Grow your own pot vegetables

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A large percentage of the population lives in apartment blocks or small townhouses that don’t have gardens. However, you don’t need big plots of land to grow your own delicious vegetables. All you need are a few cheap plastic pots and some space to keep them, water them and nurture them.The ideal pot should be 35cm across or larger. Small pots dry the soil out quickly and limit the space for the roots to grow. Plastic pots work well as clay or terracotta pots also dry out quickly. If you can’t get your hands on cheap pots, then a tough plastic bin liner (with rolled-down sides) will do the trick - just poke some holes in the bottom to allow excess water to drain out.Bin liners work well with potatoes as the depth of the ‘pot’ can be increased by unrolling the sides and filling it up with compost. It also allows for a larger haul than if the potatoes were growing inside smaller plastic pots. Just choose your favourite variety of potato and get planting.

How to fill the pots

It is important that excess water can drain out of the pot so that the soil doesn’t become waterlogged and stagnant. To ensure your pot has good drainage, you need to properly prepare the base and soil. First, place some gravel or stones at the bottom of the pot, about 1cm will do. This will keep the soil from falling through the holes at the bottom of the pot, and will also stop wet soil from clogging the holes.Then, pour some potting soil into the pot, about two thirds full. The packet of seed will have instructions on how deep to bury the seed, and what lighting conditions are best suited for optimal growth. Dig a hole with your finger or a trowel to the depth specified on the seed packet. Plant the suggested number of seeds and cover them with soil. Don’t pack the soil too tightly otherwise the seeds will not be able to germinate and take root.Add a top layer of mulch or compost to enrich the soil and ensure healthy nutrients are carried into the soil when you water the plant. If you’re planting seeds from a fruit or vegetable in your kitchen (such as a chilli or tomato seed), the safest bet is to bury them 1cm to 2cm down. Keep the pots moist and well-watered until the sprouts reach a mature age and begin to flower.

Make a plan with compost

Chances are, if you don’t have a garden, you won’t have a compost heap. Compost is important for growing veggies in pots as it adds the relevant nutrients to the soil and can help the little sprouts grow rapidly. If you have space for a plastic compost container, try to get your hands on one and make the most of it. Place your vegetable offcuts and trimmings in the compost container and keep it watered.If you simply can’t make your own compost, you can also buy it at a nursery - although this can be an expensive option in the long run. Buy a big bag of mulch as a good alternative to compost and add a layer to the top of the pots.

What to plant in the pots

Many varieties of vegetables, fruit and herbs are perfectly suited to small, confined areas and pots. Tomatoes, beans and chillies are easy to grow from seeds but you can also buy them from a nursery as young plants that require less attention. Their yield can be great and provide you with an almost endless supply of juicy red vine tomatoes or hot green and red chillies. Tomatoes and beans need to be strung to a stick as they grow but chilli bushes can hold their own weight.Eggplant, cucumber and baby marrow are also fairly common pot vegetables. Cucumber vines, like tomatoes, often require something tall on which to grow, such as a cane stick or a string. These types of vegetables grow best in greenhouses or hot and humid climates, so you can wrap some cling wrap over the top of the pot until you can see the first sprouts coming through. Keep the pot well-watered throughout the plant’s life. The bigger the pot the better the plant and the more vegetables it will bear.Herbs are another winner. Rosemary and some varieties of thyme tend to be hardier and don’t require as much water as delicate, leafy herbs such as basil or mint. Mint requires a lot of water, so be prepared to water it every day, sometimes twice a day. Lettuce, rocket, spinach and other salad-type leaves can also be grown in pots, so they are worth planting. They require a fair bit of water and the soil needs to be rich. They can also attract snails, slugs and caterpillars, so it’s important to inspect them regularly and keep an eye out for munched leaves.Root vegetables such as carrots and beetroots are fairly good at growing in pots. Again, the bigger the pot, the better as the vegetables will be able to grow more. The pots need to be deep, especially with carrots, otherwise, the roots will hit the bottom and you won’t get beautiful, long and sweet carrots.Growing your own pot vegetables can be rewarding and cost-effective, although you do need to be a keen gardener and dedicated to watering them and keeping the soil fertile. This is not as important for garden vegetables as the rain and natural nutrients in the soil often suffice, but with pot veggies, extra attention and care is needed.___Averda is a leading waste management provider with over 50 years of experience across three continents. Through growth, transformation and engagement, we strive to find new ways of managing waste while protecting the community and environment. ___By pairing international expertise with local insights, we have secured our position as one of South Africa’s most respected providers of waste management and industrial cleaning services. We also operate in the recycling, infrastructure inspection, hydro-demolition, high-pressure water jetting and catalyst handling industries. ___Follow us Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for the best tips on recycling and the latest industry news. See our Instagram and YouTube channels for more insights into environmental affairs and our work with local communities.