How to Grow Vegetables in Containers: An In-depth Guide

Everything You Need to Know About Growing Vegetables in Containers

Growing your own food was first a necessity, then it became a hobby, and how it’s kind of ending the cycle and becoming a necessity again. It would seem that even the most organic and bio products that we buy are misusing the terminology, so the tomatoes that end up in your salad are way more sprayer with pesticides than some farmers care to admit.

If you are skeptical about the organic nature of the vegetable you buy, or if you simply want to get the satisfaction of cooking with raw ingredients that you own two hands helped cultivate, here is a beginner’s guide on how to grow vegetables in containers. See our steps with pictures below.

Temperature Considerations

Some vegetables thrive in high temperatures, while others are perfectly suited for winter growth. There are, of course, a few rules to keep in mind that can guide you towards proper planting:

Green sprouts of young strawberry in dirty pot sunlit

  • Most vegetables love the sun. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but if you want your container gardening to be fruitful, you will need a sunny place for your plants.
  • Consider the spots where you’ll be placing your pots and check them every 30 minutes. This will give you a better idea of how much sun there is in that spot throughout the entire day.
  • Those of you that live in really warm climates will need to ensure the vegetables have shade in the middle of the day. The sun can overheat the plants, causing them to try.
  • It’s best if you avoid metal or dark-colored containers, because they can attract a lot of sunlight and become very hot, thus overheating the roots of your vegetables.
  • If you are really serious about growing many vegetables in containers, it would be wise to invest in a meat thermometer, to measure the temperature of the soil.

Soil Considerations

Handful of soil

When talking about soil, we have three major aspects go over: water, fertilizer, and the actual soil itself. The potting soil that you choose will make the world’s difference. A lot of people might be tempted to fill their containers with soil from the garden. This is to be avoided, because when you place garden soil inside the pot, it becomes more compact and prevents the water from draining properly.

Also, one of the benefits of container gardening is the fact that you have a weed-free environment, whereas using soil from the garden will transport weeds into the pot as well. You can buy organic soil, by looking for potting mixes that have the right pH level for the type of crop you’re looking to grow.

As far as fertilizer is concerned, you might find soil that already contains fertilizer, or you might have to purchase it separately. You want to buy organic and granular fertilizer for your containers. Adding liquid seaweed or diluted liquid fish emulsion every other week will ensure extra nutrition for your plants.

Senior woman watering plant near husband

No vegetables can grow without water, and some of them require more frequent watering compared to others. In the majority of cases, you will have to make sure the soil is moist at all times but avoid soaking the roots in water.

If you are not sure whether your vegetables need water or not, just stick your finger one inch into the soil. If your finger is dry, your vegetables needs watering. For reference, most vegetables require watering once or twice during a summer day.

Aside from watering the vegetables enough, you’ll also have to care for the drainage system. Proper drainage will prevent the plants from drowning. This means that the bottom of the pot should have on or several holes that will evacuate excess water, but you should avoid water from building up in the pot’s tray.

The best way to prevent that from happening is to elevate your pots, leaving space beneath them for water drainage.

Container Considerations

Four clay pots and two metal ones in rows of three on rich black earth

Choosing a container isn’t always as easy as it sounds, particularly when you consider the fact that different types of vegetables have different pot width and length requirements. However, if you want a fail-safe formula for choosing a container, go for the ones that are made with food-safe material, have good drainage, and are large enough.

The tricky part is that large containers that fit more soil are also more likely to trap moisture. As a general rule, containers that are at least 18 inches in height should do the trick for the majority of vegetables you might be considering.

If you’re really a more comfortable type of person but will still like to have your own container garden, you can look for self-watering containers, which help keep the soil moist as long as there is water in the container.

A few more container rules to keep in mind:

  • Terra cotta pots are good, but the clay they’re made from sucks water out of the soil. A solution around this problem is to line the pot with plastic.
  • The least expensive containers which are also large in size are plastic buckets, that you can buy from pretty much every convenience store.
  • You can create containers out of old stuff you have lying around the house and you’ll probably never use again, like an old tire.
  • You can make your own containers. It’s really not that hard.

Vegetable Ideas for Containers

Peas

Close-up of homegrown, organic green snow peas planted in a hipster kitchen garden inside, climbing up planting stick in soft window light.

Peas are also vegetables that don’t have too many demands when it comes to container growth. If you have a balcony with some free space and a few small pots, you should be good to go. The best options for container growth are dwarf peas, but make sure that the soil is moist at all times. Peas will need plenty of sun, so make sure that you place them in the sunniest spot you can find.

Tomatoes

The perfect ingredient for salad and the best pasta sauces out there, tomatoes are really easy to grow in containers. They will need plenty of sun (at least five hours per day), so make sure that you have a proper place to leave the containers, where the plants will get plenty of sunlight.

The size of the pot has to be chosen to match the variety of the tomatoes you’re looking to grow. For example, dwarf varieties are best suited for container growth, but cherry tomatoes are better if you’re looking for a higher yield.

Beans

Since beans are known as climbing plants and will occupy more vertical than horizontal space, they are good for container growth. You can place the containers alongside a wall, preferably near a trellis, so they will have something to grow against. It will take just a few weeks to see your beans running across the wall.

Planting out broad bean vegetable seedlings, plants on a wooden board and in the soil with a garden trowel

The best conditions for your beans would be to plant them in a container that’s at least 12 inches deep and place them in a spot with a lot of sun. Remember that the trellis is an important factor in beans growth, so you have better odds of growing them properly if you place them along a trellis.

Beans are nitrogen fixers, which means they can be planted in containers with other plants that require extra nitrogen, such as kale or celery.

Lettuce

This is a very quick-growing vegetables, which basically means that you can harvest it more than one time during its peak season. It is one of the best vegetables to grow in colder seasons, so make sure that you plan for it according to your regional climate. Generally speaking, seeds start in spring, but if you live in a really warm climate, you should consider growing them in winter.

The width of the container is more important than its depth, so keep that in mind as you search for a suitable container. Make sure that you plant your lettuce with a gap of minimum four inches between plants. For the best results, you want to go with well-draining soil and water them frequently so that the soil is moist at all times.

Radishes

Radish plants in the garden

Radishes have a reputation for growing very fast, and since they aren’t pretentious at all, growing them in containers is easy. They can be planted in wide, but small pots, which are barely six inches deep. However, if you want to grow radishes of a larger variety, the depth of the pot should be about eight to ten inches deep.

Spinach

Spinach is a great beginner’s vegetable for container growth. It can thrive in partial shade, so it’s not really picky about where you place it. If you can free up a windowsill, that would be fine. The containers for growing spinach should be at least six to eight inches deep.

Kale

Great for cool weather, kale is another vegetable that’s easy to grow inside a container. However, despite the fact that it loves cool temperatures, kale can also tolerate summer heat pretty well, although it seems that kale changes its taste and turns bitter in the warm months. You can harvest your kale several times throughout the year.

If you live in a colder region, you can plant kale is full sunlight.

Carrots

Healthy eating ripe carrots in vegetable garden in nature

Carrots are another type of vegetable that can thrive in cold weather. Their roots are very susceptible to crack due to dryness, so it’s important that you water carrots frequently. Aside from that, carrots are some of the best plants to grow in containers, because they don’t occupy that much space.

Bitter Melon

Oddly enough for many, bitter melon is another one of the vegetables that are easiest to grow in containers. It may be a tropical plant, but it survives really well in temperate climates. It has a growth process similar to that of cucumbers.

For the best harvest and results, you want to place the bitter melon pots next to a trellis. Make sure that the containers for planting this vegetable are about 12 inches deep.

Eggplants

The tricky thing about growing eggplants is that they are prone to attract garden pests. However, they are still some of the easiest vegetables to grow in containers. Eggplants love heat, so you should try and place them in a sunny spot. They are a summer crop because they like high temperatures. People who live in warm climates can grow them throughout the entire year.

Eggplants are easier to grow in containers rather than in large gardens. Make you feed them plenty, and always place their containers in sunny locations.

Squash

Courgette plant (Cucurbite pepo) with yellow fruits in the garden bed

Summer squash, also known as zucchini, is easier to grow compared to the winter variety, so be really careful with the ones you opt for. If you have a balcony or a rooftop, you basically meet all the conditions to successfully grow squash in a container.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers are a tad more pretentious when it comes to container growth. They require pots that are large in size and need to be placed in the sunniest spot you have available. They will need plenty of water to thrive. If you follow all the right rules, you can have juicy cucumbers within a few months.

Garlic

Growing garlic in a small pot

Garlic is one of the best vegetables to plant in containers because it has so many different uses in the kitchen. While garlic bulbs are rather expensive, they more than make up for it through the versatility of this plant.

In order to successfully grow garlic inside a container, you will need pots that are at least six to eight inches deep, but also as wide as your space allows them to be. There should be at least five inches of space left between two garlic cloves.

Rhubarb

Great for making tasty and healthy salads, rhubarb is super easy to grow in a container. In fact, it’s also one of the most cost-effective vegetables to grow, because you can harvest its stalks several times throughout multiple years.

As far as the growing conditions are concerned, rhubarb requires deep pots and for you to make sure the soil is well-drained.

How to Grow Vegetables in Containers

Veggie root planted on a reusable plastic container.

There’s plenty of different ways you can grow all sorts of veggies in containers in your home. But one way is to reuse the bottoms of ones you’ve used that would otherwise end up in the garbage or compost. Lots of vegetables can regrow themselves, which saves you money in the long run!

What You Will Need:

Empty reusable plastic+green onion stalk+a bowl of garden soil

  • Plastic container, planter, or something to keep your plants in
  • Interior planting soil
  • Veggie root of your choice (celery, green onions, lettuce, etc.)

How to Do It:

Step One: Clean Your Container

Hand holding an empty and clean reusable plastic container.

Make sure if you’re reusing a plastic container like a yogurt or ice cream tub, that you properly clean it with mild soap and hot water. Let it air dry or make sure it’s hand dried before using.

Step Two: Fill with Soil

small plastic container filled with garden soil.

Take your soil – either purchased from a garden centre or taken right from your garden outside and fill your container about 2/3 of the way up. Note that if you use sol take from outside, that it may not acclimate properly to indoor conditions. I used it and it was fine, but just make note. If your veggies die, just try again with potting soil for interior plants.

Step Three: Make a Hole

Using finger to make a well in the center of the soil filled on a plastic container.

Using your finger or a small spoon, make a well in the center of the soil that’s deep enough to nearly cover your veggie root.

Step Four: Insert Veggie Root

Hand planted the green onion stalk on the small plastic container filled with soil.

Take your vegetable off-cut of choice and insert it in the well you made. Make sure it’s nice and snug and leaves a little sticking out of the hole.

Step Five: Pack Soil

Added enough soil on newly planted green onion stalk.

Take some extra soil and fill the hole around the veggie off-cut. Pack it in and around the surface, letting a little bit of the vegetable tip stick out.

Step Six: Let Grow!

And Voila! Water it regularly, keep it in direct sunlight, and watch your veggie off-cuts grow to produce yummy produce for your kitchen.

And There You Have It

This method works for so many different vegetables and it’s super easy to do. Give it a try! Grow your own veggies at home and save those dollars!

Conclusion

One of the best things about growing vegetables in containers is the fact that you can combine a gardening hobby with a love from fresh produce. Not only do you get the satisfaction of having grown something with your own two hands, but the results are double the happiness when you enjoy a fresh batch of nachos with salsa sauce made from your own tomato container garden.

Vegetable Ideas for Containers - infographic

 

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