Best Vegetables to Grow in Containers

Don’t have a large garden space but want to grow your favorite crops? Learn which vegetables are the best ones to grow in containers!

Containers and pots are perfect for limited spaces such as balconies, stairs, decks, fire escapes, or whatever you have as your space.

Most vegetables can be grown in containers and you can have a full harvest from your small space. Research the vegetables you want to grow in containers to determine the best one for your zone. Read the seed packet or seedling tag to see how large the plants will become and when they are ready to harvest. Make sure the maturity days match your zone growing period.

Size does matter! Choosing the right pot for the plant size and root depth can make or break a successful container vegetable garden.

Use premium potting soil to grow your container veggies in. Garden soil won’t work because it tends to be too heavy for containers and will become compact.

Recipe for Success: pick a suitable variety of vegetables, provide the appropriate container, use good quality potting soil, and give it the care it needs. You can harvest as much fruit from a vegetable in a pot as you would from a vegetable in the ground.

Here are some of our favorites to grow in containers in alphabetical order. Happy gardening!

Arugula

Arugula is a really popular green used widely as a salad ingredient. It’s a member of the mustard family with a crunchy, peppery flavor that is delicious in salads and sandwiches. It is expensive at the store but very easy to grow in a container and harvest for your salad.

Start with a pot that is at least eight inches deep and six inches in diameter. Fill it up to one inch below the top with potting soil that is well-draining with added compost.

Arugula likes full sun in the morning with afternoon shade. If you want to harvest it for a longer season, place it in an area with mid-day shade. Arugula will bolt or go to seed if it’s too hot. Water as needed.

It’s ready to harvest in as little as 30 days. Harvest early and often. Picking the outside leaves first will help the plants last throughout the season. The inside leaves will continue to grow and be ready to cut.

Re-sow seeds every two weeks until it’s too hot and again in the fall when it’s cool again.

Asian Greens

Asian greens aren’t just bok choi or Chinese cabbage anymore.

Today there is a wide variety of different greens available with flavors that range from mild to spicy and colors that range from green to red to purple and yellow.  Beautiful additions to the container garden.

Asian greens grow fast and don’t require too much sun. They can be in part shade if they get 4 hours of morning sun. Plant in spring or late summer, they grow best in cooler weather.

They like moist, fertile, well-drained soil. Plant seeds ¼ inch deep and 2 inches apart. Fertilize them to encourage more growth and mulch to prevent weeds.

Asian greens are prone to flea beetles which chew small round holes on the leaves. Grow arugula under to prevent flea beetles.

Harvest 20 days after sowing the seed.

Beans

For growing beans in containers, you can use either pole beans (tall, vining beans) or bush beans (squatty, take up more space).

Use a pot with drainage at the bottom.  Cover the holes with wire or mesh to prevent soil from leaking out the bottom. Place the container in a sunny location.

Sow seeds when the soil is warm. Use a well-drained soil mix that is high in organic content. Plant one inch deep and space the seeds 3 inches apart or plant 3 to 4 seeds around each pole for vining varieties. If you want you can plant seedlings instead.

Place a trellis or support in the pot for pole beans to climb on.

Water when the soil feels dry at two or three inches deep and mulch to retain moisture.

Fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer. Inspect regularly for insects and diseases.

Companion planting: Beans fix nitrogen in the soil so you can plant plants that need more nitrogen under them like savory, kale, and celery.

Harvesting is different for the two types of beans. Bush beans mature all at once. Pole beans will give an extended yield. Harvest them when the beans are just full. They will be tough if you wait too long.

Bitter Melon or bitter gourd

Bitter melon is a tropical climber.

It can grow up to 16 feet long and will need a tall trellis or support structure at least 5-6 feet tall. Grow as an annual in the summer in a temperate zone climate or as a perennial in the hot-weather zones.

It needs a pot that is at least 12 inches deep and a sturdy trellis. Plant in permeable, sandy loam soil that’s rich in organic matter. Give it regular watering.

Place in full sun to grow.

Harvest the fruit when they are green and unripe, about 3-6 inches.

Carrots

Carrots grow best in cold weather with 6+ hours of full sunlight. They need regular watering and consistently moist soil or the roots will dry out and crack.

Choose containers that are wider and shorter with a depth of at least 10 inches. Fill the containers with potting soil to within 3 inches of the top.

Sow the seeds on top and sprinkle dirt all over the seeds. Once they emerge, thin so there is a space of 1-2 inches between each seedling.

Or you can BUY SEED TAPE! Easy to use, the seeds are already spaced apart for you.

Fertilize every three weeks.

The carrots are ready to harvest in 2 ½ – 3 months. Just pull from the ground, wash, and eat.

Chard

Chard is a cool-weather crop but tolerates heat better than kale. It can also be grown in a pot indoors.

The pot you use can be shallow as the roots are not deep, but remember the big leaves when determining pot diameter size!

Plant 6 inches apart.

Chard prefers a shaded location. Water well in the summer to keep the chard from getting bitter.

Harvest it from the outside leaves. The inside leaves will continue to grow and provide a continuous harvest.

Cilantro

We think of fresh salsa when we think of cilantro and Latin dishes! But really, Cilantro has several different faces to it. The leaves are known as cilantro, the seeds are coriander. It looks like parsley and is commonly known as Chinese parsley.

Cilantro is a cool-season plant and will bolt or go to seed if the temperature goes over 75 F. You can extend its growth cycle by planting it in a container with taller vegetable plants that can provide shade. It is also easy to grow indoors so move the container inside when it’s hot.

 It is very easy to start from seeds. Place the seeds in well-drained, rich soil. Water regularly. Sow several times during the season.

Harvest the top leaves with sharp scissors, leaving some of the plants to continue to grow. If you want coriander, allow some of the plants to go to seed.

Collard Greens

Collard greens are a nice alternative to spinach or other leafy veggies.

A warm weather plant, they are grown as an annual vegetable. They could be grown as a biennial throughout the winter if you’re in a warm, frost-free climate.

Choose a pot that is 12” deep and 2’ wide. Collard greens have shallow roots but large leaves. Use good potting soil and place the plants 2 – 3 feet apart or 1 plant per 2’ pot

Keep the container in a sunny location and water as needed.

Harvest the collard greens regularly until the first hard freeze occurs.

Cucumbers

Cucumbers should be set out in May in most areas. The best results come from healthy plant starts, not seeds.

Some varieties are better for containers than others. Some excellent bush variety options include Hybrid, Picklebush and Salad cucumbers. Cucumbers need a male and female flower to pollinate, so be sure to have more than one cucumber plant in your container garden.

Use a medium to large container at least 12” across and 8” deep with several drainage holes.

Insert a stake or trellis in the pot when the cucumber is young and tie the vines to the support as the plant grows. Place in full sun and give it regular watering.

Cucumbers are heavy feeders. Fertilize them with low-nitrogen food every couple of weeks.

Harvest cucumbers when they are the size you want. Slice and enjoy!

Eggplant

 Eggplant is a heat-loving hot weather crop and needs high temperatures both day and night. They want heat, full sun, and evenly moist soil.

Look for varieties that are suitable for pots such as mini eggplant or long and thin Japanese style.

One plant per 18” pot. Keep an eye on the plant as it grows. As plants produce fruit their size may require staking.

Eggplants are heavy feeders like tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. Use a balanced fertilizer per the directions.

Eggplants mature 45-60 days after planting and will produce fruit through the summer.

Garlic

Garlic is delicious and so good for you. A versatile item, usually the bulbs are used but garlic greens can be eaten too. Just add them to salads and sandwiches.

Choose a pot that is 8-10 inches deep and fill with permeable, well-draining soil. Plant the bulbs flat side down, 2-3 inches deep, 5-6 inches apart.

Give the garlic regular watering to keep the soil evenly moist. Fertilize every two weeks.

Pick the greens once they are 4-6 inches tall.

Harvesting the bulbs is different however and it takes at least 10 months for them to be ready. You’ll know when the leaves turn brown and dry. Remove them from the soil and let them dry for a week or so. Then they’re ready to use!

Kale

Kale is a cool weather crop but can take some summer heat. It is a pretty ornamental that can be planted in the winter garden.

Plant the seedlings 6 inches apart. Keep the soil moist to encourage consistent growth. Fertilize lightly throughout the season.

Place the container in full sun in colder climates, and in partial sun in warmer climates.

Harvest kale many times during the season, cutting from the lowest, outermost leaves to the tender inside young leaves.  The plant will continue to grow and provide new leaves.

Lettuce

Lettuce grows quickly and you can harvest it several times during the season. It is a cool-season crop so choose when to plant it in your area to avoid the hotter weather. Lettuce tends to bolt or go to seed in the heat.

There are five groups of lettuce: butter-head, celtuce, crisp-head, loose-leaf, and romaine. The types are pretty self-explanatory. Loose-leaf and romaine lettuce are probably the best for container gardening as they require less space than head or stalk lettuce.

Loose-leaf lettuces tolerate heat better and are the easiest to grow. They have a stronger taste but mature quickly in 40-45 days, ready for harvest.

Choose a wide planter that is not deep. Fill it with loose and well-worked soil. You can sow seeds indoors for later transplanting or sow them directly into the soil.

Leave at least 4 inches between each plant.

Do not fertilize unless you feel it needs it. The plants must be at least 8-10 weeks old before fertilizing because the roots might burn. Utilize shallow, frequent watering to keep the soil slightly moist at all times.

Harvest lettuce in the morning. To keep the harvest going, replant at two-week intervals.

Mustard greens

Mustard greens love the warmth but can be grown in any climate.

They require little attention. Just give them evenly moist, rich soil in any pot and fertilize them weekly.

Harvest the greens when the leaves are 6-8 inches long. Pick small leaves for sandwiches and salads, and large leaves for sauté and curry.

Replant seeds every 2-3 weeks for successive waves of young flavorful greens

Okra

Okra is a warm-season crop and thrives in temperatures around 75-95 F. It needs warmth, good sun exposure, and plenty of fertilizer to set the plant to fruit heavily.

It should be started from seed as it does not transplant easily. The dwarf varieties do best in pots and containers.

Choose a five-gallon pot that is at least 10-12 inches deep and 10-12 inches wide with good drainage.

Fill the pot with loamy and crumbly, well-draining soil. Keep the soil slightly moist. Place the pot in a sunny location.

Harvest frequently when the fruit is 3-5 inches in length and enjoy.

Peas

Peas are a warm-season crop and need to be planted in the spring. They prefer moderate conditions and will grow quickly without much attention.

Dwarf or bush varieties work better for container plantings. Choose a pot with good drainage. Fill with potting soil and plant the seedlings 3-4 inches apart. Place bamboo poles or stakes in the middle of the pot for the plants to grow onto.

Peas need full sun exposure and slightly moist soil. Water frequently so the soil is moist but not drenched to prevent root rot.

Fertilize twice during the growing season, using low nitrogen fertilizer.

Peas are happy with companion planting: corn, tomatoes, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, and eggplant all work. Do not plant peas around garlic or onion.

Check the maturity days number to determine when to pick your peas.

Peppers and Chilies

Peppers and chilis love sunny spots and need full sun and good circulation to thrive.

Choose a large pot that’s at least 12 inches deep with sufficient drainage holes for your peppers. Note: a pot 12 inches across x 12 inches deep will hold one plant.

Fill the pot with the best potting soil that is well-drained and loose. Plant the peppers 12 inches apart. Tie the main stem to a stick for support.

Keep the soil moist and never allow it to dry out completely. Water the soil, not the foliage, as wet leaves could cause fungal infections.

Peppers and chilies are heavy feeders. Use tomato fertilizers for them, following the directions.

Harvesting takes 2-4 months. The longer you leave chilies on the plant, the hotter they get.

Radishes

Radishes are one of the quickest-growing vegetables and perfect for container planting.

Small and wide pots that are well-drained are best.  Choose pots that are six inches deep for the round radishes, and eight to ten inches deep for the larger varieties.

Use soil with good drainage that’s high in organic matter. Plant the seeds 2-3 inches apart.

Place the containers where they will receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight every day. Water every other day, no overwatering!

Since they are a cooler season veg (grows in spring and autumn), re-sow seeds as you harvest them on a weekly basis.

Harvest delicious radishes in 24 days!

There are several benefits to growing radishes.

  • They are inexpensive to sow and yield high numbers
  • The radish foliage attracts flea beetles and away from your valuable crops
  • Repels cucumber beetles and squash borers so plant among squash and cucumbers
  • Plant and use as a natural garden marker to organize gardens

Rhubarb

Rhubarb is usually grown in the ground but can be placed in a pot. It needs a really deep pot that’s at least 20 inches deep. The larger the pot the larger the plant can grow.

Use light-weight, well-draining soil. Plant the crown 1-3 inches deep and backfill around it.

Place the rhubarb in full sunlight. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.

Fertilize with 10-10-10 around the base and water in well.

Remember, while the stalks are good to eat, the leaves are toxic. They contain oxalic acid and are especially harmful to children and pets.

Spinach

Spinach is one of the best vegetables for containers. It grows well in partial shade and even indoors on a windowsill.

Spinach is an easy, fast-growing crop. But it is a cool season crop and tends to bolt in the heat, so plan on the temperatures for planting times.

It needs a pot at least 6-8 inches deep. Fill the pot with potting soil. Place the seeds at least one inch apart. Keep consistent moisture and water frequently. Spinach is a heavy feeder so fertilize well.

It takes 40-45 days to reach harvesting size and allows for successive plantings. Harvest from the larger outside leaves and move in.

Companion plantings include parsley, marigolds, and petunias.

Squash

Squash is so easy to grow. Plant some in a container and you’ll harvest in no time.

Zucchini are more productive than winter squashes and are one of the most suitable plants for containers. Some suggestions to consider when planting in containers: bush acorn, black magic zucchini, bushkin pumpkin, and bush crookneck.

Fill a large pot with potting soil. Provide a trellis or stake. Fertilize every two weeks and get your zucchini recipes ready.

Companion plantings include marigolds and nasturtiums to help with pests.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are everyone’s favorite, but they’re not always the easiest to grow.

There are many types of tomatoes that are suitable for containers. Determinate (bushy) tomatoes do better in containers but indeterminate (vining) tomatoes can be grown in pots or containers as well.

The most important thing to consider is to match the eventual size of your tomato plant to the overall size of the container. The bigger the better for tomatoes! Start with at least a 15-gallon pot for each tomato plant to ensure its roots are not restricted. Make sure the pot has plenty of drainage.

Fill the pot with good-quality potting soil to one inch below the pot rim.

Plant the tomatoes deeply. Roots will grow from the stems that are underground and produce larger, healthier tomatoes. To plant, cover 2/3 of the tomato stem to encourage more root growth after removing all leaves and branches below the soil line.

Add support like a tomato cage or stakes to the pot around the plant.

Add a layer of mulch to the top of the soil to help keep the soil moist.

Keep the soil moist, but not too wet. Too much moisture could cause root rot. Too little water could cause blossom end rot. Inconsistent watering could cause the tomatoes will split, crack, or explode. Try to water in the morning and water the soil not the leaves to prevent blight and fungus.

Feed your tomato plants with a tomato-specific continuous-release fertilizer.

Pick a good spot for your tomatoes. Place the pot in a location where there are at least 6-8 hours of sun.

Clean up at season’s end. Remove all the old plants. If planning on tomatoes or peppers in the

same pot next year, remove the soil, wash any remaining dirt away, and sterilize the pot.

Recipe for Success: Vegetables to Grow in Containers

You can see that containers and pots are the perfect vessel for growing any vegetable that you desire. Research the vegetables you want to grow in containers to determine the best one for your zone and their needs.

Remember the recipe for success: pick a suitable variety of vegetables, provide the appropriate container, use good quality potting soil, and give it the care it needs. You can harvest as much fruit from a vegetable in a pot as you would from a vegetable in the ground.

Happy gardening!

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