Growing fruit and vegetables in pots is a useful way to maximise the space you have available to grow food in your back yard. This page looks at the advantages and disadvantages of pots as well as some pointers to help you choose the best pots for your circumstances.
- CAN BE PLACED ON HARD SURFACES SUCH AS PATIOS OR DECKING
- BE BETTER PROTECTED
Frost and cold sensitive plants in pots can be better protected from the elements as they can be placed in sheltered spots such as patios or verandas.
- ARE PORTABLE
They can be moved around the garden at different times of the year. For example, frost sensitive plants in pots can be kept in a greenhouse over winter then moved out of the greenhouse in summer to a shaded part of the garden to avoid excessive heat.
- ARE TRANSPORTABLE
Pots can be moved to another property or even another part of the country. This is particularly useful if you are in temporary accommodation or renting.
- IDEAL FOR GROWING HERBS
It is a good idea to have herbs near your kitchen door so you can have easy access to them when cooking. Having your herbs in pots allows them to be right next to the kitchen, say on the veranda or porch.
- HAVE WARMER SOIL
Pots, especially if they are black, absorb heat more readily than the ground, making the soil in post warmer than the nearby ground. Warm soil promotes greater plant growth.
Soil in pots is usually warmer than the ground as pots absorb the sun’s heat more efficiently. Warmer soil encourages more vigorous plant growth.
- DRY OUT MORE QUICKLY
Plants in pots will suffer from water stress much more quickly than plants in the ground as soil in pots dries out more quickly.
- CAN BE EXPENSIVE
Especially if using earthenware pots.
- LOSE HEAT MORE QUICKLY ON COLD NIGHTS
If the soil in a pot freezes on a sub-zero night it has the potential to kill some plants. Usually only the very top layer of ground soil will freeze.
- REQUIRE MORE FERTILISER
Most plants in pots require more fertiliser than ones grown in the ground due to the roots being more restricted and the increased risk of nutrients leaching out of the soil as water drains through the pots.
There is an increased risk of nutrients leaching out of the soil as water drains through the pot. It is important that pots have a saucer under them to trap water flowing through them.
Pots dry out more quickly than the ground. And the smaller the pot the more quickly it will dry out. To reduce the risk of drying out it is best to use as bigger pots as possible.
Though note that the larger the pot the harder they will be to move. The size of pot can also vary depending on the plant being grown. For example, vegetables can be grown in smaller pots than fruit trees as their root structures are smaller and they use less water.
The smaller the pot the quicker it will dry out. For this reason it is best to use larger sized pots where possible.
Pot trollies are useful as a pot on a pot trolley can be easily moved. This is especially so for heavy pots that cannot be easily lifted. Trollies also reduce the risk of damage to the surface below by minimising the contact surface area. This is particularly useful for pots on decking.
Though note that it is important that the carry capacity of the trolley match the weight of the pot. Placing a heavy pot on a lightweight trolley can result in damage to the trolley’s wheels.
LEFT: Plastic pot on a lightweight pot trolley. RIGHT: Earthenware pot on a heavy-duty trolley.
As plants in pots need more frequent watering than plants in the ground it is a really good idea to water them using an automatic watering system. Though note that there is no such thing as a truly automatic watering system, they all need to be monitored for line blockages and regularly adjusted to match the changing climatic conditions.
LEFT: Adjustable flow trickler watering a pot. RIGHT: Simple tap timer. With a combination of adjustable flow tricklers and drippers and a tap timer it is possible to accurately supply the right amount of water to your pots.