5 easy to grow fruit and vegetables in pots for the first time gardener

A quick-fire guide to the easiest herbs, fruits and veg grow in the UK in spring.

Think you’re not naturally green-fingered? Think again. Where time, space and experience might seem like the backbone of a bounteous Victorian walled garden, for a cracking modern kitchen garden, all it takes are some low-maintenance crops and a few containers to get you channeling your inner Monty Don in no time.

Growing your own can mean much more than the convenience of the freshest fruit, vegetables and herbs at your fingertips. After seeing your first misshapen strawberry find its way into the world, you’ll find that growing your own ingredients will not only have a huge influence on how you cook, but you’ll be hit with a newfound appreciation of our humble fruit and veg. That little strawberry won’t be relegated to the bin — it’ll take pride of place atop your morning yoghurt. This is real food, to be celebrated, shared and devoured with joy. What are you waiting for? Start sowing and planting today!

What you’ll need:

Any small outdoor space will work, such a little balcony, wide doorstep or tiny patio. If none of those are available then a sunny windowsill indoors will do the trick for growing chives.

Tips before you start:

  • To make things easy, start your kitchen garden with seedlings — the young plants already started for you available from local garden centres, found in the ‘grow your own’ section.
  • Line your plant container with broken bits of pot or a layer of gravel to assist with drainage. Fill with potting compost.
  • Water your seedlings both before and after planting. You can do this with a small watering can.

Chives

To grow

When to sow seeds: March to June

Where: In a small pot or window box in a sunny spot. If growing indoors, open the window now and again.

How: Lightly sow the seeds across the top of the compost and cover with a thin layer of soil. Water it a little, regularly. See, easy peasy.

Harvest: You’ll see results in 2 months. When you cut them to eat, leave 5 cm so they grow back.

To cook

Chives’ beautiful busy mauve-lilac flowers are edible too. Sprinkle over a salad or throw into an omelette or quiche along with its oniony green stalks, chopped finely. Preserve them in a pink-hued vinegar by half filling a sterilised jar with the flowers and topping with white wine vinegar. Leave in a dark place for up to 2 weeks, strain and add to dressings. Or try lightly battered in a chive flower tempura.

Spinach

To grow

When to plant seedlings: April to early May

Where: In a long large planter in a sunny shaded spot.

How: Plant 25 cm apart and water. Water well in dry weather.

Harvest: Ready to pick in about 12 weeks. Cut from the outside of the plant and by picking often, plenty of new leaves will be produced.

To cook

Add adding to pasta or risotto dishes. It’s excellent in a veggie butternut squash pie, a savoury take on pancakes or stuffed in roasted peppers with wild rice.

Rainbow Chard

Image courtesy of @kindstateofmind. Rainbow chard courtesy of Farmdrop

To grow

When to plant seedlings: March to July

Where: In a large pot or planter in a sunny spot with some shelter.

How: Allow at least 30cm of space between seedlings. When it’s hot make sure to water them regularly so they don’t dry out. Luckily, this requires little attention to ensure a good crop.

Harvest: The leaves are the best with they’re small and tender. Harvest them when they’re about 15cm tall (about 8 to 10 weeks) and cut outside leaves first, leaving a few centimetres at the bottom.

To cook

Lightly braise with garlic and lemon and try served with roasted meats or stewed beans. You can use it in place of spinach — it’ll work a treat in eggs florentine or in a cheesy filo pastry pie.

Strawberries

To grow

When to plant seedlings: April to May

Where: Try using a wooden wine box with holes drilled in the bottom or upturned old light fixture with a large glass or plastic shade as a planter and positioning it on a sunny spot.

How: Plant seedlings 30 cm apart and give them tomato feed every 10 days once flowering. Keep well watered.

Harvest: As soon as the berries turn red (about 4–6 weeks), you’ll want to pick them straight away.

To cook

If you can hold out from eating them straight off the plant, pop the little beauties on top of granola with yoghurt or enjoy in a mini strawberry pavlova with teeny rounds of meringue topped with a dollop of lightly whipped cream and a single strawberry.

Beetroot

To grow

When to plant seedlings: May to July

Where: In a large and shallow planter or container in a sunny spot, with or without partial shade. It’s one of the most tolerant of veg.

How: Plant 10cm apart. They don’t like saturated soil so rainfall should do. If there’s a heatwave, water every 1 to 2 weeks.

Harvest: After 2 months. For the sweetest beets, harvest when their heads are slightly larger than a golf ball.

To cook

Earthy in taste and delightful in colour, chioggia or candy stripe beets are beautiful sliced and eaten raw in a salad, or try any variety salt-baked whole for a tender, flavour-packed beetroot dish. Use the leaves in the same way you would spinach (or your homegrown chard).

Do you have any green-fingered tips to help newbie gardeners? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below!