10 winter vegetables to grow in pots

After what seemed like eternity the air seems to be getting cooler now. Winters will set in soon and that means boom time for kitchen gardeners in the tropics. You can grow a huge variety of colorful and nutritious vegetables in your container garden from November to February when the temperature stays between 15° and 30° in most parts of India. Most of these vegetables are very easy to grow and do just fine with minimal care. Here is my top ten list of vegetables to grow in pots this winter.

Tomato

Tomato is a great vegetable to grow in winters in India
Tomato is a great vegetable to grow in winters in India

Tomato is probably the favorite vegetable of most gardeners. There are a lot of varieties of tomato that you can grow which include many exotic varieties. Cherry tomatoes is something you ought to have in your garden as they can be grown in even 7-8 liter pots. When you taste the tomatoes grown by you organically I bet you’ll never feel like buying them from the store. And the joy of growing this beautiful and juicy vegetable is priceless.

Beans

Beans are container gardening friendly
Beans are container gardening friendly

Beans is another vegetable to grow in pots in winter and that too very easily. It is not a heavy eater and hence you can grow beans even in small containers. Bush varieties of beans are suitable for container gardening. However if you can build a trellis, you can go for a climber variety and save on lateral space in your garden. Typically people grow french beans in winters. But my favorite leguminous vegetable to grow in pots in winters is flat beans beans because of its intense flavor.

Beans serves another important purpose in your garden. As they belong to leguminous family they also help to fix nitrogen in the soil.


Tip – Treating beans seeds with azospirillum bio fertilizer before sowing increases the amount of nitrogen fixed in the soil by a large amount.


Spinach

The true spinach is spinach from your garden
The true spinach is spinach from your garden

Spinach loses its nutrients quite fast after its plucked. In fact some varieties of spinach loose more than 90% of their nutrients within 24 hours. So eating store bought spinach which takes at least three days to reach your table from the farm is no good at all in terms of nutrients you get from them. Hence you ought to grow spinach in your garden and eat them as fresh as you can. Additionally it is one of the easiest things you can grow. Just sow the seeds and water. Growing spinach in containers is as simple as it can get. And they can be grown even in a shallow container. That is why spinach makes it to my top ten vegetables to grow in pots in Indian winters.

Radish

Radish is easy to grow winter vegetable
Radish is easy to grow winter vegetable

My mom loves radish when its cooked. But I love it raw. Nothing can beat fresh radish from your garden sprinkled with a little salt and chilli powder. Apart from taste the other reason that makes this root vegetable so good to grow is its short germination to harvest time. Depending on variety your radish can be ready to harvest between 30 to 50 days time. And if you were wondering how to grow these beauties here is a comprehensive guide on how to grow radish in containers.

Lettuce

Lettuce is the best salad green to grow in winters
Lettuce is the best salad green to grow in winters

To really understand why lettuce is such a loved salad green you need to pluck and eat it. The texture and taste of lettuce can really be enjoyed if you eat it directly from your garden. In most parts of India it is also not commonly eaten. Hence it is difficult to find even in super stores. And even if you get lucky I am sure you wont get it fresh. So go ahead and plant some lettuce in your garden this winter. Pick few different varieties and plant them around your house. Different colors and curly leaves also make lettuce very decorative by nature.

Bell Peppers

Grow bell peppers of different colors
Grow bell peppers of different colors

Bell pepper or capsicum is a very popular vegetable in India as it is used in Indian, Chinese, European and all other kinds of cooking. People also love it in salads. It is very versatile and you can grow them in containers as they are not heavy eaters and don’t need too much space to grow. With timely application of compost and organic fertilizers like Amrut Jal and Panchagavya you can get a bountiful of harvest from your capsicum plants.


Tip – Instead of the green capsicum which is commonly available you can go for the colored varieties like yellow, red and orange bell peppers as one of the vegetables to grow in pots in tropical winters.


Carrot

Carrots take time but are hassle free
Carrots take time but are hassle free

Carrots take a lot of time to grow. It can sometimes take even a hundred days from germination day to be ready to be picked. But still this still makes it to the list of vegetables to grow in pots in winters because this can be used as a companion plant to many of the other vegetables like tomatoes. And it also does not really require much space on its own. In just three square feet space you can harvest more than a kilo of carrots.

Cauliflower and Cabbage

Cauliflower is shallow rooted and hence grows in pots easily
Cauliflower is shallow rooted and hence grows in pots easily

When you are thinking of growing vegetable in pots rooting structure plays a very important role in selecting the vegetables. Shallow rooting vegetables are excellent for container gardening. Cauliflower and Cabbage are shallow rooting and early harvest vegetables. Moreover in one winter season you can have at least two crop cycles. So they are excellent to plant in your kitchen garden in winters. Here is a detailed guide on how to grow organic cauliflowers in containers for your reference.

Microgreens and Herbs

Coriander can be used both as a micro green and a herb
Coriander can be used both as a micro green and a herb

Microgreens are relatively new concept of food in India, but it is catching up really quick. They are basically immature green saplings of varieties of plants harvested within a month of germination. They are cut off at the base of the plant and are eaten mostly raw. They add a lot of intense flavor, texture and color to your dishes and are great in terms of nutrition. As these also need to be eaten fresh you have to grow them at home. Some of the seeds that you can use for growing your microgreens are lettuce, spinach, mustard, fenugreek, radish, beet root, kale, coriander etc. Winter is also the best time to plant herbs like coriander, mint and basil. The best part about microgreens and herbs is that they can even be grown in your windowsill provided you get 3-4 hours of sunlight there.

Ginger

Ginger is the lazy man's winter vegetable
Ginger is the lazy man’s winter vegetable

No one would really put ginger in the list of vegetables to grow in pots in winters in India. But this surely is one of the best things you can plant if you are short on time and can not look after your plants regularly. Ginger pods start showing sprouts in late winter and that is when you plant them. Once you plant them you can literally forget about them except for occasional watering when soil becomes dry. You need a container that is at lest one foot deep to plant ginger. But once planted they take care of themselves and need very little help from you. They are ready to be harvested in 6-8 months time and you’ll be surprised at the amount of ginger you get from your containers.


So that was my top ten vegetables to grow in pots in winters in India. I have already started seeds for most of these and looking forward to a bountiful harvest this season too. For those who are new to container gardening here some help. This beginner’s guide to growing vegetables in pots should be of help to you. I’ll be back with a new post soon. Till then keep well and happy gardening.

Guide to Growing Cauliflowers in Pots at Home

Fully grown cauliflower ready to be picked
Fully grown cauliflower ready to be picked

I absolutely love cauliflower. Now who does not like cauliflower!!!! Its one of the most versatile, textural and yummy vegetables around. You may have it as a soup, as a paste, roasted, grilled, sauteed, baked and in curries. In some recipes it is even used raw as a substitute to grains. But then if you are not growing them organically you can’t really have it in as many ways. Because of the texture of the vegetable, pesticide easily get trapped in the vegetable and cant be washed off. Hence to enjoy a cauliflower without any dangerous side effects you need to grow them naturally. In this post I’ll guide you on Growing Cauliflowers in Pots easily at your own home.

Quick Reference Table for Growing Cauliflowers in Pots

Transplant one cauliflower sapling in 15-20 liter pot when you are growing cauliflowers in pots
Transplant one cauliflower sapling in 15-20 liter pot

Though cauliflowers comes in different colors like purple, orange and green now a days, the white variety is the most popular. The reference table below is for white variety, but it should work well for other varieties too. In the white variety you can choose between self blanching or non self blanching varieties. Blanching is a process of providing shade to the cauliflower head by tying the large leaves of the plant with a twine. This process makes sure that the head remains white and does not get discolored due to sunlight. The leaves of self blanching varieties automatically cover the head and hence no manual blanching is needed. When you are growing cauliflowers in pots in your terrace, where sunlight is plenty blanching is a must.

Item Value
Growing Temperature 15 – 25 °C
Germination Temperature  20 – 30 °C
Germination Time  3 – 8 days
Soil pH  6 – 7 (slightly acidic to neutral)
Sunlight Need  Full sunlight
Preferred Planting Method  Transplanting is preferred over direct sowing
Container size  20 liter
Time to Harvest  50 – 70 days
Harvest Period  Needs to be harvested quickly as the buds start to mature very fast.
Pollination  Not Applicable
Typical Pests  Aphids, Cutworms, Cabbage Loopers
Best season to plant in India Beginning of winter or anytime in winter providing sufficient growing time (at least 60 days)

Choosing Container for Cauliflowers

Cauliflowers work well in box container
Cauliflowers work well in box container

Cauliflower is a shallow rooted plant and hence does not need very deep containers. Any container with at least one feet depth works fine. So you can plant cauliflowers in an earthen pot, bucket or box type container. Among these box type of container works best as you can plant a few cauliflowers together and this leads to better utilization of space. Make sure to keep the distance between two plants to at least 15 inches, so that each plant has enough space to grow. But when you are growing cauliflowers in pots plant one sapling in 15-20 liter pot.

Seed Sowing and Transplanting

Cauliflower Plants in growing stage
Cauliflower Plants in growing stage

Cauliflower is a heavy eater plant. Hence make sure your potting mix is a really good one. While growing cauliflowers in pots, you can directly sow seeds in the pot. But germinating seeds in controlled condition, hardening the saplings and then transplanting works better. That is mainly due to two reasons. First starting seeds in controlled environment gives you better chance of success. You can even start seeds just before ideal temperature is reached in the garden. The other reason is to protect the plant from any soil borne disease that can affect young seedlings.

Seeds can be started in seed trays or paper cups. Sow the seeds about 1/4 inch deep in loose seed starting potting mix. Water properly and keep it as a warm place. Check moisture level everyday and spray water if soil starts to dry out. In about 3-4 days time the first seedlings will start to appear. Place the seedlings in a place where it can get enough sunlight after germination.

When the seedlings are about 4-6 weeks old, they can be transplanted. At this point thin the saplings to just one. Use a pair of scissors to cut out rest of the saplings. Make a hole in your pot so that the ball of the seedling can easily fit into it and then cover with soil and firm the soil lightly around the plant. Water the pot well and keep the pot in an area where it can get full sunlight.

Growing Cauliflowers in Containers

Blanching prevents discoloration of Cauliflower buds
Blanching prevents discoloration of Cauliflower buds

Cauliflower needs moist soil especially during flowering. So never let your pot dry out. Check the moisture level in the soil regularly and water as necessary. While watering take care not to spill water on the cauliflower head. Water the plant from the sides. Cauliflower being a heavy feeder needs a rich potting mix to start with. When you are growing cauliflowers in pots its a good idea to supply them with extra nutrients. Hence about forty days after transplanting, you can supplement each plant with approximately half a liter of well decomposed compost. If you have planted a non self blanching variety its a good idea to cover your cauliflower with the large leaves kept in place by a clothes pin or a twine. It will protect cauliflower from discoloration due to sunlight.

Young plants are susceptible to attack from cutworms. If you find leaves of young plants eaten away, then check early in the morning for worms and remove them manually. Aphids also can attack cauliflower plants overnight. Its is a good idea to check under the leaves every morning for aphids. If you find them wash them off with a jet of water. You may also use neem oil based spray to get rid of Aphids.

Harvest time for Cauliflowers

Young cauliflower
Young cauliflower head

Cauliflowers need to be picked when the heads are still firm and compact. When cauliflowers matures its heads start developing gaps between the buds. You need to pick them just before this happens. You can harvest cauliflowers when the head is around 6-8 inches in diameter. But when you are growing cauliflowers in pots organically you are going to get them in different sizes depending on the pot size, quality of potting mix and sunlight availability etc. So you need to keep a good watch on when they are ready to be picked.

Sometimes the heads lose their color due to sunlight if they have not been blanched. So if you see your cauliflowers turning a little purple pick them immediately. To harvest cauliflower cut the stem of the vegetable including a few leaves for protection. The leaves are also edible and can be cooked as any other green leaf as a stir fry or curry. And of course you can also enjoy your cauliflower in numerous ways. So just go for it. Grow your own cauliflower at home this cold season.