How to grow veg on a patio

Outside: Ornamental kale in bright tubs
Outside: Ornamental kale in bright tubs
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Thinking of growing veg in containers this year? The One Show gardening expert Christine Walkden offers down-to-earth advice on growing pleasing edibles, even in a small garden.

Growing veg on your patio couldn’t be easier - you can control the soil type, the situation and the watering, providing shelter near the house when needed.

Yet some gardeners are put off by the idea of unsightly veg taking up valuable flower space in pots on the patio.

But they shouldn’t worry, says TV and radio gardening expert Christine Walkden.

Walkden may be the wrong person to ask about pretty veg because she finds all veg plants beautiful, she admits.

“I see beauty in a cabbage! A beautiful dense cabbage head in a classic terracotta pot is just as attractive as the non-edible ornamental sorts.”

Some of her patio planting ideas are featured in her new book, Christine Walkden’s No-nonsense Container Gardening. In it, she features ornamental purple kale in brightly coloured plastic trugs, lime-green lettuce in a bubblegum pink metal bucket, leafy veg in wooden crates and a hanging basket made out of an old metal colander. There are colourful flowers in old food tins and shopping baskets, a rock garden planted inside a vintage pram.

But veg also win a place in the looks department, she says.

“Kale is a hardy brassica that you can go on picking right through winter and it looks great in containers. Striking red stems and leaf veins make beetroot plants attractive enough to grow in among flowers.”

For those who love colour, you can’t go far wrong with beans, she says. “Runner beans are ideal because you’ve got all different flowers, the whites, the bi-colours and the pinks.

“Black Tuscany kale is great to grow to add interest in the winter, and ferny-leaved and coloured-leaved lettuces are also great. Now, we have so much diversity in leaf shape in salads, from the spoon-shapes of lamb’s ears to the really frizzy stuff that’s available.”

Lettuce can be grown in any pot, but where it really scores is in shallow, saucer-shaped troughs, where other veg would need deeper soil to survive.

l Christine Walkden’s No-nonsense Container Gardening is published by Simon & Schuster, priced £20. Available now