The Simple Things

Botanist Dad

Sometimes we all need a hand in the garden, but who do you ask for help? Our Botanist Dad (@thebotanis­tdad) knows all about plants and growing, and is here to answer your dilemmas



Dear Botanist Dad, I have a tiny garden, but I’d love to try growing my own fruit and veg. Is there anything I can plant now that will grow happily in pots on my patio? Sarah Wilson, Manchester


You can grow fruit and veg in almost any container, from pots to buckets, plastic trugs and growing sacks – or even your new pallet planter. Just ensure there are holes in the bottom, plus some gravel or small stones to enable water to escape, then fill up with a nutrient-rich John Innes formula compost, which will also help with drainage.

Like strawberri­es, salad leaves are great container crops, but you may need a natural slug-deterrent as they love these tender leaves, too. Make life easier by buying ready-grown baby plants. Root veg rarely do well in containers, unless they have little roots like radishes. Then there’s tomatoes. Once the risk of frost has passed, grow them up canes in pots or growbags and experiment with different varieties.

My favourite pot-crops are peas and runner beans. French climbing beans are particular­ly good. Make a ‘tepee’ with four garden canes tied at the top, then plant two or three beans at the bottom of each stick.

You can also grow potatoes using a potato growing bag, available cheaply online. Buy seed potatoes and begin by ‘chitting’ – putting them in a cool light place until they start to shoot. Sit them at the bottom of the grow bag, on six inches of compost, then add enough to cover them. Every time the shoots poke through, add a bit more compost, until you reach the top of the bag. They’ll be ready once the bushy leaves die down.

Squashes, pumpkins, marrows and bush courgettes are also good. Allow them to crawl along the ground or up a trellis, and support them when they’re bigger.

I plant something new to me every year. It makes it fun – which is what gardening should be about.

Got a question for Botanist Dad? Email him via thesimplet­hings@icebergpre­

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