Gardening: Try pot luck with veges

By Meg Liptrot

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Pots are a good alternative if your garden lacks sun. By Meg Liptrot.

Rocket and other leafy greens do well in pots placed in a sunny spot. Photo / Meg Liptrot
Rocket and other leafy greens do well in pots placed in a sunny spot. Photo / Meg Liptrot

The other day my colleague's husband popped into our environment centre in New Lynn to buy some biodiesel. He is a recent convert to the virtues of modified waste fish-and-chip oil to power the family stationwagon. He hassled me for expecting him to be out in the cold gardening and asked if I would write something that involved being inside?

Well, this is as close as I get without turning to houseplants - which I may write about if I run out of inspiration. When I was pulling out the remnants of our summer vege garden, I recalled how dire our site is as far as sunlight goes in winter.

The fruit trees are unaffected, but the low winter sun is blocked by our neighbour's house, so the vege plot is immersed in cold shade for much of winter. I have grown peas, broadbeans and the tall-growing kale, 'Palm Tree Di Toscana', successfully in previous winters, but the leafy greens tend to not do as well.

Last year, I used a cloche (mini hooped greenhouse) to keep the veges warmer, but even that wasn't enough and the plants became leggy trying to reach the light.

However, a cloche is a great solution if you are getting good sunlight at your place.

There are a few lovely sunny spots on our deck and steps and that is where the animals (and humans) of our family jostle for position on a fine day. These sunny spots are where it's best to place pots, particularly those growing veges and herbs. But bulbs are happy to be in pots placed in semi-shade.

Pots on decks need to be raised to prevent the timber of your deck staying wet and eventually rotting. Garden centres have cute little terracotta feet for pots to keep them elevated.

I've chosen to interplant rocket en masse with chives and the companion plant calendula for a splash of colour in our medium-sized (30cm-50cm wide) terracotta pots. They're all surviving very well together and the rocket is going great guns. Once the plants get to a reasonable size, these piquant leaves can be picked regularly for salads.

We have a large planter on our deck made from sustainably sourced totara _ a fantastic, rot-proof timber. Fence posts and house piles were made from this durable species in the old days. Totara is my preference over treated-timber planters, particularly if you are growing edibles.
If you are stuck with treated timber, try lining the inside with polythene.

Attach it with a staple gun and cut a few holes in the base for drainage. This technique is also a good idea if you have a planter made from softer untreated timber such as macrocarpa. Damp soil in contact with most timbers causes the wood to rot.

Overenthusiastic herbs such as mint can be placed inside a smaller hidden plastic pot in your planter to prevent their roots from taking over. In our planter I have sprouting broccoli at one end and mint for my tea at the other.

Edibles for pots

Small pots:
* Sow mesclun or microgreen seeds for cut-and-come-again salad greens
* Sow wheat and barley grass - these look cute in pots on window sills in the kitchen
* Plant garlic cloves (and saffron bulbs earlier in the year for autumn flowering)

Medium pots:
* Plant larger growing leafy greens including lettuces, rocket, spinach, endives
* Chives and spring onions
* Root veges, eg: carrots and radish
* Herbs, eg: parsley, coriander, thyme, sage, oregano
* Strawberries

Large pots/tubs:
* Small citrus trees, eg: kumquat and mandarin
* Dwarf fruit trees
* Chilean Guava
* Taro (in frost-free areas)
* Large woody herbs such as upright rosemary

* Meg Liptrot studied sustainable horticulture and is a garden designer specialising in organic edibles and natives.

- NZ Herald

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