- 1 Vegepod Raised Garden Beds
- 2 Vegepod Features
- 3 Building the Vegepod
- 4 Tips and advice for gardening in a Vegepod
Vegepod Raised Garden Beds
I love growing vegetables, it’s a truly wonderful, soul enriching experience to grow your own food! Sadly an increasing number of us are without the luxury of a garden or allotment and have nowhere to grow vegetables, herbs, fruit, or flowers; while a great many others struggle to garden in small, often paved spaces, without any access to the soil.
Earlier this year, at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018, I met the team from Vegepod, when I discovered their Vegepod container gardening system. I am always looking to be able to share more accessible ways to grow vegetables, fruit, herbs, and flowers, so I was excited to try out this raised bed, container growing system for myself. The Vegepod has many benefits:
- The Vegepod is a portable, raised container growing system.
- Three sizes of Vegepod are available – small, medium, and large.
- The Vegepod has a built in cover, which protects your plants from pests, hail, and light frosts.
- The Vegepod’s built in water reservoir and misting system make watering easy; together they reduce, or eliminate, the need to lift heavy watering cans. You can plug your hose into your Vegepod, set a timer on your hose and water your Vegepod automatically.
- The Vegepod is accessible. The Vegepod is a raised container system, you can set it up directly on level ground or on a paved area; or you can install your Vegepod up on a specially designed stand to create a higher, more accessible raised bed, meaning that you won’t need to bend, kneel, or stoop to tend your plants. This is what I have – a large Vegepod, supported by a large Vegepod stand.
- If you set your Vegepod up on a stand, you can sit in a chair, or a wheelchair, facing forward to garden in your Vegepod; your knees can fit in the space underneath, so you’re in a comfortable position as you garden.
- The Vegepod has an overflow, which directs any excess water from rainfall or overwatering out of the Vegepod. If you have a balcony or roof garden, you can easily collect any overflow water, preventing it dripping onto your neighbours’ balcony below.
- The Vegepod is portable – you can take your Vegepod with you when you move home, and you can move your Vegepod around your garden if you wish.
- Small and medium wheeled trolley stands are available as a separate purchase from Vegepod. These trolley stands raise the Vegepod up, making it easier to tend. While the wheels make it easy to move your Vegepod around your garden, any number of times a day, to allow you to move your Vegepod to work, exercise, party, BBQ, or just make the most of the sunshine.
- As well as a raised bed to grow vegetables from seed, to maturity, and eventual harvest, the Vegepod makes a great seed bed. You can sow your seeds under cover, where your seedlings will be watered and protected, before planting out your young plants in your garden, or at your allotment, or in your local neighbourhood.
- As well as growing vegetables, the Vegepod can also be used to grow edible flowers, herbs, fruits like strawberries and alpine strawberries, or as a propagation bed for cuttings of fruit bushes, roses, shrubs, and perennials.
The Vegepod stand is made of galvanised powder coated steel, the Vegepod trough is made of UV stabilised, food safe plastic, while the cover is made of knitted polyethylene, which allows air to circulate. Air and water can penetrate through the cover, but pests are kept out. All of the plastic parts that make up the Vegepod are made from polypropylene, which is food safe and recyclable.
The Vegepod is sturdy and robust. This container gardening system is a great height for gardening (without the stand it would be 32cm (1ft) from the ground to the planting level inside the Vegepod, but with the stand it’s 80cm (2.6ft) tall). For me, the height of the Vegepod on when it’s positioned on its stand is great – it’s the perfect height that I would choose a raised bed to be, by raising your growing area up it reduces the strain on your back. Vegepod gardeners can stand to garden in their Vegepod, or they can comfortably garden and access their Vegepod from a seat facing forwards, with their knees fitting comfortably in the gap underneath – there’s no tight spaces, no restrictions or constraints, there’s no need to sit side on and twist around to try to garden, as there is with some raised bed systems – there’s no awkward manoeuvres. The Vegepod is perfect for wheelchair gardeners, who can garden from their wheelchair facing forwards, but the Vegepod actually makes gardening so much easier for everyone, as the height of the Vegepod, when it’s positioned on its stand, reduces or eliminates the need to stoop, bend, or kneel.
The Vegepod that I have, the Vegepod that you see pictured in this article, is the largest of three Vegepods available – it really is large! The main planting area is 2m x 1m (78in x 39in). There are two smaller sized Vegepods, the next size down measures 1m x 1m (39in x 39in), while the smallest Vegepod measures 50cm wide x 1m deep (20in x 39in).
The box my Vegepod arrived in is huge! The Vegepod box is also very heavy – it definitely requires two people to lift it, (although if you’re particularly strong, you might be able to manage to lift the Vegepod a short distance by yourself). If you plan to set up your Vegepod in your front garden, look out for your delivery arriving, don’t let your poor courier struggle to carry your Vegepod past where you actually want it, all the way to your front door – or you’ll need to lug your Vegepod back down the path after they’ve left. Instead, look out for your delivery arriving, meet the courier and give them a hand when they arrive! If you plan to install your Vegepod at a site away from your home, or you’re purchasing the Vegepod as a gift, I’d definitely recommend that you arrange for your Vegepod to be delivered to the location where it will be set up and used.
The largest sized Vegepod is essentially two 1m x 1m (39in x 39in) Vegepods bolted together to double the planting area. As well as the Vegepod, I have the stand upon which my Vegepod trough sits, which raises my Vegepod higher up, making it much more accessible. The Vegepod’s stand comes in a separate box and is a separate purchase, so if you have a raised concrete area that you’re looking to find a way to garden over, or you’re looking for a lower raised bed and you don’t need the stand, or you’d rather make your own stand – don’t worry – you only pay for the stand if you require it. I am so glad to have the stand for my Vegepod, it makes the crops grown in my Vegepod so much easier to tend.
When I saw photographs of the Vegepod for the first time, I underestimated how strong and robust the Vegepod’s cover was, but now I have a Vegepod of my own and I have experienced using the cover first-hand, I can tell you that this is not some flimsy cover made of fleece, as I had at first assumed. The Vegepod’s cover is made of commercial grade permeable mesh – knitted polyethylene mesh, which is surprisingly strong, sturdy, and resilient. The Vegepod’s cover allows air and water to pass through (during inclement weather, your crops will be watered by the rain), but the holes in the cover are minuscule – they are fine enough to keep insects out. The permeable material the Vegepod’s protective hood is covered in is quite rigid, it is held taut in both dry and wet weather, the Vegepod’s cover material doesn’t move around in the wind. The Vegepod cover’s canopy is held in place securely with Velcro, the Velcro has a strong hold – this is a secure fixing – the material has not needed to be re-attached to the Vegepod’s cover since it was set up six months ago.
Plants grown in a Vegepod are protected from the worst of the winter weather while the Vegepod’s cover is in place. Strong winds are diffused, as the air movement is filtered and softened as it blows through the Vegepod’s permeable cover. I’ve not experienced any snowy weather since I’ve had my Vegepod, and although it has hailed, I’ve not seen my Vegepod during a hailstorm – I guess that hailstones would be too large to penetrate the Vegepod’s over and would bounce off as they fell onto the cover. I would imagine that snow flakes would settle on top of the Vegepod’s cover, but I’ve yet to experience these weather conditions. 2018 was a record breaking summer in terms of the heat, it was incredibly hot and dry – the Vegepod helped my vegetable and salad plants grow successfully during the drought.
Protecting your vegetables from carrot fly and other pests
I always recommend growing carrots under cover, to protect them from carrot root fly, a pest that lays its eggs close to carrot (and sometimes celery, parsley, and parsnip) roots. When the carrot root fly’s eggs hatch, the larvae burrow within the soil to feast on their host plants’ roots as they grow. Carrot fly larvae destroy the crop, hidden within the protection of the soil. A gardener often discovers that their vegetables have become a food source for the carrot fly larvae when their carrots are harvested, which is very disheartening indeed, but once you’ve experienced carrot fly larvae tunnelling within your carrots, you won’t make that mistake again – your carrots will always be covered! It’s wonderful to have an effective cover, like the one on the Vegepod, that can simply be lifted up to harvest the crop and then lifted back down again to protect the growing vegetables.
As well as harvesting a few carrots at a time, I’ve purposely been harvesting an individual carrot from my Vegepod every week or so; when I brush over my carrot plants’ leaves and pull up my harvest in a rather leisurely manner, as carrot fly are able to detect the aroma of a carrot from quite some distance away, when they will fly over to lay their eggs as close to the carrots as is possible. So far, I’ve not experienced any problems with carrot root fly, my carrots have all been healthy and very tasty too! I am not at all surprised that my carrots have grown successfully in my Vegepod, this is what I expected, as the carrot fly are unable to penetrate the Vegepod’s cover.
One thing that I have noticed, is that there is a small gap between the closed cover and the top edge of the Vegepod when the cover is in place. So far, I have not noticed any pests gaining access to my Vegepod through this gap, despite there being quite a number of aphids, cabbage white butterflies and other pests in the near vicinity; If this changes I’ll let you know.
I don’t use any pesticides or insecticides in my garden or trials areas, I don’t spray or remove aphids – I leave them alone, the aphids are very well controlled by ladybirds, hover fly larvae, birds, and other predators. So far I have not seen any aphids on the plants grown inside my Vegepod. I have seen aphids on plants growing nearby, but so far no aphids have made it to the vegetables growing inside my Vegepod.
The Vegepod’s cover protects crops from Allium leaf minor, aphids, black fly, white fly, mealy cabbage aphid, bean seed fly, carrot root fly, cabbage root fly, cabbage moth caterpillar, onion fly, flea beetles, thrips, leek moth, leaf minor, caterpillars, cats, pigeons, and other birds and animals.
However effective the Vegepod’s cover is, there is always a risk of introducing pests when you add new plants to your Vegepod, as the plants you introduce may be harbouring pests – so if you’re not growing your plants from seeds sown inside your Vegepod, do thoroughly check over your plants before you plant them out. It’s wise to examine the undersides of your plants’ leaves and your plants’ stems. Pests might also be introduced via compost or on garden gloves or tools. When the Vegepod’s lid is open, pests can gain entry to your plants. If you don’t notice a slug, snail, or other pest’s arrival and you then close your Vegepod’s cover, these pests can feast on your crops safely shielded from predators, under the protection of the Vegepod’s cover; so it’s important to check your plants regularly.
Any products I recommend are extensively and stringently tested, I have purposely been quite rough with the cover of my Vegepod – it has been brushed over with sticks, repeatedly poked and prodded, admittedly only for six months, as that’s how long I have had my Vegepod for, but I’ve been sufficiently impressed with the quality of this product to recommend the Vegepod.
The Vegepod’s cover allows sunlight to reach the plants inside the Vegepod, but it casts 17% shade over the crops it protects, so if your Vegepod is in a shadier area than you’d like, you may want to invest in a clear cover, or alternatively you could choose to grow crops that don’t need the extra protection that the cover provides. A clear, water resistant PVC cover is also available from the company, which would allow you to use your Vegepod as a mini greenhouse, I’ve not tried the Vegepod’s clear cover yet, as I wanted to thoroughly test the cover that comes as standard with the Vegepod, but I plan to try out this clear cover soon.
Vegepod Watering System
The Vegepod watering system is two fold, firstly there is a misting unit, which fits into the inside of the Vegepod’s domed cover (you can see how the misting system fits together further on in this review, when I share photographs of my Vegepod being built). The misting system features four nozzles, (here’s a photograph of one below) which spray a very fine mist of water over the plants growing inside your Vegepod. The Vegepod’s misting unit moistens the compost from above, to encourage good rates of seed germination and to provide water for young seedlings. The fine mist hydrates cuttings and propagated plant material and encourages cuttings to take root.
The second part of the Vegepod’s watering system is a water reservoir at the base of the Vegepod, which holds 64 litres of water. This reservoir provides a really fantastic way to keep your plants hydrated and to provide water directly where your plants need it – at their roots. The moisture is drawn up from the base of the Vegepod through the compost, via a wicking effect. Simon from Vegepod told me that the Vegepod is the world’s largest fully contained, self watering wicking bed.
If the water reservoir in the base of the Vegepod is full, and either the misting system continues watering your plants, or it rains and so more water is in the Vegepod than is needed, then the water will flow out of the Vegepod overflow and onto the ground below. The water overflow is at the back of the Vegepod, it’s possible to insert a tube through the overflow hole to more easily direct the water a further distance away from the Vegepod, or you could place a bucket or container underneath the Vegepod to collect the run off. If you want to collect the overflow water from your Vegepod, you can easily do so. So, if you’re keen to save water, or if you want to use your Vegepod on a balcony or roof garden and you want to prevent the overflow water from raining down onto your neighbours below, this is easily achievable.
If you have your Vegepod connected up to a hose, with a timer set up to water your plants every few days, you can happily go away on holiday knowing that your plants inside your Vegepod will be watered. I used Dalefoot Wool Compost as the growing medium inside my Vegepod, mixed with some perlite. I have found that the plants growing inside my Vegepod require less watering than you might expect; the combination of Dalefoot’s water retentive compost and and the Vegepod’s water reservoir, work together effectively.
Building the Vegepod
Building the Vegepod is straightforward and simple; the instructions provided are excellent, and really easy to follow. Naturally, you build the metal stand first, then assemble the Vegepod’s planting trough on top of the stand. The Vegepod has been designed to make gardening easier, it features raised sections, which fit in the bottom of the trough, to create a water reservoir below the planting medium – which makes up part of the Vegepod’s automatic watering system. These sections are joined together with zip ties, which is a simple solution but can be rather flimsy – I found that one of the zip-tie connections on my Vegepod snapped apart (see picture) although it didn’t notice that this adversely affected the way my Vegepod worked.
Once the trough is put together, there are rubber strips which simply fit in place over the joins, these strips ensure that there are no gaps through which the compost will fall. You then snap together the raised wall, which fits around the edge of the Vegepod’s trough. This process is very simple – the pieces literally just clip together (it’s like giant Lego!). Everything is then secured in place using plastic bolts with wingnuts; all of these can be hand-tightened – you don’t need any special tools to put the Vegepod together.
The last stage is to assemble the arched hood, which is made up of a metal tubular frame with a permeable cover that protects your crops from birds and insects. This last step was quite fiddly to fit, it really required two pairs of hands (so make sure you have a helper!) in order to assemble and fit the cover. My Vegepod is situated on a small, cramped patio, next to my Access Garden Products Classic Growhouse and surrounded by all manner of containers and planters, so it was rather more awkward to assemble my Vegepod as I have limited space. The instructions recommend turning the Vegepod cover’s frame upside down to fix the velcro fastening in place, which definitely made it easier to fit. Once the fabric cover is in place over the frame, it is secured via Velcro loops, which hold the cover tightly in place. The cover as a whole attaches to clips fitted around the edge of the trough. Make sure you fit the velcro before you attach the hood to the Vegepod though!
The last step is to add the watering system – which is an ‘L’ shaped pipe with three sprinkler fittings, which zip-ties to the top of the Vegepod’s cover; you can then connect the Vegepod’s watering system to a tap and water the plants inside the Vegepod. Click here to see an animated GIF of the sprinkler in action (This large file, which may be slow to download).
In total it took about three hours to build the Vegepod’s stand, assemble the Vegepod, its cover and watering system. The instructions were clear, none of the steps were at all difficult. There are quite a few nuts to do up, which was quite time consuming, but all of the nuts were good quality, there was no problems whatsoever with any stripped threads. I found that there were a few spare nuts and bolts included in the pack – something I was very impressed with, and so grateful to find! So, if you do lose a nut or a bolt it’s not the end of the world, these extra nuts and bolts will also be useful in years to come – if you wish to dismantle your Vegepod to move home etc. So far, I am impressed with the quality of the Vegepod.
I have the large sized Vegepod, my Vegepod has been installed on my patio, just in front of my Access Garden Products Classic Growhouse. My Vegepod is in a quite a cramped area, which is surrounded by large containers and plants, making it rather awkward to access. You may be able to set your Vegepod up in a shorter time, but here’s the timings of my Vegepod set up to give you a guide. Total build time:
- Frame – 1 hour
- Base trough – 45 minutes
- Frame/cover – 30 minutes
- Watering system and Filling compost – 30 minutes
Planting up the Vegepod
My Vegepod was installed on the 10th June 2018, I run a number of Compost Trials each year, so when I filled my Vegepod I chose a mix of the best performing composts from my Trials:
- 8 bags of Dalefoot Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads
- 3 bags of Dalefoot Wool Potting Compost
- 25l of perlite
I chose to use the regular Dalefoot Wool Potting Compost, as I had some of this compost left over from another trial, but I could have used a greater quantity of the Dalefoot Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads very successfully for the varieties of vegetables I chose to sow on this occasion.
Crops I’ve grown in my Vegepod so far:
- Carrot ‘Chantenay Red Cored’ (successfully grown and harvested)
- Carrot ‘Atomic Red’ (successfully grown and harvested)
- Kohlrabi ‘Olivia’ F1 (successfully grown and harvested)
- Lettuce ‘Butterhead’ (successfully grown and harvested)
- Radish ‘French Breakfast’ (successfully grown and harvested)
- Radish ‘Black Spanish’ (still growing)
- Radish ‘Long White Icicle’ (still growing)
- Pea ‘Charmette’ (successfully grown and harvested)
- Pea ‘Twinkle’ (successfully grown and harvested)
- Florence Fennel ‘Chiarino’ (successfully grown as a baby vegetable)
- Florence Fennel ‘Big Sicilian’ (still growing)
- Florence Fennel ‘Colossal’ (still growing)
I purchased these seeds from Suttons Seeds, the Real Seed Company, D. T. Brown, Thompson & Morgan, and Chiltern Seeds, I have added links to where you can purchase each of the seeds above, so if you want to purchase any of these seeds yourself, you can easily find them.
Tips and advice for gardening in a Vegepod
There are a few things that I have learnt while gardening in my Vegepod, that I want to share with you, to help you make the most of your Vegepod and ensure that you have a great growing season ahead!
Choosing a site for your Vegepod
When choosing a site for your Vegepod there are a few things to bear in mind:
- To make the most of the Vegepod’s watering system, you need to site your Vegepod where you can access a hose connection.
- Choose a location on firm, level ground, or place paving slabs under the Vegepod itself, or under each of the Vegepod stand’s feet, if you decide to use a stand.
- Vegetables grow best under bright light, so choose a sunny location to install your Vegepod.
- The Vegepod is portable, you can take it with you when you move home, but this is a heavy, substantial piece of kit, it’s not something you want to move every season, so it’s worth measuring your chosen location and checking its suitability before you build your Vegepod.
- Small and medium sized, wheeled trolley stands are available as a separate purchase from Vegepod. These trolley stands raise the Vegepod up, making it easier to tend your plants, while the stand’s wheels make it easier to move your Vegepod. So, if you want to move your Vegepod every day, for any reason, whether it’s to use your garden for a party, or to create extra space to play games, yoga, or sport, or for a BBQ or a family breakfast in the garden. If you have a shaded garden, you may wish to move your plants, so they can follow the sun to receive more light, as the sun moves throughout the day. Stands without wheels are also available and of course you could build your own stand for your Vegepod if you wanted to.
- If you have a larger Vegepod, you might want to think about creating a stand on wheels to help you to move your Vegepod more easily. You might think of adding casters to a stand, or constructing a stand to add casters to. Other options include, utilising a bed frame or another piece of furniture with caster, to use as a moveable stand for your Vegepod.
- The Vegepod can be used on a balcony or roof garden. You may want to use a long piece of tubing to direct the Vegepod’s overflow water away from your neighbours’ balconies below. Excess water is easily collected from the Vegepod, but you may wish to plan how best to do this before you set up your Vegepod.
Compost for your Vegepod
To grow good crops you need good compost. I run Compost Trials every year to find the best performing composts, so I chose to fill my Vegepod with the winning composts from my Compost Trials: Dalefoot Wool Compost for Vegetables and Salads and Dalefoot Potting Compost. Dalefoot Composts are made from natural materials, including sheeps’ wool and composted bracken, these peat free composts are incredibly water retentive, they hold water better than any other compost I have trialled and contain all the nutrients your vegetables need for healthy growth. You do not need to use a peat compost in a Vegepod, peat free compost works perfectly.
If I was using my Vegepod to grow herbs, I would have used an open, gritty compost and loam mix, it is important to use a good quality compost and to adjust your growing medium to suit your chosen crops. Vegetables and fruit flourish when grown in a soil or growing medium that ranges from pH5.5 to pH7.5, depending on the vegetable or fruit that’s being grown. A soil with a pH6.5 tends to suit the preferences of most crops.
If you want to reduce the weight of your Vegepod, if you are using your Vegepod on a roof garden or balcony, you can add perlite to your compost blend, perlite is very light, it helps to create air spaces within a compost blend, to keep the growing medium open.
Next year, or the year after, I will remove a little of the composts inside my Vegepod and replace it with Dalefoot Composts Double Strength Wool Compost, this is a rich, concentrated compost, designed to be added to spent compost to replace nutrients and create a viable growing medium. I’ve had great results with this compost, I’d really recommend it.
Choosing Seeds to grow in your Vegepod
When you’re choosing seeds to grow in your Vegepod, look for smaller sized vegetables, dwarf and miniature types that will do well when grown in a container or a raised bed, look for vegetables that are advertised as being good for growing in containers or as baby vegetables. The Vegepod is ideally suited to growing salads, lettuces, greens, pea shoots, stir fry greens, and other delicious leafy vegetables. You could happily grow your own exciting, colourful tasty salads, and provide your family with food, every week for every month of the year with a Vegepod.
Ideal seeds to sow in the Vegepod include:
- basil (Ocimum basilicum, Ocimum citriodorum, Ocimum basilicum var. thysiflora)
- beetroot (Beta vulgaris)
- nok choy (Brassica rapa subsp. chinensis)
- broad beans, also known as faba or fava beans (Vicia faba)
- Calendula officinalis (edible flower used in skin creams and lotions)
- Paris market round or ball carrots (Daucus carota)
- Amsterdam carrots (Daucus carota)
- chantenay carrots (Daucus carota)
- stump rooted carrot (Daucus carota)
- danvers carrot (Daucus carota)
- nantes carrot (Daucus carota)
- chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla or Chamaemelum nobile)
- chervil (Anthriscus cerefolium)
- Chinese cabbage (Brassica rapa subsp. pekinensis)
- chilli peppers (Capsicum annuum)
- chives (Allium schoenoprasum)
- garlic chives (Allium tuberosum)
- cilantro or coriander (Coriandrum sativum)
- dill (Anethum graveolens)
- florence fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
- land cress (Barbarea verna)
- lavender (Lavandula)
- lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
- lettuce (Lactuca sativa)
- marjoram (Origanum majorana)
- mint (Mentha)
- mizuna (Brassica rapa var. japonica)
- oregano (Origanum vulgare)
- spring onions (Allium fistulosum)
- parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
- dwarf mangetout (Pisum sativum var. saccharatum)
- Nasturtiums (edible flowers)
- dwarf peas (Pisum sativum)
- pea shoots (Pisum sativum)
- sweet peppers (Capsicum annuum)
- rocket (Eruca vesicaria ssp. sativa)
- rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
- dwarf runner beans (Phaseolus coccineus)
- sage (Salvia officinalis)
- red veined sorrel (Rumex sanguineus var. sanguineus)
- buckler leafed sorrel (Rumex scutatus)
- spinach (Spinacia oleracea)
- strawberries (Fragaria x ananassa)
- alpine strawberries (Fragraria vesca)
- succulents like Sempervivums
- swiss chard (Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla var. flavescens ‘Bright Lights’)
- thyme (Thymus vulgaris)
- tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum)
- heartsease (Viola tricolor) (edible flowers)
Avoid growing these seeds in your Vegepod:
- extra long or exhibition carrots
- very long rooted parsnips and other particularly deep-rooted vegetables
- full sized shrubs and large plants
You could grow vegetables, herbs, fruit, edible flowers, colourful salads, stir fry greens, garnishes for cocktails, but you don’t have to grow edible plants, you might choose to grow succulents or any other small plants inside your Vegepod. You could use a Vegepod to propagate hardy annuals, half-hardy annuals, or bedding plants. If you have a larger garden, you could use your Vegepod as a place to root cuttings of fruit bushes, roses, shrubs, and other plants which will be potted on or grown on elsewhere, once they have rooted successfully.
Another idea is to use the Vegepod as a seedbed to grow plants for your garden or allotment.
I sowed my vegetables very close together inside my Vegepod, as I was hoping to use my Vegepod as a seedbed and plant some of the crops out into my trials area to grow on to maturity, but the weather was not in my favour; the incredible, intense heat of the summer put paid to some of my plans, this being one of them. The brassicas I planted out in my trials area did not do well as a result of the heat and drought we experienced this summer.
Sowing seeds inside the Vegepod
When you’re sowing your seeds inside your Vegepod, to achieve the best results and make the most of your seeds, compost and Vegepod, it’s worth taking a few minutes to carefully plan where you will make your sowings.
Sow any deeper rooted vegetables in rows, in line with the deeper soil sections of your Vegepod, to give your carrots, long radishes, other root vegetables, or larger vegetables, the room they need to allow their roots to grow to full size. The deeper soil sections of the Vegepod extend to 26cm (10.2inches) deep, while the shortest soil depth is 13cm (5.11inches) deep.
When sowing seeds, it is so easy to over sow your seeds and sow them too closely together. Most seed companies provide some guidelines on the back of their packets, but you could also use the deeper sections of the Vegepod as guidelines and sow, for example: a row of carrots in the first deeper section, then a row of another vegetable, for example parsnips, in the next deeper row along, with some pea shoots, salads, or edible flowers, sown in between.
There are many ways to make the most of the available space you have to garden, however large or small a space you have. I want to help you to grow and harvest the greatest quantity of top quality produce from your available space, whether you have a Vegepod, or a garden, or an allotment. Here are some tips to help you:
When you’re sowing your seeds, think about the order you sow the seed varieties in and how closely you sow your seeds. So, for example, in March, April, or May, you could sow a row of carrots in line with one of the deeper sections of your Vegepod, then sow a row of Radish ‘French Breakfast’ in a separate row, alongside your row of carrot seeds, but fairly close to your row of carrots. Radish are such a quick growing vegetable – they will have grown up and been harvested by the time the carrots have got growing and are recognisable as carrot plants and need the space. Then sow a row of lettuce alongside – next to the radishes, then sow a row of broad beans next to the lettuce, and next to the broad beans sow a row of pea seeds to harvest as pea shoots. By combining fast growing crops alongside slower growing crops you are maximising your growing space. Make sure you sow your deeper rooted vegetables and larger sized vegetables, eg tomatoes, carrots, parships, long radishes, etc. above the deeper sections of your Vegepod.
You could also sow a fast growing crop in the same row as a slow growing crop, for example: sow a row of stump rooted parsnips and then sow a row of radishes in the same row, as parsnips are very slow to germinate and get growing, so by the time the parsnip seeds have germinated and grown to an identifiable size and begin to use the space, the radishes will have already grown to full size and will have been harvested and removed.
I often use small containers or seed trays, which I fill up with peat-free potting compost and sow very thickly with tomato seeds. Tomato seeds can be sown very thickly; once the seedlings have developed, they can be pricked out and potted on or planted up individually. This could be a good technique to employ using a Vegepod, a row of tomato seeds could be sown thickly before being potted up and grown individually in containers, or planted out in the garden or at an allotment, with some plants grown to maturity in the Vegepod. The Vegepod’s cover could be removed once all risk or frost has passed, to allow the tomato plants to grow on to a taller height and to enable successful pollination.
Beetroot seeds usually produce a number of seedlings for every seed sown. Like tomatoes, beetroot seeds respond well to thinning and the seedlings transplant well. Beetroot can be successfully grown in the Vegepod, but do remember to align your rows with the deeper sections of the Vegepod, to provide your plants with the maximum space to develop their roots. Beetroot produce edible leaves as well as roots, some varieties are more decorative and vibrant than others. Beetroot ‘Bull’s Blood’, produces very dark red roots, this variety also produces very beautiful, decorative leaves which feature attractive dark red colourings, which look great in the garden, and make a tasty addition to a salad too!
In June, I sowed a few rows of carrots in my Vegepod, every week or so, during the early summer months, I sprinkled a few extra carrot seeds in these rows of carrots to keep a continual supply of small carrots, all summer long. Many carrots are best sown early in the year, as their roots take time to develop, carrot seeds can be sown from March onwards.
Many lettuces and other salads, herbs, and other edible plants can be grown as cut and come again crops, you can cut a few salad leaves here and there from a row, or alternatively using scissors, cut your row of salads just above the soil level to make your harvest. The salad plants will grow up again and be ready to harvest within a week or two, depending on the size of leaf you want to grow, the time of year, and the growing conditions your plants experience. I love to mix my own salad seed mix, combining different coloured lettuces, herbs, and rocket.
Regular, frequent, small, successional sowings will provide you with a continual harvest from your Vegepod.
Many plants can be grown over winter, salads can be grown successfully all through the year.
It’s important to remember that the Vegepod’s cover prevents insects from accessing your crops. Many crops need bees, butterflies, hoverflies, flies, beetles, and other insects to pollinate them. So, if you’re growing strawberries inside your Vegepod, you’ll need to lift off your Vegepod’s lid while your strawberries are in flower, to allow bees, hoverflies, and other pollinating insects to pollinate your crop – or you won’t grow any strawberries!
It’s worth considering pollination when you’re selecting what plants you want to grow inside your Vegepod, as if you grow strawberries, chillies, tomatoes, and sweet peppers, they will need to be pollinated by bees, hoverflies, and other pollinating insects. While uncovering any brassicas would mean that it would mean that they would certainly be found by cabbage white butterflies, pigeons and the many other creatures that enjoy these delicacies! To make things easier, I’d advise you to choose one group of plants or another – grow only plants that need pollinating and will need the Vegepod’s cover to be removed during flowering, or alternatively grow only plants that require protection and will need the Vegepod’s cover to remain in place.
Protecting your plants from pests inside your Vegepod
If you have any eggs of snails, slugs, or other pests in the compost you add to your Vegepod, you’ll have to deal with these pests once your seeds start growing, so take care to avoid introducing pests to your Vegepod. Snails in particular like to hide in or under bags of composts, so take care to avoid introducing any fully grown slugs and snails to your Vegepod too.
The Vegepod has a cover to protect your plants from pests, but as your plants grow taller and leafier it’s easy to accidentally trap a leaf outside of your Vegepod. Even a small part of one exposed leaf provides an open invitation to any insects or mollusks in your area to access the plants inside your Vegepod. In the photographs that you can see below, a kohlrabi leaf growing near the edge of my Vegepod was shut outside the Vegepod’s cover, within ten minutes of the cover being closed, a Cabbage White Butterfly had spotted the leaf and laid a series of eggs on the underside of the plant’s leaf.
This Kohlrabi leaf is one of many leaves produced by my over crowded Kohlrabi plants that were sown inside my Vegepod. This leaf was outside of the lid of my Vegepod for just a little while, within a few moments a Cabbage White Butterfly had laid its eggs on the underside of the leaf, and at the end of the day, I noticed these aphids were also colonising the leaf. As pictured on the 22nd July 2018.
The Cabbage White Butterfly is an amazingly successful butterfly!
I love butterflies, so I left the leaf alone and allowed the eggs to hatch, the caterpillars grew inside my Vegepod, eating some of my brassicas. Once morning I noticed a chrysalis attached to the cover of my Vegepod, I looked up and saw six more chrysalis! I very gently and carefully removed these chrysalises from the inside of the hood of my Vegepod, I have now moved the chrysalises to a spot in my garden, where they can safely overwinter, before hatching in the springtime.
To protect your plants from pests, I’d recommend checking over your plants regularly looking for signs of damage, and looking up inside the cover of your Vegepod to look for pests. This is where I have found more than one snail!
Snails often hide under leaves, so if you see a leaf that looks as if it is weighed down it’s worth having a quick check for snails.
Watering your crops inside your Vegepod
Crops grown in the Vegepod benefit from this product’s misting unit, which provides a fine mist of water over the surface of the Vegepod’s compost to help seeds germinate, enable young seedlings to establish, and allow cuttings to stay hydrated. While the water reservoir at the base of the Vegepod moistens the compost from below via a wicking effect, and provides water for your plants’ roots. This summer, when my Vegepod was put together, I connected my Vegepod to a garden hose, and set up an automated timer to operate the misting unit in my Vegepod for a few minutes, twice a week. When autumn arrived, I turned off the automated timer, as we have so far been receiving sufficient rain to water the crops inside my Vegepod.
The plants grown in my Vegepod have not ever been watered by hand, I have relied solely on the automatic features the Vegepod provides. I have found that there are patches of dry compost around the very outer edges of my Vegepod that remain dry after the misting system operates, as the water doesn’t quite reach the edges and corners of the bed when it irrigates, but to be honest this hasn’t been a problem, these dry patches really have been around the very outer edges of my Vegepod. I have not ever tried to water these dry edges and corners of compost, yet I have not experienced a problem with any of the plants grown inside my Vegepod being dry or needing water.
One thing that is important to mention is that I would advise using fresh tap water to water your seedlings inside your Vegepod, to minimise the risk of damping off affecting your seedlings. Damping off effects newly germinated seeds, it’s a catastrophic condition that causes young seedlings to collapse and die. There are a number of pathogens that cause damping off. The fungi and diseases that can be harmful to seedlings are often found in the water collected and stored in water butts, so it’s best to strictly avoid using any water butt water when growing plants from seed. I love to collect rainwater to water my orchids and houseplants, but rainwater collected in water butts is best used on established plants.
I would advise installing a water butt to collect rainwater if you can. If you have a water butt, it’s important to empty and wash out your water butt at least every six months, a good time to do this is during a period of dry weather, when you have used all of the water you’ve collected. To minimise the risk of harbouring harmful pathogens and fungi responsible for damping off, cover your water butt to prevent autumn leaves and debris contaminating your water supply.
The UK’s summer of 2018 was a blisteringly hot summer, I have never, ever known a summer like this one, it has been intense and relentless! Despite the heat this summer, I have found that the crops grown in my Vegepod needed less irrigation than you might expect, as the water reservoir below and the misting system above, have both been very effective at irrigating my plants. The Dalefoot Composts I used to grow all of the plants inside my Vegepod are very water retentive, the combination of Dalefoot’s Compost and the Vegepod’s design complement each other well.
It’s worth remembering that if your Vegepod has its cover over your crops, that this cover is permeable, so when it rains your plants will be watered, so if you have set up a timer to turn the mister in your Vegepod on automatically to irrigate your crops and you’ve experienced inclement weather all week, you might wish to skip the automatic watering that week, to save wasting water. It’s best to check your plants regularly, place your hands in the compost and push your fingers in to feel how wet or dry the compost is around your plants’ roots.
As I grow more plants in my Vegepod, I hope to update my list of recommended plants to grow inside the Vegepod. To further test the Vegepod, my Vegepod will be dismantled and moved to another area of my garden in due course……….I’ll let you know how this goes in my future updates!
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