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Getting Started

This part of the site is aimed at schools who will need to grow in containers because they do not have any open ground. However, schools with open ground may also choose to plant in containers for a variety of reasons such as:

a) The ground to be used for growing may be very overgrown and it may be easier to use pots instead.

b) Pots can be moved about and it may be useful for you to be able to do this at your school.

c) Pots can be decorated by the children which would bring an art element into the growing project.

Here are the steps to getting started:

  1. Choose an area which will be suitable for placing your containers taking into consideration the points discussed in �choosing your growing area'.

  2. Collect your containers. You may choose to buy some using the ordering form (click here to enter the 'Equipment Needed' page) but there may be other ways of getting suitable containers e.g.:

    a)  Recycling and reusing! Plants can be grown in any number of interesting containers so long as you can make drainage holes in the bottom and they are sturdy enough to hold compost. You will need to put stones or bits of polystyrene in the bottom of pots to help drainage. Plants can be grown in old metal pots such as buckets, watering cans or even a colander! Old shoes and boots (especially wellington boots) can look very good and baths or the shell of a broken vacuum cleaner, dustbins, old wheelbarrows, plastic food tubs and even old toilets can be used. Children can get involved in decorating them too. Tied bundles of newspapers also make a suitable planting container - see diagram on the right. Whilst the use of old tyres as growing containers is a good recycling idea the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) currently advise against using tyres for vegetable growing due to toxins that may leach from the tyres. For further ideas on using containers: www.apps.rhs.org.uk/schoolgardening/uploads/documents/Issue25_autumn20071_520.pdf
    (Please see Further Resources for details of ways to find recycled materials such as Freecycle groups)

    b) Parents could be asked to donate any unwanted pots (or any of the items listed above) from home.

    c) Grow Bags are a cheap and easy way to grow tomatoes

  3. Make a plan of your growing area - where and how you want to site your pots. We have included some examples of designs which could be used, (see further down for these examples).

  4. Be aware of Health and Safety issues such as leaving clear paths between pots and making sure they are secure.


Container Growing
Planning your growing area

When considering the plan of the growing area you will need to be aware of the individual growth habits and needs of each crop you will be growing. This will affect the size of pots you will need and where you need to place them:


We have recommended using the round variety of carrot as they can be sown in trays and then transplanted into pots or troughs. When the carrots are grown from seeds they grow in clumps, each clump of carrots needs to be planted about 12cm apart. They don't have to be in rows so they can go into a pot or trough; they just need to be spaced 12cm apart.

Carrots need a sunny site.


Peas can be grown in pots with the support sticks placed in the pots as well. Each pea plant needs to be planted 5cm from the next one. A pea wigwam placed in a pot for the pea plants to climb up looks very effective.

These need a lot of sun and a sheltered site if possible.



Tomatoes need a lot of room to grow, they need to be about 30cm apart so it would be best to either have one tomato plant per pot (minimum size of 6in diameter) or use a grow bag as these will take three tomato plants. A trough could be used as well.

Tomatoes need a lot of sun and a sheltered site if possible.



These need to be spaced 15cm apart; they don't have to be in rows so they can go into pots or troughs.

Spinach likes a little bit of shade as well as sun, so the pots could be placed to allow for this.


Carrot - Round carrot variety / plant each clump 12cm apart

pea wigwam in a pot
Peas - with support sticks / pea wigwam in a pot

Tomatoes - need plenty of space / tomatoes in a grow bag

Spinach - space 15cm apart, could use troughs or pots

Examples of container growing designs/plans
(click on images for larger images)

Design 1 (Below): Against a wall, large pots at back,
smaller pots at the front

click for a larger image

Design 2 (Below): tomatoes in the centre surrounded by the other pots
click for a larger image
peas with support sticks or pea sticks picture of peas when ready to eat
Click here for a printable version of this page.

©2006 Portsmouth City Council