Turn your courtyard or balcony into a productive space by growing your favourite vegetable and fruit plants in containers. Even without a huge garden, it’s easier to savour the flavour of healthy, home grown fruit and veg than you might think. Here’s what you need to consider, along with ten crops that thrive in containers, window boxes and hanging baskets.
When you’re planning your container garden, here are some of the most important things to bear in mind:
Here are some of the best fruit and veg to try growing in containers on your patio, courtyard or balcony:
Humble spuds are easy to grow in containers. Early and second early potatoes are ideally suited, producing lots of small, tender, ‘new’ potatoes. If storage is an issue, you don’t even need solid containers. Plant the tubers in reusable patio bags between March and May, and harvest them after just 10 to 13 weeks. Read our article on how to grow potatoes in bags for specific tips and growing advice.
Peas are quick-growing and suited to cool conditions. If you sow your pea seeds in March, you can start harvesting crops from early summer. Compact shelling pea ‘Kelvedon Wonder’ reaches just 50cm tall and is perfect for containers. Or try the purple Mangetout 'Shiraz' for its attractive and anthocyanin rich pods. You’ll need to support your peas with short bamboo canes and pick the juicy pods regularly to encourage more to grow.
Tomato plants like ‘Tumbling Tom Red’ and ‘Red Profusion’ were bred to be small, low-maintenance and high yielding. These tasty cherry varieties trail happily from containers until they ripen in late summer. Cordon plants can also be grown in containers, but will need a support cane. Try a vigorous grafted tomato plant like ‘Gardeners Delight’ for disease resistance, or a large salad type like tomato ‘Crimson Crush’. Read our article on how to grow tomatoes for more advice.
Salad seeds are super quick croppers, and do well in shaded containers. Choose 'cut and come again' blends like ‘Colourfully Mild Mix’ that are ready within 25 days of sowing. Salad leaf ‘Four Colour Mizuma Mixed’ adds a peppery heat to salads. Easy to grow, salad leaves can be direct sown in almost any container including margarine tubs and old washing up bowls, provided you add drainage holes.
Courgettes are prolific croppers and thrive in containers. Some grow larger than others, so choose a compact variety like 'Midnight' to grow in pots. Courgette plants need a sunny position and like having their roots moist, especially during fruiting. Try growing the round, ball-like courgette 'Eclipse' or brightly coloured yellow courgette ‘Orelia’ for something a little different.
Strawberry plants look great in hanging baskets or containers. Go for an everbearing variety like ‘Anais’ which produces fruit from June through to September, or Strawberry ‘Just Add Cream’ which has beautiful pink flowers and fragrant, sweet fruits. Hardy perennials, strawberry plants keep producing a new crop every summer. For more information, read our full article on growing berries in pots and containers.
Patio fruit trees are compact varieties that have been skillfully grafted onto dwarf rootstock to limit their size. Try a self-fertile cherry ‘Hartland’ for sweet dessert fruits, or enjoy the structural foliage of fig ‘Little Miss Figgy’ which can produce two crops a year. If you only have space for one container tree, then try a family apple or pear tree - both have three different varieties grafted onto the main stem. For more, read our article on the best fruit trees for small gardens.
Runner bean and climbing bean plants are fantastic space savers in a small garden and ideal for containers. They climb rampantly up bamboo canes or trellis, making eye-catching vertical displays. Climbing bean ‘Cobra’ and climbing bean 'Colourful Collection' grow to 1.8m and produce stringless crunchy beans from September into autumn. If you want something a little more compact, dwarf runner bean ‘Hestia’ grows to 45cm tall and requires no support.
Tender herbs like basil are best placed in a sunny spot outdoors during the summer months, while hardy perennial herbs like mint and thyme will return year after year and thrive in partial shade. Plant up containers with the herbs you use the most. For more information about growing herbs, both annual and perennial, read our comprehensive article.
Whether you prefer them very mild or extremely spicy, there’s a chilli plant for every palate. And if you can give them a sunny spot, they absolutely thrive in containers. Just one plant, like the super hot ‘Carolina Reaper’, produces vast numbers of fiery fruits. For more information, read our article on how to grow chilli peppers from seed, including tips for harvesting and storing your pods.
We hope we’ve inspired you to fill your outdoor space with pots of fruits and vegetables. Share your container garden with us using the #YourTMGarden on Twitter or Instagram. If you want ornamental plants to plant in your pots and containers alongside your edibles, head to our patio hub page.