Container gardening is a great way to grow your own plants at home, even without a yard to do so. This is an informative beginner’s guide to vegetable container gardening so you can get started this spring.
We have partnered’s with Renee’s Garden to provide you with quality seeds and resources.
Many of you live in apartments, condos, and other urban spaces without yards. But that doesn’t mean you can’t grow your own edible garden! A patio, a balcony, deck, or even a rooftop will work well for gardening with pots.
Containers are great for small spaces. Other advantages are that you can move them around easily and because they’re raised off the ground, there isn’t a lot of bending over on your part.
There are so many wonderful vegetable varieties on the market now which stay compact yet yield high quantities. Vegetable gardening in containers is fun and rewarding. If you grow yours from seed, it a very cost-effective (not to mention rewarding) way to go.
Growing vegetables from seed is fun, rewarding, and easy to do. It can also be cost effective if you’re planting in quite a few containers.
If you choose to buy established vegetable plants, you’ll find them primarily for sale in 6-pack and 4″ pot sizes. Popular veggies like tomatoes can also be found in 6″ and 1-gallon pots.
Vegetable Gardening in Containers
Vegetable container gardening is easy to do once you create an organic foundation for your plants. We are big proponents of organic gardening here at Joy Us garden and we hope you are too.
Since your vegetables are growing in containers and not in the earth, they may require a bit of extra care and attention when it comes to maintenance.
Containers can only provide water and soil if the gardener is there to do it. The things to consider when creating a vegetable container garden are simple:
- The right amount of sunlight
- Containers that are large enough & allow adequate drainage
- A good quality soil mix
- Adequate water
In terms of maintenance, the good news is that there tends to be fewer weeds to pull in containers than in the ground. However, the vegetables grown in pots will most likely need watering more often.
1.) Direct Sun (Location is Key!)
Most vegetables will require full sun—which means they should see about 6 hours of direct sunlight each day. Check your preferred location first and make sure it’s getting direct sunlight—no shade.
In other words, monitor the location every 30 minutes on a sunny day. Make sure there is a 6-hour window where the sun is shining directly on the area that you want to grow your garden.
Depending on your location, reflected heat can be a problem in terms of sunburn. Nell lives in the Sonoran Desert so she’s experienced this first hand!
We recommend starting your seeds inside first in a bright location. This gives them a chance to get growing first, then you can move them outside once they’ve grown a bit.
Starting your plants indoors first gives you a head start once the weather warms up. Renee’s Garden has plenty of information on its website to help you out with when to plant them outside, the exposure, days to germination, and days to harvest. Seed packets are a wealth of information!
2.) Container Selection
Choosing the right container is an important factor. Here are the key elements to look for: a container that’s large enough, made with the right material, and one with good drainage.
The bigger the better is usually the case. If you grow lettuce, spinach or arugula, a smaller container (low and wide) is fine.
Avoid metal and ceramics and dark colors because they can get very hot under direct sunlight which would heat-stress your vegetables. This is true for climates with long, hot summers.
Choices of containers: ceramic, plastic, wooden, terra cotta. Porous pots like unglazed terra cotta will need watering more often.
Make sure the pots you choose are big enough because the roots need room to grow. Nell has seen potatoes grown in trash cans!
Shop for the items below:
If a plant needs support (like a small trellis or grow cage), put it when planting. Otherwise, it may be harder to do so when the plant is larger.
3.) Soil Mix and Fertilizer/Feeding
Use good quality, organic potting soil suited for containers and vegetables. Don’t use soil from the ground because it’s way too heavy. And, grabbing soil from the ground can increase the chances of weeds showing up in your containers.
The mix needs to have good drainage so the water can drain out. Otherwise, the roots will be subject to rot.
Vegetables have a short and very productive growing season. It takes a lot of energy for the plants to grow and yield their bounty. They do best with regular fertilizing and feeding. How much and how often depends on the fertilizer you use. They are many great organic vegetable fertilizers on the market, like the 2 above.
A layer of compost and worm compost on the top nourish. It also helps hold the moisture in. How much you use depends on the pot size. In general, Nell uses a 1/4-1/2″ layer of worm compost and a 2-3″ layer of compost over that.
Checking your vegetable container garden should be part of your everyday routine. This will be especially true in the warmer summer months.
Depending on the container size and type along with your temps, you might not need to water them every day but you should at least monitor the soil. You want to keep the soil evenly moist because vegetables don’t like to dry out.
Once your vegetables are established and their roots are grown, it’s best to water deeply and less often. As mentioned in “soil mix”, a good layer of rich compost will help with this.
Experience is a gardener’s best friend. Your first year of vegetable container gardening may be an experiment, but come the second or third year, you’ll be an old pro and will be a lot more comfortable with the whole process.
If you’re new to vegetable gardening and want to give growing from seed a try, choose any of the following below. These are vegetables that are easy to grow in containers and also to maintain.
These snap peas were created just for container gardening. Peas grown fresh from the vine make the best snacks, additions to salads, and can complement lots of recipes like vegetable soup!
These tomatoes were designed to grow in containers placed in small spaces. They’re very plump once they’re grown and have a great flavor.
Think of the last time you ordered a salad at a restaurant. There was probably a variety of lettuces in different shapes, colors, and textures. These seeds will grow quickly so you can expect to gather second or even third cuttings.
Look at these beautiful leafy greens. Spinach is a great addition to a vegetable garden.
Can’t make up your mind because you’re confused by all the choices?
This seed collection is perfect considering the purpose of this article. The packet includes 5 individual seed packets that are perfect for vegetable container gardening in small spaces.
What’s included: tomatoes, carrots, lettuce, chard, and basil
Here is another lettuce variety. These seeds do need to start growing outdoors and have a set of instructions to help guide you through the process.
How to Read the Seed Packet
- Days to germination: the number of days in which the seedlings (baby plant) appear
- Days to harvest: the number of days in which you’ll first be enjoying your bounty
If you’re a beginning gardener, I hope this has post on vegetable container gardening will help you out!
Nell and Miranda
Learn more about container gardening:
- Essential Gardening Tools
- Tips For Growing Mojito Mint
- How to Garden on a Budget
- Tips for Growing Your Own Balcony Garden
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About the Author
Miranda works behind the scenes at Joy Us Garden, creating graphics and helping Nell publish new content on the blog. In her free time, Miranda enjoys hiking with her dog, reading a good book, or trying a new recipe she found on Pinterest.