An online Foundation Course in Container Food Growing

Booking closes midnight GMT, Sunday 17 March

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Are you fed up with:
  • Tasteless, expensive supermarket salad bags
  • Having no control over your food or what goes on it
  • Waiting to get an allotment or a garden
  • Feeling out of touch with the seasons and nature?

Or have you tried growing but feel
  • Dispirited that your crops don’t flourish
  • Overwhelmed by information which seems complicated or contradictory
  • Plagued by slugs and other pests
  • Unclear about what you need to do when
  • Unsure what’s easy to grow, how much sun your crops need, or what sized pot to put them in?
If so, you’re not alone: it’s completely normal to experience these challenges.
When I started I used pots that were too small. The tomatoes never ripened.  I didn’t realise you needed to feed the compost to get a good crop. I was completely confused by all the different fertilisers and seeds available and I was under the impression I had to buy nearly everything (you don’t). I’ve spent years experimenting with what does and doesn’t work – and would love to share what I’ve learnt with you.
Instead imagine having a container food garden which:
  • Gives you fresh, delicious, nutritious food every day – and without any packaging or a food mile in sight!
  • Adds colour and life to your corner of the city.
  • Is rewarding, joyful and creative.

 

“At my flat warming party I served a starter course all of which I’d grown myself. It felt amazing! Getting advice at the beginning was super helpful. Knowing how I could make the most of my little space and what containers would work best helped me get off to a flying start.”
Hannah Mulder

 

How this course works – in a nutshell
  • Through a mix of videos, clear handouts, and interactive online group workshops (dates below), you’ll learn the essentials of successful container growing from the comfort of your own home. (The full course outline is detailed at the bottom of this page).
  • With each module you’ll be given step by step instructions for a practical project so that you can put your learning into practise immediately.
  • You’ll be able to talk to me personally on Skype to plan your own unique growing space and what you want to grow.
  • You’ll have regular chances to ask questions about your learning from March right through to September.
  • You’ll join an online community of learning growers where you can share your successes and learning throughout the course – and even after the course has finished.

 

 

A typical harvest from my south facing window sills in September. This collection appeared with Alan Titchmarsh on national TV!

A typical harvest from my window sills in September. This bowlful starred on national TV with Alan Titchmarsh!

This course can help you create a flourishing container garden
By the end, my aim is that you will have:
  • Successful harvests to share with your friends and family.
  • The skills, knowledge and experience that will be a firm foundation for your container growing in the future.
  • Loads of ideas for what you want to grow next – and the confidence to do it.
  • Possibly some new friends from the course – and perhaps even in your neighbourhood inspired by your growing!
Is this course right for you?

Now the big question is, is this the right course for you? It could be if:

  • You’re new to growing food in containers, and want to get off to a flying start.
  • You’ve been growing food for a while but have struggled to grow food successfully or consistently – and now want to master the basics.
  • You’re looking for a practical container growing course and want to get stuck in.
  • You’re excited about the prospect of learning from a mix of videos, notes and interactive online group workshops and forums – with personal input and feedback from me.
  • You’re on Facebook or willing to get on it (so that you can participate in the Facebook Group)
Salads are one of the easiest crops to grow in containers - they're also pricey in the shops and so much tastier when freshly picked

Salads are one of the easiest crops to grow in containers – they’re also pricey in the shops and so much tastier when freshly picked

 

“Although there are books on the subject actually talking about it, working out plans and having a chance to ask questions took me to the stage of knowing I could do it and with confidence.”
Maggie La Tourelle

 

What will all this cost you?

For your money you will get:

  • Eight learning modules six in March and April, then one in June and one in August. Each module consists of a mix of complementary written materials and videos.  Value = £20 each or £160 in total.
  • Eight Projects: With each module you’ll also get step by step instructions for a project you can do at home to put your new learning into practise.
  • Five interactive group sessions, one hour long, delivered live online, designed to help your learning stick and for you to ask questions. Each session will be recorded so you can listen later even if you can’t join in live. Value = £20 each or £100 in total.
  • A one to one Skype call, 30 minutes long, before the end of April, with me, to discuss your unique space and any other questions you have about your growing. Value = £40
  • Membership of a private Facebook Group – where you can post images of your space, what you are growing, and get support and ideas from others in the group.   I will also be an active member of the online group. This group is a big benefit of the course – particularly as your membership can continue after the course has finished. Joining is recommended. Value = Priceless!

It will save you:

  • Hours of trawling the internet looking for the  information you need.
  • Time travelling to workshops – which you can spend actually growing instead.
  • £’s / $’s / €’s on your food bill – you could easily grow £100 – £200 of food, even in your first year. (With a little practise, I grew £900 of food in one year on my balcony and window sills.)
  • Making expensive mistakes – it’s easy to buy the wrong pots or the wrong compost when starting out.
The total value of all the parts of the course is £300. You can buy the whole thing for just £127.




My 100% Money Back Guarantee

If you genuinely feel you have not got value for money from doing this course at any time over the next twelve months, get back in touch and I’ll gladly refund the money in full.

 

 

Who am I and why am I running this course?

Me on my London Balcony

Me on my London Balcony

My name is Mark Ridsdill Smith and I’m the founder of Vertical Veg. Vertical Veg inspires and supports food growing in tiny spaces. I started Vertical Veg because I love food growing in cities and all the benefits it offers.  Also because I wanted to share all that I’ve learnt about container growing as widely as I can.

Unlike many gardeners, I focus entirely on growing food in containers. Indeed, I have never had my own garden or allotment. This means that I really understand the challenges (and benefits) of growing without a garden. I started my growing in London on a balcony, and this year I’m creating a new container garden in my small (rather shady!) back yard in Newcastle in the north of England.

My own growing achievements have appeared on national television (the Alan Titchmarsh Show and Love Your Garden on ITV), on BBC London, in national newspapers (including the Daily Telegraph), and in many gardening magazines and websites. My London balcony has featured in at least six books published in the UK, Japan, Canada and Austria.

I’ve run workshops for well over five hundred people on how to grow food in containers. So I understand the range of problems you might be struggling with and how to overcome them. My workshop clients include London’s growing charity, Capital Growth, The UK Ideal Home Exhibition, the national charity, Garden Organic, as well as numerous community growing projects and Transition Town groups.

I love growing food and I love teaching people how to grow. I hope my enthusiasm will rub off and will make the course a fun, enjoyable and inspiring experience for you.

 

Interested? Here’s how this course can – and can’t – help you

It won’t give you lots of dense horticultural theory or teach you the Latin names for plants.
But you will get a practical, hands-on course – with the essential theory explained in plain English – and with opportunities for direct feedback about your growing.

It can’t make your shady spaces sunny (even I can’t do that!).
But, if you do have a shady space, you will get lots of ideas for crops that grow well in less sun. If you have less than two hours sun a day, I wouldn’t recommend this course to you. It’s hard to grow food productively in very little sun (pea shoots or Chinese cabbage are worth a shot if you want to try though).

If you haven’t started growing already, it can’t make you go out and start.
But you will learn everything you need to get going. You’ll also be given some easy growing projects, perfect to boost your confidence and get your growing off to a flying start. These projects are an important part of the course – your learning will really solidify when you actually grow and observe what happens.

It won’t enable you to go from nothing to your dream container garden in just six months.
Learning to grow is like making a fine wine, a slow process. It will take a few seasons of trial and error to build experience and to learn what will – and will not – grow well in your space. But through this course you will learn the foundations you need to create your dream garden in the future, and hopefully have lots of early successes, too.

There are thousands of different pests and diseases and this course can’t teach you how to combat each and everyone of them (even if I knew myself!).
But you will learn a whole raft of techniques, applicable anywhere, that can dramatically reduce the number of pest problems you have. Prevention is the best strategy because many pests are hard to get rid of organically once they are established. You’ll also learn some specific ways to keep out the most common urban pests – slugs, cats, pigeons etc. 

If you live outside the UK, the course will not be able to give you specific sowing times for different crops. And if you live outside the Northern hemisphere, your growing seasons will be completely different.  You should also be aware that my specific knowledge of compost brands and products is limited to what is available in the UK.
Although precise sowing times vary slightly from one country to another, the seasons are similar across the Northern hemisphere. Also, the essentials and principles of container growing are exactly the same in any country. You can still learn a lot from this course and you will be very welcome.

The focus of this course is on growing in containers not in the ground or raised beds.
If you want to grow mainly in raised beds or the ground, some of the course will be relevant,  but I don’t think it’s the best fit for your needs.  

As this is a foundation course, it probably will be of less value to you if you’re already confident about growing food in containers. I plan to run a more advanced course in the near future.

 

Let me tell you a story
Frustrated at waiting for an allotment I started growing on my small balcony.

Frustrated at waiting for an allotment I started growing on my small balcony.

I lived in a London flat for 20 years. I was yearning to grow food. After much fruitless waiting for an allotment, I decided to try growing on my balcony. Expecting the odd bowl of rocket, I was genuinely surprised when we were eating fresh food off the balcony nearly every day (even in winter).

Not only did we enjoy the addition of super fresh, delicious food with all our meals, but our lives were transformed in other ways, too. After fifteen years in the same flat, we met and chatted to many of our neighbours for the first time – who were intrigued by our growing on the street. We grew enough to have a surplus to share with friends and neighbours (a bouquet of herbs or a bowl of fresh chillies makes for a lovely gift when visiting friends). All our waste food was recycled in a wormery – so none was ever thrown away and wasted (I hate throwing away food waste now). Our two year old son loved helping out and, not normally a great veg eater, once plucked off and ate 18 cherry tomatoes in one go!

And last but not least I discovered an immensely rewarding and fun hobby that I grew to love – getting outside, interacting with the seasons and wildlife in the city, watching plants grow, experimenting with new crops in the kitchen. A hobby I also found creative and relaxing, and the perfect contrast to a busy urban life!

 

My wife picking strawberries for my son, Leo. We got to know many people in the street who stopped to chat about our growing!

My wife picking strawberries for my son, Leo. We got to know many people in the street who stopped to chat about our growing.

The course week by week

Videos and course notes are sent to you on Friday each week for you to watch and read any time that’s convenient for you. You’ll need about one hour a week to get the most out of the material and one hour to work on your project.

Week 1: Sun, wind and what to grow

Friday 15 March

You’ll start by thinking about what you want to grow. You’ll learn which crops grow best in containers and why some crops need more sun than others. You’ll find out which crops are easiest to grow, which look great, and which give you the best yields. We’ll also think about some interesting, unusual and delicious foods you can grow. Finally, you’ll  learn how wind affects crops and how to minimise this.

Week 2: How to design your space

Friday 22 March

This week you’ll learn about different types of containers, and how to make your own containers from recycled objects. You’ll find out why some crops need big pots  – and how many of each crop you can grow in a pot. You’ll also think more about the factors to consider in the design of your growing space. You’ll learn about some simple and effective growing structures you can use to make the most of your space.

Week 3: Soil and compost

 

Thursday 28 March

In week three, you’ll learn about the most important element of successful growing – the soil or compost you grow in. You’ll discover what makes a good growing medium, what the best options are for container growing, and where to look for what you need. 

Week 4: How to grow from seed, how to water

Friday 12 April

After a week’s break over Easter, you’ll learn how to grow from seed successfully. You’ll find out which crops are easiest to grow from seed (and which aren’t), where the best place to start seeds is, and how to nurture them so they’re really healthy. You’ll also discover some tricks to keep slugs off your precious seedlings. Finally this week, we’ll look at the best ways to water crops in containers and how you’ll know when to do it.

Week 5 – How to feed your crops and nurture your seedlings

Friday 19 April

This week you’ll learn about the nutrients your plants need to grow well and stay healthy – and you’ll learn easy ways to give them what they need. This is critical for success! You’ll learn how to set up or make your own wormery. You’ll also find out about how to minimise the stress to seedlings when you move them to bigger pots. And you’ll discover how to help your seedlings raised inside adapt to life outside (gardeners call this ‘hardening off’).

Week 6: How to prevent pests and disease in your container garden

Friday 26 April

This week you’ll learn about ten different ways to prevent the pests and disease in your organic garden. None of these are foolproof but together they’ll make a huge difference.

June week: How to look after your crops and take cuttings. 

Friday 7 June

You’ll learn about the maintenance jobs you need to do at this time: how to pinch out tomatoes, how to stop slug and insect infestations early, the correct way to tie up your crops. You’ll also learn how to take cuttings – a brilliant way of increasing the range of herbs in your growing space at this time of year.

August week: Seed saving and winter growing

Friday 2 August

You’ll learn the basics of saving your own seed and which crops are easiest to save seeds from. You’ll also learn what crops grow well in winter – as now is the time to sow them.



Plus Five interactive, live group workshops

These take place on Tuesdays, 8pm GMT. If you can’t make it live, don’t worry, each session will be recorded for you to listen whenever you want. Here’s an overview of each session (content may change slightly to reflect your needs and those of the group):
  • 19 March:  Welcome, overview of course, introduction to growing in small spaces.
  • 9 April: Discussion on designing your space, soil and compost. Question and answer session.
  • 30 April:  Discussion on fertilisers and pests. Question and answer session on everything you’ve covered so far.
  • 18 June: Your successes and learning in your growing so far; question and answer session.
  • 10 September: Review your learning over the year from the course – and from your practical experience. Plan next year’s growing.

“I’d never grown before but now, watching plants grow, makes me feel happy. I love the freshness of the food. When you buy food from the supermarket you don’t know what’s gone in it. When friends come round for Sunday lunch, it feels so good to be able to pick or dig up veg together. And I love being able to give tomatoes away to visitors – the taste is amazing.”
Louise Wei
“I grew up on land in Bangladesh and always wanted to share my joy of growing with my daughter, Maisha. But when we moved to a small flat in London, I thought it wouldn’t be possible. Now, with Mark’s help, I’ve learnt to grow in containers and I share the growing with my daughter after school every day. My wife is happy, too: the freshly picked coriander is superior to any you can buy.”
Helal Ahmed
The total value of this course works out at £300. You can buy it for just £127.

My 100% Money Back Guarantee

If you genuinely feel you have not got value for money from doing this course at any time over the next twelve months, get back in touch and I’ll gladly refund the money in full.