Best crops for small plots
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Even the smallest balcony plots can produce crops from an interesting range of small-fruited, ‘patio’-sized vegetables. Linda Ross shares tips on making it work.
Patio pots must be larger than 30cm across, be glazed or sealed (plain terracotta will dry out too quickly), have drainage holes, andbe filled with quality potting mix that includes water crystals and controlled release fertiliser.
Group pots in full sun. Place larger pots with larger vegetables behind smaller pots with smaller vegetables. Grow groundcovers and root crops beneath climbing plants.
Water daily. Leafy vegetables need weekly nitrogen-based fertiliser such as seaweed or homemade weed tea. Fruiting vegetables require fertilisers high in potash (Thrive for Fruit and Flowers, Harvest, homemade comfrey tea). Be on the alert for bugs, powdery mildew, cabbage white butterfly, 28-spotted ladybeetle, curl grubs in the soil and white fly.
Choose leafy rather than heading lettuce, expect for Lettuce ‘Mini Cos’ and ‘Mini Ice Cube’ which grow into miniature heads. Sow little patches of rocket between climbing vegetables such as peas. Mini Baby Spinach can be eaten straight from the pot. Pak Choi is another quick crop which can be harvested in six weeks and can be grown under climbing vegetables.
Choose patio-sized members of the family, such as ‘Mini Cannonball’, ‘Bambino’ broccoli and ‘Magic Dragon’ broccoli. Harvest the first florets of these and new ones will form. ‘Mini White cauliflower’ is a fast-maturing cauli, best grown from seedling. Be alert for small white butterflies that lay eggs on leaves of the cabbage family. These hatch into voracious green caterpillars. Control with Yates Success.
For best results sow roots such as carrots and beetroot from seed, on a fine layer of seed-raising mix on top of the existing soil in the pot. Ensure pots are at least 50cm tall for longer roots such as carrots. Plant easy-to-grow leeks and spring onions rather than normal onions, which take too long to develop.
Snowpeas and sugar snap peas are smaller-growing than podding peas but still need a 1.2m high tepee frame. In summer choose dwarf beans such as ‘Borlotti’ ‘Cherrokee Wax’, ‘Butter bean’ and ‘Bonaparte’ which don’t need tall frames on which to grow. Watch out for powdery mildew on leaves and spray ecoFungicide to halt the spread. All peas and beans are best grown from seed: sow, water and wait 10 days before watering again.
- Grow beetroot under spinach
- Grow lettuce under sugar snap peas
- Grow carrots between cauliflower
- Grow cucumber with tomatoes and beans
- Grow garlic under citrus