QUESTION: I want to start a vegetable garden, but I’m limited to what I can grow in containers. What vegetables can I grow that will do well in a container garden? — Teresa A.
ANSWER: While it’s possible to grow most vegetables that aren’t super large in containers, some just aren’t suitable. We’ve made a list below of the vegetables that perform best in containers. Be advised that some of the plants we list here have been selected because of certain varieties that are best suited for container gardens.
- Bok Choy
- Bush Beans
- Green Beans
- Green Onions / Scallions
- Lamb’s Ears
- Sweet Potatoes
When Is a Container Garden a Good Fit?
Gardeners may choose to grow their plants in containers for a variety of reasons. Container gardening is a simple way to address problems with the soil when you don’t want to fuss with time-consuming soil amendments. Gardening using containers can also be a temporary solution while you wait for more long-term soil programs to take effect. And of course, many of us do our gardening in containers because we are limited to balcony or patio space or because we are renting and don’t have permission to garden in the soil.
Containers are a versatile solution for these situations and are also often taken advantage of by gardeners who have complete freedom to plant in the ground. Their portable nature makes it simple to move crops around to keep them safe from inclement weather. Some gardeners also move their plants that grow in containers to capitalize on changing light or rainfall conditions. Container gardens are also a handsome way to maximize growth space on a deck or porch.
What Kinds of Vegetables Grow Well in Containers?
The best vegetables to grow in containers are leafy greens and plants with determinate, dwarf, or compact strains that will make the most of the limited size of the plant pot. The greens work especially well because it’s easy to plant them. You’ll also get the benefit of a continuous harvest when you grow greens, especially if you replant the crop throughout the season.
Small root vegetables are a safe bet for containers too, so don’t worry that they won’t have deep enough soil. Turnips, beets, radishes, and carrots perform so well in containers because they don’t encounter a lot of resistance from the loose, aerated soil. Many of these vegetables also produce attractive and edible green portions above the soil. However, make sure to give these plants at least two to four inches of space between them so they have enough room to spread out.
If you plan to use trellis, stakes, or other forms of support in conjunction with containers, you can even grow twining or vining plants in a container garden. For example, melons, squashes, peas, and cucumbers can do well in containers when given appropriate support. Another option is to choose bush or hanging types of these plants when you will be growing them in pots to skip the supports entirely. Many varieties of tomato plants will also require cages or stakes to support them, whether they are grown in containers or directly in the soil.
What Type of Container Does Each Plant Need?
Once you’ve decided what you would like to grow in a vegetable container garden, you need to know which types of containers to use for each plant. The different plants in your vegetable garden will need different sizes of containers in order to perform well.
The smallest plants in the vegetable garden can grow in containers of two gallons or less that offer between four and six inches of soil depth. These plants include greens like lettuce or spinach as well as green onions, peas, and radishes.
Slightly larger plants will need containers that are five gallons, with soil between 12 and 18 inches deep. These vegetables include broccoli, bush beans, cucumbers, eggplants, peppers, squash, and tomatoes.
All the containers you will use in your vegetable garden need to have a drainage hole so water doesn’t stagnate and pool in the soil. You can choose any material that works well with your climate and the sun level where your plants will grow.
Armed with the information in this article, now you’re ready to start growing a container garden full of vegetables. There’s no reason to feel limited in what you can do just because you’ll be using containers with so many vegetables to choose from.