Edible Gardening in a Greenhouse & Container Garden
You don’t need a large space to grow an edible garden
Though I do have an allotment garden, it’s my crops at home in my container garden that are the most used. They’re close at hand, easy to keep an eye on, and grow quicker since they’re kept in a more sheltered place. The best thing is that when I need a handful of herbs or a bowl full of lettuce I can just walk out and pick it. Garden to plate in minutes.
Being able to grow in a greenhouse is a bonus in cooler climates
The summer on the Isle of Man is usually wet and sometimes cold. As I look out the window right now I see drizzle and an overcast sky – I’m also wearing a poncho to keep warm. It can be a difficult place to grow some fruits and vegetables but others like greens, cabbage, raspberries, and potatoes love this climate.
Being in a greenhouse, warmed by the sun and protected from the wind, makes it easier to grow crops like tomatoes and basil. I have them growing together in a long wooden trough since I’ve been told tomatoes taste sweeter when they’re companion planted with basil.
I’ve squeezed six tomato plants into the greenhouse
So far, all of my tomatoes are either in flower or green fruit but they’re swelling and hopefully will be ripe soon. I’m growing three types of tomatoes this year: a Heritage Red Pear variety, and Red Currant and Yellow Currant tomatoes from Dobies of Devon.
I really hope at least some of them ripen before Josh and I head to the states at the end of August. If not, our house-sitters will be in for a treat!
Many edibles can be grown in containers and pots
Outside the greenhouse I have a menagerie of planters – some plastic, some stone, some ceramic, and some wooden. Nearly all of them have been free or I’ve made them myself from pallet wood. Not just any pallet wood though – it needs to be heat treated rather than chemically treated or you risk horrible pesticides and fungicides leaching into your compost.
In my containers I grow strawberries. lettuce, chives, coriander (cilantro), rocket (arugula), rainbow carrots, and other odds and ends. I’ve also started growing herbs in a GreenStalk vertical planter inside the greenhouse. So far the ones I’ve planted in it are thriving and I can see this planter becoming an essential part of my greenhouse kit.
You can grow edibles in a container garden
Last year someone abandoned an old Belfast sink at our allotment garden. I waited months to see if anyone would take it and then decided to put it to use at home. What I didn’t realise was that it weighs probably the same amount as I do! It wasn’t easy getting it into the car but fortunately Josh was able to help me take it out and move it to its place in front of the greenhouse.
It serves two functions here. First it helps keep the greenhouse in place since it’s not actually bolted into the patio. Secondly it’s now growing a crop of coriander (cilantro) on the left and rocket (arugula) on the right. They were sown at the same time but I suspect the coriander has been a bit slow due to the cool weather.
An upended pallet is perfect for growing salad greens in
Last year I had the idea to flip a pallet over, strip it down, add wheels, and create a massive (and mobile) planter. It only holds a shallow layer of soil but it’s absolutely brilliant for growing greens in. The red lettuce in the back grows in heads and the green in the foreground is a cut-and-come-again variety. In the middle is a section for spinach but it’s not done as well. I’m resowing that bit with more lettuce seeds today.
One of the best things about this planter is that you can broadcast sow – meaning you sprinkle seeds everywhere rather than in a row. I use wooden dividers to show where one crop ends and another begins.
Succulent Pallet Planter
An experiment of mine is a planter that we built last summer. It’s large and square-ish and on each of its four faces is metal mesh and a layer of horticultural fleece. I’ve planted rainbow carrots in the top with the idea that they’ll be out of reach of carrot root flies. Two of the sides are planted up with succulent cuttings and they’re really starting to take off now.
If you have one planter, make it this one
A few years ago I came up with the idea of cutting up a pallet and putting it together as a planter. Since then I’ve grown strawberries in it and have had quite a few folks send me in photos of theirs too. I’ve seen raspberries, potatoes, greens, and flowers growing out of them.
I’ve just replanted my two with new strawberry plants which will fruit next year. The straw mulch along the top and the sides is doing its job of keeping the plants moist and protected. See how to build this planter and also how to plant it up.
A large food tin can be used to create a succulent planter
A fun project of mine was to cut holes in a metal olive oil tin and use it to plant an array of succulents in. It’s absolutely thriving if you look at the before and after photos but one of the succulents has suffered so it’s on its back while a new plant is established. I have this sitting by the door and it greets everyone who visits with a green and gold hello.
I sowed my little patch at the gate with wildflower seeds again this year and have just let it do its thing. There are buttercups and poppies and calendula growing in a wild tangle and I absolutely love it. Sure there are plenty of weeds, but it looks natural and attracts and feeds beneficial insects including bumblebees and honeybees. In among the wildflowers are also perennial herbs such as lavender, thyme, and rosemary.
The difference four months can make
Back in March this is what the patch looked like. It still astonishes me just how much the garden can change with a bit more light and warmth. Everything comes back to life in an explosion. In a few months time it will return to this state to wait out the winter and to spring back to life yet again in 2017.
Back in the allotment things are doing great too. The gooseberries and raspberries are fruiting, the garlic needs digging, and new potatoes are ready for the kitchen. Look out for an update on what’s growing early next week.