onions

A Winter Container Vegetable Plot

If you fancy growing your own veg this winter but haven’t got the space, why not have a container garden instead. There are a number of vegetables that will grow in pots if fed & watered & not all of them need protection from frost.

The most important aspect is to get the size of your container right. Smaller containers can result in a lack of moisture and nutrients for plant roots & may restrict their growth. Aim for containers that are at least 45cm (18in) deep & wide, otherwise more frequent watering and feeding will be needed. The surface area of the soil will determine how many of each crop you will be able to grow because they will need to be spaced out according to their individual requirements.

Winter vegetables, such as cabbage, Brussels sprout, beetroot, broccoli, kale, lettuce, radishes, onions, shallots, carrots and spring onions grow well in containers as well as garlic & broad beans. Choose varieties that are hardy & ones that will crop early, most can be planted or sown directly into your container outdoors just follow the instructions on the packet or label.

Vegetables to try:

  • Spring onions are fairly quick growing & if sown in autumn will be ready to crop in early spring. There are reliably hardy varieties such as ‘White Lisbon’ & they need about 3cm (1¼in) between plants.
  • Garlic is an easy one to try but won’t be ready until next summer. In general the cloves need to be planted at a depth of 2cm (1") below the surface of the soil and 10cm (4") apart, ‘Wight Cristo’ is a good all round variety for cooking.
  • Onions are also an easy crop to grow but like garlic they will not be ready until next summer. Choose an early variety like ‘First Early’ & plant about 10cm (4") apart with the tip of the bulb just protruding through the soil surface.
  • Broadbeans are best planted in autumn because not only do you get an earlier crop but you avoid blackfly attacks. ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ is quick to establish so makes a good variety to grow in autumn. Sow at a depth of 5cm (2") & about 23cm (9") apart & support with a wigwam of canes.
  • Brussel sprouts & kale are particularly hardy & can be cropped over winter.

Place a layer of broken crocks in the bottom of the pot to help with drainage prior to adding a good potting compost. Standing your pots on feet will also help with drainage. Plant your chosen vegetables & water thoroughly. Place your containers in a well-lit but sheltered spot where they will not freeze. If there is a chance of frost you will need to cover your pots with fleece for protection & in long spells of freezing temperatures it may be necessary to bubble wrap the pots. Check your container garden daily ensuring that the soil is kept evenly moist, plants grown in pots need more water than those grown in the ground. Feed your vegetables with a water-soluble fertiliser every two weeks. Pick your vegetables as soon as they are ripe to keep the plants producing & enjoy!

Angela Slater
Daughter of a farmer so always used to producing something from the earth, whether it was animals or garden produce. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I also keep a few hens and grow vegetables for my own personal use. I gained a BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management. As a result of this I have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening.