Darsham Nurseries Cafe, potager, kitchen garden, vegetables from seed, harvesting vegetables,
The Daily Dibber

Kitchen gardener for the Darsham Nurseries Cafe. Seedaholic. Grower and lover of food and flowers.

Food Containers.

The concept of a vegetable garden, allotment or potager for some people is an overwhelming prospect. Sometimes it’s just not feasible; there may be space restraints and affordability issues. The seasonal rises in the level of maintenance they require can result in it becoming just another pressure on an already swamped schedule.

Vegetables can be beautiful. The potager here at Darsham has surprised everyone including myself with its charm as it’s evolved through the months of 2015. Over this quiet period, I have been contemplating potager inspired container planting combinations.

I have chosen vegetables that do not need protection combined with herbs and/or edible flowers. This fusion of totally edible plants should with a little maintenance be aesthetically pleasing, fun to grow and give at least two harvests. Some vegetables by their very nature will be excluded. Brassicas although they can be incredibly handsome, cannot be grown successfully without protection from cabbage white butterflies. Onions, leeks and garlic hate shade and competition, so are best grown alone. I have also left out any plants with a tendency to bolt or that have individual requirements. Keeping it simple is the key.

These planting combinations can be used in a variety of different sized pots. Climbing vegetables need larger heavier container’s as they can reach 8-9 ft. in a season. Chard on the other hand would work well alone with a trailing companion, so that its magnificent coloured stems can be displayed.

Again, with ease in mind, most of these vegetables are annuals so multi-purpose compost will suffice, but after 6 weeks give the pots a weekly liquid seaweed feed. ‘Which’ magazine reviews multi-purpose composts every year, and their top performers can be relied upon for good results. Alternatively if you have access to well-rotted manure a thick layer beneath the multi-purpose compost will bring joy to most vegetables.

It would be nice to think that everyone could have one or two of these outside their back door. With just a pair of scissors, in moments you could add a twist of freshness to a dish. Salads are enhanced instantly with the addition of some fresh herbs and edible flowers. I hope this selection inspires you.

An incredibly simple combination is ‘Peppermint Pink’ chard planted with the edible Petunia X Hybrida ‘Purple Velvet’. The chard should be planted in the Spring, with the addition of the Petunias after the last frost.

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Alternatively, Chard ‘Rhubarb Red’ paired with the underused wonderful ‘Greek Basil’. I plant this basil by grouping the seedlings in batches across the entire pot, they will grow and join together to form a soft mound of aromatic perfection, which welcomes a regular snip.

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As I mentioned previously climbing beans need larger heavier containers, at least 30″ in diameter. Bamboo canes tied together leaving a space on the edges for the basil works fine. I would plant 6 beans and two nasturtiums. The deep rich basil leaves and the mixed nasturtiums can be picked daily for salad additions. In this combination ‘ Purple Basil’ reflects the speckled shades of the French climbing bean ‘Thelma Zebra’ which is then lifted by the Nasturtium ‘Climbing Mix’

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I love the wispy foliage of Fennel ‘Bronze’ and the liquorice scent it gives when you even bruise a stem. Here I have paired it with Nigella ‘Miss Jekyll’ which should be encouraged to tumble down the edges of the container. Nigella should flower before Calendula ‘Orange King’ giving a long season of edible flowers.

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Again a larger container but how about the combined loveliness of Mange Tout ‘Shiraz’ , under planted with Voilas ‘Singing the Blues’. The classic edible flower for cupcakes.

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‘Oriole Orange’ Chard is hard to beat, for a smaller container the Viola ‘Tiger Eyes’ would work.

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Cornflowers are on the whole too tall for containers , so I have chosen the dwarf variety ‘Dwarf Blue Midget’ to be the low companion of our winning bean of 2015 ‘Marvel of Venice’ with the addition of the wonderful wispy again underused Chervil.

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The compact varieties of courgettes are ideal for containers. I think a good combination for a larger container would be a central planting of one dwarf sunflower. ‘Praddo Gold’ with its multiple branching flower heads would team well with ‘Midnight’, a patio courgette which would then sprawl over the sides.

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The statuesque parsley ‘Italian Giant’,combined with the compact courgette ‘Sunstripe’ and Calendula ‘Lemon Zest’ would be long lasting. Once the courgettes have been harvested the parsley and flowers keep coming.

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A rectangular trough would work well with the bodacious ‘Crimson Flowered’ Broad bean. The flowers, young pods as well as the mature beans are all edible. As they can get quite dense, two shade happy companions would be ‘Black peppermint’ mint and ‘Curly’ Chervil.

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‘Giant Red’ Celery earned its keep this year, the leaves were used in stocks and sauces and the stems became the stirring stick for Bloody Mary’s. It’s easy to grow, with pinkish slender stems which would complement Daisy ‘Habanera White’.

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Both the flowers and the foliage of Mallow ‘Zebrina’ are edible and reaching a metre high, this could be planted centrally surrounded by multiple seedlings of ‘Moss Curled’ Parsley which would create a thicket of green.

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A rectangular trough calls for uncomplicated contrasting lines of lettuces. ‘Descartes’ and ‘Navarra’ work well.

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My new favourite parsley is a rare heritage variety called ‘Faulds’, it’s slow growing, tight and neat. Planted en-masse under the ridiculously pretty ‘Pink Passion’ Chard, this would form a soft green furry carpet.

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The mixture of Fennel and Amaranthus ‘Love lies Bleeding’ should work beautifully. They are both considered superfoods. Fennel will reach 5-6 ft, so a large pot is needed. This amaranth can in a sunny position reach 3 ft, and it’s red dreadlocks are one of my favourite flowers. The flowers can be dried and the grains toasted.

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This year there is a new climbing yellow courgette ‘Shooting Star’ this mixed with a couple of deep red Nasturtium ‘Crimson Emperor’ and the giant curly leaves of ‘Giant Genovese’ Basil should be beautiful and bountiful.

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Jan 2016

limegarden@sky.com • 12th January 2016

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