Container grown veg, fruit and herbs – success or failure?

Strange tomatoes
What happened to these tomatoes?
As summer draws to a close and my experiment to see which fruit, vegetables and herbs would grow successfully in pots comes to an end – I look back on the highs and lows. I’m not keen on the word failures but secretly I have to admit to myself there were several.

For example, one batch of tomatoes I planted from seed which initially showed great promise as young robust tomato plants, when the tomatoes developed my initial elation diminished as they bore not the slightest resemblance to the picture shown on the seed packet. I have never seen such deformed tomatoes! They tasted OK, but ended up in a Bolognese sauce.

Not one to admit defeat, I grew another batch of tomatoes. These, to my relief, were perfectly formed plum tomatoes. I was delighted. However, disaster struck while I was away on holiday and an army of caterpillars burrowed their way into the tomatoes and destroyed the whole crop. As you can imagine I was not a happy Piglet. It’s now October so the saying “third time lucky” will have to wait until next year!

Courgettes proved to be another disaster, a couple grew quite happily while others just withered and died. See my post on Poorly Courgettes

So which fruit, veg and herbs grew most successfully in pots?

Radish, lettuce, French beans, chilies, cucumbers, tomatoes, strawberries, basil, mint, parsley and coriander.

Rhubarb – the jury is still out as my solitary baby rhubarb plant fights for survival!

Lemons – there are currently four baby lemons, each about a centimeter long fighting for survival in yhe salt air and winds straight off the Atlantic Ocean. OK, I am an optimist!

We will see what next year brings forth…

Which fruit, veg or herbs have you had the most or least success with?


19 thoughts on “Container grown veg, fruit and herbs – success or failure?

Add yours

  1. Hi,
    Just found your site and found it very interesting.
    I also live in the Algarve and have been trying and learning to grow my own veggies in containers, (lots of trial and error!!) some with success, others a total failure! I have been successful with tomatoes. beans. spinach, rocket, lettuce,basil, potatoes, peppers, chillis, melanzano, rhubarb and figs to name a few. My failures are all the squashes, root vegetables, peas, berries, lemons and limes (here, I think, I just need time for them to mature). I can’t find a planting calendar pertaining to the Algarve so have resorted to using a Spanish one.
    I plant my potatoes in old compost bags which I turn inside out, pierce holes in the bottom – I have also used large, black, rubbish bins, and drilled holes in the bottom.
    Where do you buy your seeds and seedlings? What type of compost, fertilizer do you use? I can’t find sea weed fertiliser here, it is an excellent
    foliage feeder.
    One of my problems is pests – I have never had so many green/black/white flies in all my gardening career … any suggestions?


    1. Hi Joan,
      Great to hear from you! Interesting to read your successes and failures Especailly your comments re squashes etc. My Zucchinis over the last 2years have caused me loads of problems but cecause I am pig headed LOL, I just won’t give up! Sadly this year with another bout of problems with rotting ends and white molds on leaves on my squash and Zucchini I think I’m going to ahve to quit growing these. Perhaps it’s the humidiy? Someone suggested using TUMS as they thought it was a soil deficiency. Its taken me ages to identify a similar product only to find the farmers had already bought up the stock and were waiting for it to come in.

      As for the calender, I don’t plant anything other than raddish or spring onions which grows underground during the drought months of the summer. But yes, it would be great to develop one for here in the Algarve.

      Please stay in touch it would be great to share information

      Kind regards


  2. Hi Hortophile,
    They tasted OK but nobody wanted to eat them! They were meant to be plum tomatoes…
    IF they self seed this year (from my compost) I will keep them and do as you suggest and cut them along the equator (not heard that expression, but it makes perfect sense) A brilliant description!
    Thanks for your input it’s really appreciated 🙂


  3. There is nothing wrong with those tomatoes! They are just a heavily lobed variety. I grew a similar one last year called Costoluto Genovese, it was very flavourful. What was really cool about them was when I sliced them along their equator, they looked like a flower!


    1. Hi Debs…great picture on the link you provided. Was not entiresly sure how this would work! Can’t wait to get started “chittting” my spuds and off to give a new home to some discgarded pallets! …poor Mr Piglet…I will have to break the news gently to him that I have more plans! sssshhhhh 🙂


  4. Just thinking. There’s no reason why you couldn’t make your own but they’d need to tough as there is a lot of weight when they are filled and have holes in the bottom. When I harvested I picked them up by the handles and put them in wheelbarrow – I then emptied the bags into the wheelbarrow and sorted through for the spuds. The compost (I bought vegetable compost) I tipped on the garden so hopefully that will help things grow there this year.


    1. The compost bags are very strong so was thinking of using pallets (the builders seem to dump everywhere) as the frame. All part of my recycling in the home or reusing things rather than buy new “fettish”! 🙂 The ones we saw in a garden centre in Burford had removable sides… need to check out the link you sent over earlier to see if what I had in mind is similar 🙂


  5. Like another reader I also bought special potato growing sacks from a magazine. I actually had a fair amount of success with them. Didn’t grow anything this year, 2010 was a right-off for me in many ways, but intend to try again next year. A few years ago I tried lettuces in containers – it was awful, they were riddled with flies and had to throw the lot away. I’ve grown courgettes in pots a few times but after 2-3 fruits, they always seem to give up and die. One thing I can manage is tomatoes – I only grow the cherry ones, and even the hanging basket ones – they turn out great usually. Haven’t been out to my greenhouse for about 3 months – doubt I will for another month – goodness knows what’s left in there! You’re getting me all fired up now!


    1. Cherry tomatoes are also my favorites! Lettuce, my battle was with the snails and slugs. I am growing garlic and chillies in pots at the moment it will be interesting to see what happens. Well, they have all sprouted so we will see. Mr Piglet is making a raised veggie bed, so I am really looking forward to cracking on, as seeds will need to be planted before to long.

      Were the Potato sacks like compost bags? I was wondering if i could make something.



  6. Hehehe..your gardening stories are great, we all learn as we go!! Working in a garden center I get to learn a little faster, because I learn from everyone else’s mistakes as well!! Happy gardening 🙂


  7. In the UK I tried growing spuds in 3 big purpose-designed bags this year. My first attempt using a kit bought through one of the Sunday newspapers.
    First mistake was that I mixed in masses of special potato fertiliser into the compost early on – result was leaves and stems that took over half the garden but it was all wasted as the potatoes hadn’t even started forming and the plants were exhauseted by that time.
    Second mistake was following the instructions which called for them to be harvested in 10-12 weeks. I’m sure very early potatoes are a good selling point but if I wanted peas I’d have bought peas! Fortunately I only did this on one bag.
    The next bag was better – harvested after about 15 weeks, but the last bag (20 weeks?) was the only one that produced a good crop.
    They all tasted great of course, but I’m hardly likely to put King Edward out of business.
    So next year I’ll try again. I’ll plant them a bit deeper than they advised (there was nothing in the last 12 – 18 inches at the bottom of the bags). I’ll go lightly with the fertiliser and apply it later on. And I’ll wait about 20 weeks (after they’ve flowered so I’m told).
    Ho hum!


    1. Hi,
      Nice to know someone is as stubborn about gardening as I am…and I like “Next year I’ll try again” 🙂 I tried to grow Parsnips in containers but as we don’t get any frost and it’s too hot in the summer – I had to admit defeat.
      😦 When I tried to grow potatoes, they would not grow, when I threw out potato peelings I had a whole crop!
      How big are your bags once filled? I wonder if I could reuse some of my old compost bags as an experiment.



Please share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: