if you are new to gardening, here are five vegetables that are easy to grow in pots in a small space such as a balcony. Take this small step towards growing your own food.
A huge cotton tree, ladies fingers, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, peppers, chillis, potatoes, eggplants, carrots, cabbage, and beetroots – this was the backyard of our home when I was growing up.
An informal signage to our house was: “the house with a large flower garden in the front“. Marigolds, sunflower, dahlias, and tuberoses adorned the house.
My mother loved gardening. She spent hours and hours tending to the plants while my brother and I were at school. It came to such a point that my brother, all of three years, insisted on having only ladies finger for lunch and dinner every day. We moved cities and countries after three years in that small town, and never got to live in a individual house with a front and back yard. Years later, I found the same passion for plants in my father-in-law. He grew everything from spinach and mint to radish and broccoli. We rarely shopped for vegetables in the winter. Most of the produce from the garden was cooked.
That’s where my weakness for greens comes from. The limited 8*4 feet balcony space is no deterrent. Last summer, the pots mainly contained flowering plants. This summer, I’m repotting them with jasmines, and white and orange hibiscus. I’m also adding some vegetables to the mix.
Certain vegetables thrive well even in pots. You can grow them in deep pots of 14″-18″ size or use planter boxes. It all depends on choosing the right vegetables – the ones whose roots don’t grow very deep. Get started with me if you want to grow your own vegetable garden.
These are the five vegetables you can grow all around the year:
1. Chillies and Peppers – Take two or three chillies. Slit them open and dry them in sun until they are completely dry. Alternatively, for better germination rates (i.e. how many seeds turn into saplings) buy the seeds, spread them in a small seedling tray or egg tray or any shallow tray filled with potting soil. Ensure the seeds don’t go too deep. Cover it with a thin layer of potting soil and sprinkle water. It took about a week for the seeds to sprout. I can see about 10 plants now. After you see about 10 leaves, transplant them into a bigger pot/grow bag – one plant per bag or pot.
2. Tomatoes – Roots of a tomato plant grow deeper into the soil. You can either choose the country-side tomatoes or cherry tomatoes. You don’t need to invest in buying the seeds or a small plant to get started. Just cut a tomato into four pieces and bury it about 1/2 inch into the soil. Wait for 3-4 weeks for the seeds to start sprouting into a plant. Thin the seedlings keeping just one seedling per pot. The plant grows taller and needs support to hold it together. The picture below is that of a cherry tomato growing in a small 10″ wide hanging pot. This is the second harvest. I feed it with organic compost once a week.
3. Coriander – This without doubt is my favorite herb to grow. Less maintenance and quite easy to grow. But many beginners find it hard. The trick is to use soil that is not too dense. Recycle used cans or tins and fill it up with soil. If you can’t make a drain hole at the bottom of the can, fill it up with gravels for about 2 inches and then put the soil on top. Once you have the container ready, take a handful of coriander seeds and rub them with your footwear. Pour the crushed seeds into the can, cover it a layer of soil, water it and forget it. Ensure it gets enough sunlight. You should have a bunch of coriander leaves within a month.
4. Mint – Mint needs a small container like coriander/cilantro. Alternatively, you can grow the herbs together in a big container.
5. Beans – Sow the seeds in pots a few inches apart. The plant grows into a vine so train them on the grill or a tall pole. You will need at least seven pots to grow seven plants to feed a family of three. If you grow just one plant, the harvest will not be enough.
Nitrate manure is available in most nurseries. Put about 25-30 gms of organic manure to the vegetable pots once in 30 days.
What containers to grow the plants in?
- I grow them in plastic pots and medium grow bags. Take your pick, get creative and grow them in any container you like. For tomatoes, the container should be wide and deep, and have a trellis support.
- The most important thing is good drainage for excess water to flow out. You can use clay or cement pots too. The only disadvantage is they can get heavy, so I prefer grow bags. I use cocogarden grow bags bought on Amazon.
Would you like to join me and start your own vegetable garden too, but don’t know where to pick up the seeds and other resources from? Then this guide is for you: order plants, manure, panchagavya and all that you need from the comfort of your home. I have a compiled a list of websites from where you can order all that you need to start your garden.
How do I care for the plants and protect them from pests:
- Potting mix – a mix of red soil and cocopeat.
- Sowing, sprouting and transplanting is easy. Protecting them from pests is hard work. The ones that you’ll often encounter are white squishy things along the stems and backside of leaves. This is how I get rid of them naturally, without spraying organic chemicals.
- Plant feed: plants need nutrition on a regular basis to grow. The best thing to feed them would be dried cow dung. I use a handful of compost/panchagavya every week.