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Grow Carrots in Containers

Carrots are a popular and versatile root vegetable, and have been grown in this country since they were introduced from Holland in the late 16th Century. They can be eaten raw, steamed or boiled and are tasty and nutritious, being a source of beta- carotene and Vitamin A.They are also high in fibre and low in calories. There are many varieties to choose from, including short carrots, baby carrots, Chinese carrots, and ones which are yellow and purple. Most gardeners choose the traditional orange and long variety as being the most suitable for growing in containers.

The advantages of growing carrots in containers are:

  • Containers take up much less space than even a raised bed so are ideal if you do not have a large garden or much space generally.
  • The carrots do not have to compete with soil pests and weeds, so many gardeners consider that they actually do better in containers.
  • They grow smoothly and straightly as their growth is unimpeded by stones in the soil.
  • Containers are an ideal solution if you live in an area with clay.
  • The delicate and feathery green leaves also make it an attractive plant to have on a patio.

The best time of year to grow carrots, in the United Kingdom, is in the spring as they need at least 6 hours of sunlight a day to grow, so choose your location carefully.

Grow Carrots in Containers

Photo by Ed Yourdon via Flickr

How to sow the seeds:

  • Potting compost is the best sort of soil to use. Any size or shape plant container will do as long as it has a depth of at least 8 inches.
  • Prepare the potting compost by adding some fertiliser and then giving the soil plenty of water.
  • Sow the seeds from April to June, in the same way as you would if sowing directly on the ground.
  • Make small drills about 1/2 inch deep and sow the seeds thinly along the drills, with about 6 inches between the rows. If using a circular container, you could experiment by sowing the seeds in different shapes and patterns, such as a spiral.
  • Cover the drills carefully with compost and water.

Make sure the seedlings do not dry out in the early stages, keep the soil moist at all times. This is the trickiest stage of the growing process. Once the young seedlings are about 1 inch tall , it is time to start thinning. The seedlings need to be regularly thinned, by removing the weakliest looking seedlings until the distance between the young plants is approximately 2 inches.

Most carrots take approximately three months to fully mature, but the young tender roots are the sweetest so they can be harvested throughout the summer. Gently pull the early roots up by hand as soon as they are big enough to eat. You could leave some to grow until October, for a mature carrot that can be stored over winter.

Growing Courgettes in Containers

Courgettes can be similarly grown in tubs. As they are one of the most prolific plants, it can be prudent and easier to buy established seedlings from a garden centre in the spring and plant them directly into well fertilised containers or into tomato grow-bags.

  • Protect the plants from late frosts by keeping them in a greenhouse or by placing them under cloches or polythene bags.
  • They are very thirsty plants, with a deep root system and require plenty of water and fertiliser.
  • Interestingly, courgette flowers can be either male or female and bees are necessary to pollinate them, so in rainy, cold weather, with fewer bees around, the plants may remain unfertilised.
  • When the courgettes are 4-6 inches long, they are ready to be harvested. Cut the fruits carefully with a knife, close to the stalk. Regular cutting ensures continuing production.

Let’s talk about…How To Grow Chillies

This article describes How to Grow Chillies, the best methods, tools & techniques as well as when and how to harvest Chillies.

Chillies provide a delicious kick to many recipes and have become part of many of our diets. Growing chillies is often associated with parts of Africa and Asia, but chillies can be grown well in all climes, provided they kept warm.

Growing them can start as early as January or February as long as they are nurtured indoors until frosts and cold weather has passed (usually by March although we never know what to expect!).

How to Grow Chillies

Photo taken by Leonora Enking

How to Grow Chillies: What do you need to know about growing conditions?

Chillies start their lives indoors provided you have room to store them as they need to be kept warm in their early days. After all, they originate from a tropical environment! Thankfully, we have fairly warm summers so once they have become established indoors, you can take them out later in the year where they will hopefully produce an excellent crop. As long as they are left in a minimum temperature of 10°c and they get good sunlight they should grow well. By may, the weather should have warmed enough for the plants to be moved outside.

How to Grow Chillies: Useful Tools and Equipment

When growing chillies, there are a few things you might need to help you along the way.

  1. Canes and String: As with many home grown fruits and vegetables, they often need something to grow ‘up’ to stop them from flopping in their early stages and again later when they become heavy with crop. Guide them up a cane, tying the plants to it loosely if need be to prevent it falling over.
  2. Cling Film: Chillies need to be warm to germinate, and so it is important that the pots are covered with cling film or a sheet of glass in the early days to keep them warm enough.
  3. Troughs: Due to their tropical origins it is advisable to rear them in a greenhouse once they have matured enough to be moved outside. Grow them in troughs to make the most of your space.
  4. Capillary Matting: Watering from underneath will encourage roots to grow stronger.

How to Grow Chillies: What about useful tips and techniques?

  • When starting off your chillies indoors, fill seeding trays with compost, water and allow the water to drain through, and sow your seeds around one inch apart, covering the trays loosely with cling film or glass to retain moisture and heat.
  • Germination usually takes 7-10 days but it can be as long as four to six weeks for the Habanero variety weeks. Placing the tray on an electric blanket or using a heated propagator can speed this up.
  • Place your trays somewhere warm and bright such as a windowsill or in the conservatory if you have one. When the seedlings are big enough for you to handle (at least two inches in height and when they have their second set of leaves) move them to their own individual three-inch (eight centimetre) pots between winter and the beginning of spring.
  • When plants are around six inches (15cm) in height, move them again to 12cm pots. Alternatively, you can have three plants in one 30cm pot. These pots should be filled with compost up to approximately 1cm from the top.
  • When the flowers begin to appear, it is useful if you hand pollinate by dabbing a cotton bud or a fine paintbrush into each flower, especially if you are growing them indoors.
  • If you choose to move them into your vegetable patch, gradually introduce them to the conditions over one week, planting them into fertile, well-drained soil. In most of England, this is not recommended.

How to Grow Chillies: Harvesting your Chillies

  • When the first chillies appear, snip them off using secateurs while they are still green. This will encourage fruiting all season right through from July to October.
  • Allow future chillies to develop to red if you prefer for a better flavour.
  • If your chillies are struggling to ripen due to bad weather or by not getting enough sunlight, bring them inside and put them on a windowsill to keep warm and in sufficient light.

How to Grow Chillies: Did You Know

  • Feeding weekly with tomato feed encourages better growth and most experts recommend it.
  • Pinching out the tip of flowering shoots promotes branching which will increase the number of chillies your plants may produce.
  • Chillies can fall victim to aphids, so check leaves daily. If need be, treat your plants.
  • Do not allow soil to become waterlogged, erring a little on the dry side where you can. By stressing your plants ever so slightly, it is thought this can produce hotter peppers.
  • A well-cared-for chilli plant can last four to five years before it should be retired.
  • Chillies can be dried or frozen and stored so you can use them all year round.

Credits: Featured image taken by Alpha

How to Grow Peas

22 April, 2013 — Leave a comment

Let’s Talk About… How to Grow Peas!

This article describes How to Grow Peas, the best methods, tools & techniques as well as when and how to harvest Peas.

Peas are one of those foods we ask ourselves ‘is it a fruit or a vegetable?’ just like the tomato or the cucumber. Peas are technically a fruit, but in cooking we class them as a vegetable. The pea plant has a one-year life cycle and is a favourite among many home-grown produce enthusiasts.

Nothing compares to delicious, sweet, freshly-picked peas eaten raw straight from the pods, enjoyed by adults and children alike. They are a fairly easy vegetable to grow and even a small allotted space can give a good crop (some people even choose to grow them in troughs on the patio!).

Peas can often be victim to birds and other animals, as can many crops, but this is easily put right with some fine protective netting.

How to Grow Peas: What do you need to know about growing conditions?

Peas can be sown as soon as the soil reaches 10°C, growing best between 13 and 18 degrees. Choose a position with good drainage, as peas won’t do very well in wet soils. If the soil you plan to grow your peas in is acidic, it should be limed first. While your peas should be in a sunny location, peas tend to grow better in cooler weather, during spring. Make sure your planting area is weed free, and add some well-rotted manure to make your soils fertile.

How to Grow Peas: Useful Tools and Equipment

When growing peas, it is quite useful you have a few bits and pieces to make your life easier.

  1. Patio Bags – perfect for growing peas out of the ground, especially where space is limited. Opt for bushier varieties of pea to get the most from these.
  2. Protective Netting – pea pods often fall victim to bird if they are not protected properly. Use netting or mesh to keep them at bay and protect your plants.
  3. Canes – to stop your peas flopping over, especially when they are small and weak, and again when they are taller and heavier, putting more pressure on the roots.
  4. Pea-Moth Pesticides – pea moth lay their eggs on your peas when they are flowering. Have you ever popped open your pod and found little caterpillars? That is ‘thanks’ to the pea moth. Use pesticides a week after flowering and then again two weeks later to keep in control. Alternatively, use insect-proof mesh to protect your peas.

How to Grow Peas: What about useful tips and techniques?

Before you start, there are three ways you can start the growing off.

  1. You can plant straight to the ground once the soil temperature is above 10°C.
  2. You can plant to the ground if it has been below 10°C and you have warmed it using polythene sheeting and continue to keep the seedlings warm with horticultural fleece until the ground is warm enough.
  3. You can sow the seeds indoors in individual pots (the 3” deep ones are ideal) until they around six inches in height and then transplant them into the ground. This can protect the baby pea plants from being attacked by rodents and slugs.

Growing peas is very easy:

  • Create a trench, ideally 5cm (2 inches) deep and 15cm (6 inches) wide.
  • Sow the seeds (or your little plants if you have grown them indoors) around 2-3 inches apart, covering them with soil, then pat it down slightly.
  • As your plants start to grow, use a can to encourage them upwards. Alternatively, use larger twigs from pruned trees in your garden – these work just as well. Your peas may need encouraging to grow up the cane. Gently coaxing them around may do the trick, or you can tie them loosely with string if they are a bit more stubborn.
  • Water your pea plants regularly, but do not allow soil to become waterlogged.

Harvesting your peas:

  • Peas are usually ready for harvest between June and September.
  • Harvest your peas regularly. This will ensure your crop will continue to grow healthily across the season. If you don’t pick them often, it can be detrimental to your plants, resulting in fewer flowers, fewer pods, and as a result, less crop.
  • Opinion on when pods should be harvested varies, and the recommendation varies between the different types of peas. For example, mange tout or sugar snap peas should be harvested when the pods are around three inches or 7.5cm long and just as the peas are beginning to develop. Other varieties intend the peas to be harvested when they are much plumper.

How to Grow Peas: Did you know?

Did you know that the roots of peas store nitrogen? Resist the urge to dig up the roots at the end of the season, just cut down the plant and toss it on the compost heap. Dig the roots into the ground and the nitrogen will be reabsorbed into your soil, releasing in next year’s crop as per the natural order.

Peas are one of our five-a-day and pea pods can be a fun way to get picky children to have vegetables in their diet. If you have children or grandchildren, get them involved with picking and later either preparing a meal or eating their own hand-picked peas straight from the pod.

External Links – How to Grow Peas