Put your deck or patio to work: grow vegetables and herbs in containers.
Awash with colorful blooms and brimming with delicious crops, this tiny patio is both pretty and productive. You can either grow vegetables and flowers from seed, or buy a range of young plug plants from the garden center if space and time is limited.
When to Start: Early spring
At Its Best: Summer to early autumn
Time to Complete: 3 hours to sow; 1 day to plant up
Either buy plants in late spring or sow seed earlier. If you need only one or two tomato plants, it may be easier to buy young plants. Sow chard seed directly into pots in spring. The asparagus pea is a gourmet vegetable that's easy to grow: simply sow the seed indoors in late spring and, as the weather warms up, harden off the seedlings by placing them outside during the day. To grow the squash, follow the sowing and planting methods for zucchinis, and sow some marigolds to brighten up the display.
When all danger of frost has passed, plant up the seedlings and young plants in large containers of soil-based potting mix. Vining tomatoes are best planted in large baskets; partner them up with herbs or trailing bedding plants, such as ground ivy. Also consider buying or making small raised beds, which are perfect for packing lots of vegetables into tight spaces. When planting the peas, add sticks to support them.
Crops in pots must be watered every day in summer, and the fruiting and podded vegetables benefit from a weekly feed with tomato fertilizer to encourage a bumper harvest. Pick the crops as soon as they ripen.
Growing crops in large bags is a popular idea for small patio gardens. You can either buy specialized products in an assortment of colors, or use strong recycling bags. Large plants, such as potatoes and zucchinis, that require lots of space and soil, are ideal for bags, which are generally cheaper than containers of the same size.
Trailing zucchinis, such as 'Tromboncino', are decorative plants with large leaves, sunny yellow flowers, and cream-colored fruits. Use vine eyes to fix coated wires up your wall or fence, and tie in the stems to make a screen of delicious vegetables.
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited