Worldwide icon-chevron-right Europe icon-chevron-right United Kingdom icon-chevron-right England icon-chevron-right London icon-chevron-right This is how you start a vegetable patch on your balcony
Photograph: Time Out/Shutterstock
Photograph: Time Out/Shutterstock

This is how you start a vegetable patch on your balcony

Even if it’s too small to sit on

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Welcome to our series where, each week, we get experts to find solutions to your lockdown problems. Send yours to kate.lloyd@timeout.com and we’ll try to get you an answer. In this instalment: gardening. 

Tom from Walthamstow says:

‘I’m really keen to start growing my own fruit and veg, but I don’t have a garden. Can you start a veg patch on a tiny balcony?’

Kenny Raybould, head gardener at Covent Garden, says: 

Yes, you absolutely can, but first you need to assess your space. Ask yourself how much sunlight you get and is your space susceptible to extreme weather like the wind. Once you work out what conditions you have, it is time to do your research.

‘The easiest things to grow are strawberries, radishes, lettuce, dwarf french beans and tomatoes because they’re smaller plants and live happily in pots. To maximise your space, look at whether you have wall space for your plants to grow up.

‘When it comes to utensils, you might already have some around your home. You will need pots with drainage, a mini watering can (maybe repurpose an old jug), a trowel or scoop and a pencil to make seed holes. You will also need compost (use the contents of your organic bin) and some seeds or plugs (why not use fruit and veg you have in your fridge for that?). You can find specific tips for different plants below. 

Lettuce

Top tip Sow seeds four to six weeks apart and create cut-and-come-again leaves. Can be kept happily on a windowsill.

Loves Sunshine, with a bit of shade.

Hates Snails love lettuce so it’s best to grow yours in elevated planters to help reduce contact.

Potatoes

Top tip Take some old potatoes and leave them in a warm, dark spot for a week or so. This will allow the potatoes some time to grow little green shoots. Then pop them into a grow bag, the ground or large pots and cover the shoots with compost. Continue to cover the sprouts with compost as they grow. Water well, and once the foliage dies back, the spuds will be ready for your Sunday roast.

Loves Sunshine and regular watering.

Hates Do not over-water or allow them to sit in water as this will cause the potatoes to rot.

Radishes

Top tip Radishes are perfect for growing in containers or window boxes.

Loves Sunshine and regular watering.

Hates Being left unpicked. They tend to lose their great taste.

Peas

Top tip Start sowing your peas in March through to June and sow two crops four to six weeks apart to extend the cropping season.

Loves Give your peas twigs and canes to grow up as they need a bit of support.

Hates Small shoots can be vulnerable to passing creatures so try and protect your peas.

Spring onions

Top tip Sow in succession, starting from March.

Loves Sunshine and regular watering.

Hates Not a lot, they are really easy to grow.

Runner beans

Top tip They are the best beans for growing and produce plenty of sweet beans.

Loves Make sure you pick your beans regularly to encourage repeat growth, this will also help avoid stringy sharp beans.

Hates When young, these plants are vulnerable to snails, so watch out.

Onions

Top tip Plant near carrots as this helps ward off the dreaded carrot fly.

Loves Sunshine and regular watering.

Hates Mice and birds love onions as much as we do, so look out for dug-up ones and make sure to replant.

Tomatoes

Top tip For quick results, start with a baby tomato plant and work your way up from there. If you want to do things the slower way, then take your seeds, sow them and place them in a warm cupboard until they germinate. Tomatoes are really quick to grow but could take a while to get going.

Loves Sunshine and regular watering, but they are okay with a bit of shade.

Hates Being underfed, so I would recommend buying some Tomorite concentrated tomato food.

Carrots

Top tip A classic vegetable, and the chantenay type are perfect to grow in pots and window boxes. For those of you with a bit more space, how about growing some rainbow carrots?

Loves As mentioned above, sow with onions to help deter carrot flies. If you can’t, then make sure you sow your seeds after June.

Hates Rocky ground, as this will make your carrots stumpy.

Peppers

Top tip Grow peppers in a warm, sunny spot and feed with Tomorite concentrated tomato food which will encourage more fruits and shoots.

Loves A warm and sunny spot.

Hates They will need to be sheltered from high winds.

Read more in this series:

Am I in a power struggle with my cat?

Why am I having such vivid dreams in lockdown?

Why do I have the attention span of a goldfish?

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