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How To Grow Salad and Vegetables on the Patio

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Did you know that 75% of all tomatoes consumed in Britain are imports from Saudi Arabia, Spain, the Canary Islands and Morocco? In fact, most of our supermarket salad and vegetables may have spent days or even weeks in cold storage before we take it home. If you have a small corner of the garden, patio or courtyard, it is possible to grow a variety of salad and vegetables in containers and have the pleasure of eating food straight from the garden (see How To Grow Potatoes on the Patio).
What you'll need: 
A selection of 12 inch pots
Grow Bags or Gro-beds
Seeds or plants
Potting compost
1: 
Plan the space you have available for growing salad and vegetables, and decide on the type of containers you can use. We are all familiar with growbags but there are all sorts of alternatives we can utilise – purpose made Gro-beds, large plastic bread and vegetable baskets that we can empty and refill with compost every year. Or a selection of large (12 inch) pots.
2: 
Make a list of the things you like to eat – it’s pointless growing salad or vegetables if they’re not family favourites. On the other hand don’t be afraid to experiment with something new.
3: 
Standard tomatoes plants (i.e. Moneymaker) can be bought from the garden centre and either planted one to a 12 inch pot or three to a grow bag. There are trailing varieties (i.e. Tumbling Tom) than can be grown in containers and hanging baskets.
4: 
Salad plants such as lettuce, spring onions, radish and beetroot can be grown in grow bags, or gro-beds. Sow direct into the compost and thin out as necessary.
5: 
Plants such as aubergines and peppers can be grown one per 12 inch pot, while courgettes grow best two per growbag.
6: 
Beetroot can be sown direct into a grow bag and the plants thinned to 1 inch apart. Grow bags and gro-beds are only suitable for shallow rooted globe varieties of carrot, which should be sown direct and thinned to 2-3 inches apart.
7: 
Runner beans are climbers and need elbow room to thrive. Plant six per growbag and provide them with a sturdy frame or trellis as the plants are very heavy when fully grown.
8: 
Buy seeds and plants from a small local grower rather than a supermarket.
9: 
Some seed merchants like Dobies or Victoriana Nursery Gardens now offer miniature vegetables sold as ready-grown plants that are highly suitable for container gardening
10: 
Fresh compost and grow bags can only sustain plants for 2-3 weeks. After that they will require regular feeding with a multi-purpose plant food, or a good quality tomato feed.
Conclusion: 
If it goes wrong or you make mistake, don’t worry about it. Patio/container gardening requires a certain degree of experimentation and hopefully you’ll solve all your problems in the first season. Container gardening requires the minimum amount of digging and soil preparation, and so you can enjoy the fruits of your labours without the hard work.
Tips: 
Don’t get confused by over-complicated gardening instructions. If in doubt ask the chap at the garden centre for advice.
Keep a gardening diary for cuttings and notes.
Keep a record of specific varieties that do well in your environment.
Warnings: 
Container gardening is all about feeding and watering regularly. If you don’t take care of the plants – watering morning and evening and feeding weekly – then you won’t have a good crop to harvest.

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