IN theory, a few vegetables as well as herbs can be grown in pots, but what we normally regard as pots are not very successful, especially in the summer heat of Spanish gardens once temperatures rise above 20 degrees.
For the past few weeks, our temperature in the shade hovers around 37 degrees, but vegetables, if watered every other day, are growing well in black builders buckets of 55 centimetres diameter, and of 65 centimetres elsewhere in semi-shaded corners of the garden.
They include red and crinkly green lettuces, rocket, Swiss chard, purslane, carrots, cabbages, cauliflowers, stevia, cumin, horseradish, climbing yard long and butter beans, dwarf beans, tomatoes, nasturtiums for edible leaves, flowers and seed pods, several types of peppers and aubergines, courgettes, onions plus leeks producing seed for autumn sowing.
Based on our now 12 years of experimenting with large tub growing along the lines of the concept of a ‘10-tub vegetable garden’ launched in our book ‘Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain’ there are many benefits as described below.
Twenty one proven benefits:
1. Small space required – You can build up a circle, square, oblong or row in one bucket units of just a quarter of a square metre.
2. High yield per square metre – Close planting works well and you have no unplanted areas and paths to worry about.
3. Speedy harvesting – If you chose vegetables regularly used and co-locate the salad and ones for steaming for instance daily or twice daily harvesting takes just minutes.
4. Relatively inexpensive – If you hunt around, builders buckets are not expensive and second hand ones can be used if located.
5. Little waste, as number of plants controlled by your space.
6. Co-located salads – all the year round.
7. Accommodate small and expansive plants
8. No space for weeds – if one plants close to give shade to roots.
9. Easy to use mutual mulching – for instance lettuces around aubergines.
10. Easy soil enrichment – just makes good initial soil/compost/manure mixes and top up between crops.
11. Low water wastage – no sideways losses to dry earth.
12. Circular support frames for tomatoes, peppers and beans etc., for strength.
13. Rare insect and fungal attacks – no major area of vulnerable crops.
14. Companion plant – using mutually beneficial herbs and vegetables.
14. Instant filling of gaps to replace cleared crops – just pop in a few new plantlets from local market or garden centre.
15. Of interest – to owners and visitors.
16. Easy to move or reorganise – Nothing too heavy to pull around.
17. Feature or hidden away -Part of mine is an island on the drive while other parts are in otherwise under used corners of the garden.
18. Just grow what you need – Easy for children and the infirm as well as the totally strong and able.
19. Crop rotation possible by rotating between buckets.
21. Can have a floral centre – Mine has a tall geranium.
Yes this expanded small scale vegetable growing really does work and not only in gardens, but also in small patios and on apartment terraces. My retreat from an 800 square metre allotment to raised beds and at present 20 builders buckets was driven by the increasing advent of thieving, increased cost of irrigation water, pollution of water by millions of weed seeds as the surrounding agricultural land was progressively abandoned, wind-blown chemical pollution from non-organic orchards, the moving of a Michelin starred restaurant away from the area -the prices they had paid for mini organic vegetables met our production costs several times ,and to reduce my physical work as now nearing 79 years of age.
So give it a go by starting with just two or three buckets of closely planted salad plantlets even now in full summer grown in a mainly shaded position and then expand to produce the vegetables for the Christmas table, including new potatoes.
Two useful books to help you make the best of bucket veggie plots are now available from Amazon Books and some other internet sites.
© Dick Handscombe www.gardenspain.com