Growing your own food in puts and tubs

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GROWING fruit and veg in containers is hardly a radical idea today, with gardens getting smaller and most people wanting to cut their food bills.

When I was a child, it was regarded as ridiculous.

If you had a back yard, you had concrete and a shed that used to be the netty. The only colour came from washing lines.

I planted a apple pip in a pot in the yard when I was eight. My family laughed. Thirty-eight years later, I have the same tree, transplanted into my garden.

My mother still lives in the same house and you can’t get moved for pots.

Her small front garden faces north, but the back’s a sun trap.

She’s managed to cram in six fruit trees (three apples, a plum, a cherry and a pear) all in large tubs.

There’s potatoes in sacks – first earlies only though.

A loganberry is crawling through a trellis alongside a yellow climbing rose of unknown origin.

And every year, I provide her with the more exotic stuff – tomatoes and a courgette (one’s quite enough for someone living on their own).

She’s got strawberry plants in planters we call the coffins – they really do look like gothic sarcophagi.

Avoid terracotta strawberry planters – they’ve a poor root run and dry out quickly, although herbs do OK in them.

I’d advise anyone who’s growing hungry fruit and veg outside in containers to concentrate on size, not looks – for the pots.

Unfortunately, over the years she’s bought “pretty pots” which often need watering twice a day. She doesn’t, so things die.

Make life easy for yourself – buy the biggest pots you can on offer, or at a cheap shop.

It doesn’t matter what they look like – if the plants are healthy, their growth will soon cover any offending plastic.

I’ve had tulips this year and carrots last year growing in old council recycling boxes and tomatoes in IKEA 99p toy boxes.

As long as they have holes in the bottom and drainage crocks, they’ll work. Broken-up polystyrene also works if weight’s an issue.

In a trough on a semi-shaded wall, there’s a cut-and-come-again salad mix.

Don’t put lettuce in full sun in high summer – green varieties are likely to bolt (set seed and taste bitter). Red varieties are much more tolerant.

In a couple of old chimney pots she usually grows a couple of runner beans, which climb over an arbour with a seat.

They’re in the sun, sheltered from winds and have a deep root run.

Several troughs hold herbs, but these seem to struggle to overwinter – they often get waterlogged.

Mint, parsley and thyme seems to do well.

If you’re growing veg from seed, such as carrots, look for “baby” varieties that mature quickly and won’t take over.

These are the ones that cost