some thought. Although terracotta looks beautiful, its porous nature means you will have to water vegetables (if the Irish weather doesn’t do it for you!) more than you would using other containers. Metal, wood or plastic might be better options, just make sure the container is covered in a nontoxic coating.
Don’t forget: drainage holes in the bottom of whatever container you use!
Basic gardening tools
A trowel, hand held fork and pruning shears will make life as a container gardener a lot easier.
A watering can
In Ireland this is usually called the sky but just in case we are fortunate enough to have a dry spell this summer, don’t forget to keep your vegetables watered. The best time to do this is as or after the sun goes down on a warm day so the water doesn’t evaporate too quickly.
Vegetable seeds can be easily found at your local garden centre or why not consider buying from the Irish Seed Savers Association who conserve rare and heritage Irish seeds to maintain Ireland’s biodiversity.
We are lucky in Ireland to have access to great quality soil. For container gardening your best bet is to pick up some compost from your nearest garden centre.
Although not absolutely necessary your vegetables will grow faster and you are likely to see a better harvest if you feed your vegetables. There are chemical and organic options available
There is nothing more frustrating to have your vegetables virtually ready to harvest only to have them eaten by slugs, snails or other garden pests. While we know they have to eat too, we’d rather it wasn’t our vegetables! There are chemical and organic options to keep them at bay, choose which ever you prefer.
Advantages of container vegetable garden
- No soil pest problems
- Control of the soil type
- No serious digging required
Now that you know how to save money by growing your own vegetables, make sure your energy provider is working to help you reduce the impact you are having on the environment. We at Energia
play our part by getting as much of our energy as possible from renewable sources like wind farms.