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Grow your own fruit and veg: eight of the best varieties for London container gardeners

Urban growers don't need a garden to grow their own produce — a windowsill will do. Here are the best varieties to try. 

By
05 January 2021
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taying at home for a year has pushed many of us to gardening. Be it for the promise of self-sufficiency amid the threat of supermarket shortages, the ability to witness growth and change as our lives stand still, or just for something to do, in the gardening world business is booming.

And, if you're not one of the droves of Londoners alleged to be moving to the shires, then Crops in Tight Spots (Octopus, 18.99) is the book you need.

It offers an essential guide to the delicious fruit, salad, herbs and vegetables you can grow at home when you don't have much outside space — perfect for apartment-dwelling Londoners and renters who want to be able to take the fruits of their labours with them when they move.

From windowsills to hanging baskets, pots to raised beds it is full of inspirational projects and planting ideas — even if you have no gardening experience at all.

There is really no limit to what you can harvest.

Eight of the best crops to order now to sow in early spring

Demand for vegetable seed and plants has soared this year, so you may have to be patient and a little flexible on the variety you buy.

But all of these crops are well worth growing even if you have a tiny space and are a complete gardening beginner.

As well as nationwide suppliers, don't forget to try your local London nursery — it might be able to deliver plants and seeds to your doorstep.

Tomatoes

Unbeatable flavour when grown at home. If you leave it too late to sow the seeds (best done in early spring), order small plants online and plant them in compost in pots in a warm, sheltered place out of the wind.

Choose a trailing variety for window boxes and hanging baskets and a cordon variety for grow bags and larger pots, to grow up a cane.

Sungold is my absolute favourite cordon variety. Try Thompson & Morgan and Suttons for plants.

Chillies

Choose from mild to super-fiery and pick the chillies fresh or dry, or freeze to preserve the harvest. An absolute winner, with a massive harvest and so easy to grow.

Herbs

Have a chef's smorgasbord of flavour at your fingertips by growing pots of herbs at home.

From thyme to chives, oregano to sage, parsley and mint, all will grow in pots or window boxes. All but chives and mint need lots of sun.

Herbal teas are easy to make from lemon verbena, mint or chamomile flowers.

Hetty's Herbs, HooksGreen Herbs or Pepperpot Herbs are all great specialist suppliers, or try World’s End Nurseries for local London delivery.

Dwarf French beans

A great choice for a small raised bed or large pot, since they pump out masses of delicious beans and you don't need to put in wigwams to grow them up.

Buy small plants from Suttons (as before) or Marshalls.

Purple Teepee is a great variety if you can get hold of it.

Lettuce and other salad leaves

Easy to grow — either from little plants or from seed.

Buy a packet of Webbs Wonderful or Red Salad Bowl and start the seeds off in little pots then plant out when bigger. Or sow more thickly and cut them as baby leaves.

Add some salad rocket and oriental salad leaves seed into the mix and you have the perfect salad at your fingertips.

Try Sarah Raven or Real Seeds for seed, or Dobies for plug plants.

Cucumbers

When you grow cucumbers at home they have so much flavour — a world away from those slimy shop-bought ones – and kids love them.

Grow them in a large pot up a trellis in a sunny place. Try Marshalls (as before) for plants

Mangetout and sugar snap peas

So easy to grow from seed — sow them thickly and cut them as pea shoots or sow them further apart and let them grow up twiggy sticks and harvest the pods that you eat whole.

Try Harrod Horticultural for plants or get seeds from Marshalls, Thompson & Morgan, Sarah Raven (all as before), or Crocus.

Courgettes

If you have a big pot like a tub trug or a raised bed, then a courgette plant is worth growing.

Just one plant can produce around three courgettes a day at the height of summer — so you'd better like eating them!

Easy to grow in a sunny space as long as you don't let them get too dry. Try DT Brown for seeds.

Click here to order a copy of Crops in Tight Spots (Octopus, 18.99), by Homes & Property gardening writer Alex Mitchell