Growing Food at Home with a DIY Planter

Now you’ve got your planter, the next step is deciding what to grow!

When I built my first planter, I thought it was a great idea to plant a packet of kale seeds, despite the fact kale is one of the few vegetables I can’t stand. I wasn’t prepared for how well it would grow and all my meals for a few weeks were accompanied with a bitter kale salad. I finally decided to start from scratch with some lettuce and spinach – much more rewarding! Avoid my beginners mistake by taking a look at what your family normally eats and what you’d like to cut from the shopping list.

Most vegetables that can be grown in the garden are happy enough in planters. A few exceptions are big vegetables, like pumpkins, and those that need deep roots – like potatoes and carrots. Surprisingly other root vegetables, like onions, radishes, and beetroot grow perfectly well in planters. Another consideration is whether you will be keeping your planter inside or out.

My pick of choice for outdoor planters is a mix of beetroot and lettuce. Young beetroot leaves are fully edible and delicious in salads. You can pick a few every time you feel like it and, as long as you don’t strip the plant bare, still harvest the roots for roasting! With varieties of lettuce, like ‘Little Gem’, you can harvest leaves as often as you like without killing the plant. This means you can have a lovely green planter on your windowsill (keeping the neighbours happy) and a plate full of salad each night (keeping the family happy). Other great choices for an outdoor planter are chard and chives. 

A planter on a sunny indoor windowsill can be as effective as a greenhouse at getting some of the diva plants, like tomatoes, chilli’s, and peppers, to grow. Tomatoes are my pick of choice. There’s no comparing homegrown tomatoes to their supermarket kin. The flavour alone is enough to justify growing them, but the plants themselves have a lovely smell! A few other options for indoor planters are basil, beans, and peas.

Saving a trip to the super market

You can get seeds from pretty much any supermarket or farm shops. If you’re feeling a bit more creative, you can raid your cupboards for vegetables that you can plant straight away. Anything that puts out a few shoots when you leave it in the cupboard for too long will do. Garlic and spring onions are a particularly popular choice, and should be able to handle the Scottish climate!

What to watch out for

The biggest problems you’ll run into with your planter revolve around water. Too much will result in mouldy roots and yellow leaves. Too little and you’ll get wilted plants. There’s no hard and fast rule for how often you need to water. You want your soil to feel damp to the touch, but not sodden.  

If your planter is outside you won’t need to water it too much. I take advantage of a leaky gutter on my flat’s roof, meaning I’ve never had to water my window planter! If you’re not so lucky, or if your planter is particularly sheltered, a top up every so often during warm weather should do the job.

Indoor planters need a bit more maintenance, just remember they can also suffer from overwatering. Your plants will be happier if you can put then somewhere that they’ll get sunlight for a few hours every day.

Other than that, a fresh mix of compost into your planter after your harvest should keep your plants happy, healthy and delicious!

The Royal Horticultural Society has loads of great tips for first time growers if you run into any problems. There are also groups on social media where experienced gardeners and growers are just itching to answer questions!

‘Veg Your ledge’ Growing Kit from Forth Environment Link

If you are a community group or organisation in Falkirk and are interested in benefiting from a ‘Veg Your Ledge growing kit‘ (which is pictured at the top of this article), please contact Richard at richard@forthenvironmentlink.org

Blog written by Daire Carroll

Growing Kit by Forth Environment Link

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