You can grow garden vegetables in most containers, but foam boxes – especially those that held broccoli down at the greengrocers – are ideal. They are light, easy to manage, and the foam helps insulate the roots.

Use deep boxes to give your vegies plenty of space to grow their roots. This is particularly important for larger vegetables. If you can’t find a really deep box, cut the base off one and stand another in it to give you the extra depth needed for a tomato or cucumber plant.

What you will need

  • Foam box
  • Trowel
  • Potting mix
  • Compost or aged cow manure
  • Bricks
  • Seedlings
  • Seaweed plant tonic
  • Mulch
  • Water
  • Shade Cloth

Getting started

Gather your equipment, including a foam box

Drainage and potting mix

Make six holes in the base, three on each side. These provide drainage.

Use a good quality potting mix to fill your box. Mix well-rotted homemade or bought compost or aged cow manure into the potting mix. Compost or manure helps the mix hold water and provides nourishment for your vegetables. Around 10–30 per cent compost or manure is beneficial.

Elevate the boxes slightly by placing them on bricks to help them drain. Select a spot for your vegie boxes in full sun or with morning sun and afternoon shade. Now you’re ready to plant.

For fast results, use some advanced lettuce or other seedlings. If you’re willing to wait a bit longer and want to save some money, sow some seeds, planting just a few at a time. Reseal the seed packet and keep it in a cool dry place so you can gradually plant the remaining seeds.

Less is more

The key to success is not to over plant. Restrict yourself to four soft-hearted lettuces, or a couple of herbs, or one tall tomato or cucumber per box. If you want more produce, start more boxes, but plant gradually so there are always some crops coming on. This way you avoid a glut.

Water in new plantings with a seaweed plant tonic then spread some mulch such as pea straw, sugar cane or lucerne around the plants. This helps keep the roots cool and moist. Spread the mulch loosely so that water can still penetrate easily.

Regular care

Vegies in containers should be inspected and watered daily – more frequently in very hot weather. Use a watering can on non-watering days. Try to recycle clean wastewater from the house to water the vegies. Add some liquid plant food to their water every week.

Vegetables need lots of sunshine but new plantings can be burnt by really hot sun, so it’s a good idea to shade new plantings until they are well established. Either keep them in a sheltered spot for a couple of days or cover the containers with some shadecloth. Also shade your crop on heatwave days.