The world is not only moving towards fourth industrial revolution (4.0IR), the coronavirus has opened eyes to
many about the importance of eating less artificial food and with the South African government – due to the
lockdown having put restrictions measures on the tourism particularly the restaurants sector – the importance of
eating home grown produce. Many unfortunately do have the luxury of having big yards, some may be
discouraged by this thinking it is impossible for them to grow their own, well worry no more because our editor
Mariri Mamabolo has some advice for you.

Mariri Mamabolo

08 August 2020


If you have limited space in your garden, there is still an abundance of produce youcan grow in containers. Many urbanites and some in the new rural developments within villages can grow vegetables using the smallest of balcony or backyard as well as indoor window sills. They can be highly decorative, all sorts of colours and sizes of pots are available, along with eye catching mulches to place on top of the compost such as broken shells, broken china, or glass beads.

Pots with Plenty

Clay and terracotta

These come in many different sizes and designs. When buying, make sure that they are frost proof rather than frost resistant to avoid them developing cracks during hard winters. If you stand the pots on “feet”, there will be less risk of frost damage. Terracotta and clay pots also have a tendency to dry out quicker; line the inside with polyethylene to help contain moisture.

Metal containers

These will give a more contemporary look, or you can pick up old galvanized jugs and buckets in a thrift store or flea market for rustic or vintage effect. They have fewer tendencies to dry out, although they conduct the heat and cold more readily.

Wooden containers.

Old fruit boxes, window boxes, or wooden tubs are very attractive. If the fruit boxes have gaps in the sides, line them first with polyethylene (try using an old, cut up compost bag or a bin liner), cutting holes in the bottom for drainage before filling up with compost.

Plastic containers

These are light, making them easy to move, and practical, being less prone to drying out than terracotta and unaffected by frost. Look out for attractive plastic pots that imitate terracotta convincingly.

Other containers.

Look for any recycled materials that you may have around the house; old tins, buckets, and kettles all work well. Make drainage holes in the bottom, and if they are to sit inside on a windowsill, place them in a tray to catch the water as it drains out the bottom.


When choosing a container, make sure that it’s the right size for the type of plant you’re going to grow. Root vegetables will need deep pots, while salads, spinach, and beets will work well in shallow pots, as the roots sit near the top. Tomatoes or zucchini need larger pots to accommodate their roots and will also possibly require cane supports, depending in the variety you choose.


Most plants need good drainage and don’t like to be waterlogged. If your containers haven’t already got drainage holes in the base, you’ll need to drill some. Place broken pieces of stone or terracotta pots, or a broken up old polystyrene planter, in the base of the containers before filling with a compost that offers good drainage.


 Plants in containers tend to dry out more easily and will therefore need regular checking for moisture. A windowsill acts as a mini greenhouse for growing plants and so moisture levels will need checking frequently. Bear in mind that if your pots are kept on a paved patio, the stones or bricks will absorb heat during the day and be released at night, so the plants are likely to be in a warmer environment than if planted in the ground.

Don’t rely on the rainfall to keep the plants adequately watered, as the rain will often not penetrate the leaves or be heavy enough to penetrate down to the roots. There are water retaining gels or powders that can be mixed with the compost when planting up your containers, which swell up when wet and then release water gradually back into the compost. Decorative mulches or grovel can also be placed on the surface of the compost, which will help retain moisture. Smaller pots will dry out more quickly than larger pots.


Use a soil or loam based compost when growing vegetables. Most multipurpose composts are suitable for using in containers. Because of the relatively small amount of compost available in pots, the plant will be able to draw only a limited amount of nutrients, so it’s advisable to feed your container plants regularly with a controlled release fertilizer or a general purpose plant food.


Most vegetables like full sun and as much light as possible. Choose your positioning carefully, as the pots will be difficult to move about and heavy once they are full of compost and water. If you are growing any tall climbing plants, avoid a windy position. Make sure that the pots are placed near and outside faucet for easy watering.