Permaculture blog

Container gardening

Published by Lorna Harvey-Frank on 19 December 2012

At our December Permaculture meeting we discussed how to intensify production by using containers:

  • Sam grew sweet corn, French beans and a small squash variety together in tyres in her front garden and got quite a good harvest - see previous blog.
  • Carrots do well in containers such as old 5 gallon buckets, as they can develop deeper roots in light compost, but can run out of nutrients, so slow release fertiliser is recommended.
  • Potatoes don’t seem to do give such a good yield in containers.  Courgettes appear to need lots of nutrients from experience of several of us who have experimented in tubs.  Look out for special varieties for pots.
  • Strawberries had different results.  Some varieties do better than others in pots.  Lorna has saved runners from some that did well last season.  Sam’s strawberry planter was difficult to keep hydrated.   She is experimenting with a new type specially for hanging baskets and containers, which do not produce runners.  Note: Wild strawberries can cross with cultivated strawberries and reduce fruit size.

Jeremy's deep-root seed box

Jeremy brought along a seedling box he had made in reclaimed wood.  It is tailored for sowing seeds at the optimum depth and spacing so that they can be left undisturbed for a longer period before planting out.  This gives the plants are really good chance to develop strong roots and means they are bigger and will become established more quickly when planted on. eg. Leeks can be left there for up to 3 months.  This system means you don’t need to thin the plants out, thus no seed is wasted. 

Capillary matting is inserted into the bottom of the tray and pre-moistened, which makes further watering virtually unnecessary, especially when a lid is placed over the box to keep the moisture in.  Keep cool, in a greenhouse or utility room. Jeremy sows leeks and onions together and with his compact custom “multi dibber” up to 100 seeds can be sown in a fairly small box.  Genius!





Planting individual onion seeds in the depressions left by the 'multi-dibber'





Later, in the spirit of permaculture, we used our combined man and woman-power to help Sam dig out an unwanted laburnum tree and replaced it with a Filbert cob-nut tree. 

The Real Seed Company was recommended as a good seed source - see Jeremy's Seed Saving blog post.  Everything is tried and tested on a small hillside in Wales, so should grow well here too, then!  We talked about ordering seeds together to share and try different varieties and avoid wasting any seeds.  

Hopefully,  we will  master the art of seed saving (see previous blog) and between us become self-sufficient in years to come!

Book recommendation: How to Grow More Vegetables, by John Jeavons.

Our next permaculture meeting is on 5th January 2013 – Planning for the Year Ahead and Companion Planting, at Rachel and Barney’s house.