Container Gardening with Vegetables

Enjoy more control over growing conditions with higher yields and less work

Container gardening is an easy way to grow vegetables, especially if you lack yard space. If you have a small garden or simply a patio, balcony, or roof top, explore the world of gardening in pots.

Tips for Vegetable and Herb Container Gardening

Pots: the bigger, the better

» Large plants need lots of space, and most roots need room to grow. Avoid small containers as they often can’t store enough water to get through hot days. Plus, the bigger your container, the more plants you can grow!

» Use barrels (a wooden half-barrel can yield an amazing amount of food), buckets, baskets, boxes, bath- and other tubs, and troughs—anything that holds soil. Just be sure that it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Container considerations

» Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better and won’t dry out as fast as unglazed terra-cotta ones. To get the best of both, slip a plastic pot into a slightly larger clay pot.

» Black pots absorb heat when they are sitting in the sun.

» Many plants grown in pots must be watered as often as twice a day. To keep plants adequately cool and moist during hot summer days, double-pot: Place a small pot inside a larger one and fill the space between them with sphagnum moss or crumpled newspaper. When watering the plant, also soak the filler between the pots.

» Hanging baskets make good use of extra space, and herbs, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries grown at eye level can be easily tended and harvested.

» Add about 1 inch of coarse gravel in the bottom of containers to improve drainage.

» Vegetables that can be easily transplanted are best suited for containers. Transplants can be purchased from local nurseries or started at home.

» Feed container plants at least twice a month with liquid fertilizer, following the instructions on the label.

» An occasional application of fish emulsion or compost will add trace elements to container soil.

» Place containers where they will receive maximum sunlight and good ventilation. Watch for and control insect pests.

Window boxes

» A large window box can provide the makings for a handy salad within arm’s reach. Whatever the size or type, place your containers where they are most convenient to be cared for and will grow best. Most vegetables need 6-8 hours of direct sun in order to thrive and produce well.

» Plants in containers need the best possible soil, aeration, and drainage for healthy root growth and optimum harvest. Do not use soil from the garden: It is too heavy, can become waterlogged, and brings disease and insects with it. Choose instead a soilless mix (quick-draining and lightweight) or use compost, alone or combined with a soilless mix.

» Edible flowers such as nasturtiums, calendula, and signet marigolds are attractive and also add color to the plate.

» To keep vegetable plants growing, feed them organic soil amendments weekly, like Dr. Earth Organic Home Grown Tomato, Vegetable, Herb Fertilizer. To ensure growth, vegetables need consistently moist soil.

Following appropriate container gardening techniques, anyone can have their own vegetable and herb garden — on a balcony, on a porch, on a roof top, or in easy reach near a window.

Martha Stewart, Entertainer & Entrepreneur

Plant supports

» Support your climbing vegetables with trellises, stakes, netting, twine, or cages. You can build your own trellis or wooden supports. A teepee of bamboo stakes will hold pole beans or snap peas. Cucumbers trained to climb up a nylon mesh fence will develop fruit that hangs down and grow straight. To avoid damaging the plants or their roots, put supports in place at planting time.

» To maximize space and thus your harvest, plant root crops, low-growers, and tall climbers together in the same container. The climbers will eagerly scramble up a trellis, while the small plants spread around their base. You’ll hardly need to weed because there won’t be any room for weeds to gain a foothold, and during the height of summer, some low-growers (leafy greens, for example) will thrive in the shade provided by the taller plants.

» Mix quick-maturing plants, such as lettuce or radishes, with longer-growing ones, like tomatoes or broccoli.

» Group plants with similar needs for sun and water, such as pole beans, radishes, and lettuce; cucumber, bush beans, and beets; tomatoes, basil, and onions; and peas and carrots.

» Lettuce is excellent for container gardening.

Selecting a container

Here are our recommendations on which vegetable varieties are container-friendly and which container types are most suitable for each veggie.

For supplies, you only need a good container, the right soil mix, and the appropriate varieties of plants. In addition to providing 5 hours or more of full sun, watering is critical. As mentioned above, you may need to water daily or twice daily; in hot weather, the soil can dry out quickly. The good news: less weeding! Containers are generally low-maintenance.

Gasper carries an incredible variety of pottery and planters. The amount of colors, shapes and sizes of pottery and planters may seem endless at Gasper, so be sure to stop by and browse for as long as you wish. A Gasper associate would be happy to assist you find the perfect container for your garden.

Container suggestions

» Beans, snap: 5-gallon window box
» Broccoli: 1 plant/5 gallon pot, 3 plants/15-gallon tub
» Carrots: 5-gallon window box at least 12 inches deep
» Cucumbers: 1 plant/1-gallon pot
» Eggplant: 5-gallon pot
» Lettuce: 5-gallon window box
» Onions: 5-gallon window box
» Peppers: 1 plant/2-gallon pot, 5 plants/15-gallon tub
» Radishes: 5-gallon window box
» Tomatoes: Bushel basket

Vegetable Container Garden Examples