By choosing your varieties carefully, a
whole range of fruit and vegetables can
be grown in containers from flower pots
to large tubs. Container-grown plants,
however, need more care and attention
than those grown in open ground.
If appearance is important, then both
pears and apples are excellent choices and,
depending on the variety, can have a very
pretty blossom. However, they are not
self-fertile, so need at least two different
varieties to provide cross-pollination to
Red currents, too, can look spectacular
in pots. Strawberries grow well in
containers, but it is essential to buy healthy
plants as they tend to suffer from viruses.
Raspberries need canes to stabilise them as
they grow, but there is a limit to the number
of years that they can grow in a container.
Figs and grapes have extensive roots,
so need regular feeding and watering.
Figs are particularly suitable for pots,
as to fruit well they need root restriction,
and have to be brought inside when
there is a frost.
Generally, for fruit you should use a
loam-based compost such as John Innes
No. 3, although for strawberries you could
use a peat-free or lighter compost. Pots
protect the size of the plant, although every
couple of years, in the winter, it is important
to take off about one-third of the roots and
remove and replace about the same amount
If re-potting into a bigger pot, make sure
that the pot isn’t too big to move around
if, for example, you want to put them in a
sunny position when fruiting. Plums and
cherries in particular need regular repotting,
probably every year, and also
require plenty of watering and feeding
as they can get stressed very easily.
Vegetables benefit if they are not in the
sun all day, so the ability to move them into
the shade is useful. It is equally important
that they are not subject to drafts. Quickgrowing
vegetables with compact habit are
perfect for pots such as tomatoes, redskin
peppers, little gem lettuce, dwarf French
beans and salad potatoes.
If possible, aim for containers with a
depth and width of at least 45cm. This will
avoid having to water and feed frequently.
Use sterile potting compost such as that
from a growing bag. There are also many
peat-free composts available which are
of equal quality.
If you are using containers on a longterm
basis, it is better to start with a loambased
compost. After using it once, it will
require a dressing of fertiliser before you
put in the next crop. Compost can only
hold a certain amount of fertiliser, so top
up nutrients in the growing season.
Be aware that crops planted before the
end of May could be subject to frost. If the
temperature drops, move pots into the most
sheltered position possible, and cover with
horticultural fleece. When they have been
in the container for four to five weeks,
start liquid feeding with Tomarite – a highpotash
fertiliser – at least once a week.
Mixing well-rotted manure into the
compost in the lower half of the container
is a very effective organic fertiliser. If plants
are looking sick or yellowing, foliar feeding
is very handy.
Containers should be frost-proof or will
need wrapping to protect them from the
frost. Make sure that they are raised on feet,
which not only provide drainage, but also
minimises the risk of pests. Ensure the holes
are not blocked by using crocks or a layer
of gravel in the base.
Even if you are not a member of the
Royal Horticultural Society, you can
benefit from their advice at:
Web site created by Mark Griffin