With a little preparation, it’s easy to grow vegetables in containers. Whether on a patio, driveway, porch or deck, if you get a little sun, you can grow! 

grow vegetables in containers
Our San Marzanno tomatoes growing in our 5 gallon buckets

Beyond just space constraints, growing fresh produce in pots, buckets or a couple of raised beds are a great way to garden for those who might struggle with the physical demands of a traditional backyard garden. 

Even though we have our raised row garden, we still love growing a few of our vegetables in containers simply to have them close to the house. Each year, we grow a few varieties of salad tomatoes and lunchbox peppers on our patio. It’s great for snacking, or to throw into a last minute salsa or dish. Plus – they can look great and be a real conversation piece!

Lets start with a few basic tips to container growing success.

To grow vegetables in containers, it all starts with selecting the right plants and the correct size container. Add in good soil, good drainage and good support – and you’re in business!

The Right Size Plants And Containers

Select vegetable varieties that are compact or bushy in nature, or that grow well vertically on trellises or wire supports. Then give them the room they need by choosing the right size containers. When it comes to vegetables, 5 gallon buckets are a perfect choice. 10 gallon of 15 gallon second-hand nursery pots work great too. We make decorative covers for our buckets from pallet wood and add a built-in wire trellis. It works and look great, and they are simple and inexpensive to make. See : Building Homemade Grow Boxes

grow vegetables in containrers
You can easily grow tomatoes on your patio in containers

Provide Good Drainage : Good drainage is a big key to success! If the plants can’t shed excess water, they will simply not perform well. Whatever you choose as your container, make sure it has drainage holes in place. If not, create your own. We use a 3/4 drill bit to make four five holes in the bottom of our 5 gallon buckets. Place a few rocks or pine cones in the bottom to help keep the holes free. We use pine bark nuggets to fill the bottom 2 inches of our 5 gallon buckets. They keep the soil from compacting the drainage holes, and keep the buckets lighter than using rocks.

Provide Great Soil : Start with a good quality potting mix, or create your own from an equal mix of sand, pulverized topsoil, compost and perlite. We love adding worm castings to our mix as well! It really seem to be the perfect slow-release fertilizer. Remember that this soil will need to be healthy, rich and fertile enough to let plants grow all season.  Product Link : Pure Worm Castings

As a final note, when it comes to container growing, you will need to provide a little natural fertilizer every few weeks. We use compost tea or worm casting tea every few weeks.  See : 3 Simple Organic Fertilizers and How To Make Super Container Soil

Provide Support : Support is the final key to success. Patio planters and container plants need to be secure so they are not blown over in hard rains or high winds. And the plants need to be secure as well! Provide a stable support for them to grow and or climb on. We use galvanized fence panels secured to our pot covers. They work great to tie tomatoes and peppers too, and are perfect for peas, cucumbers too.

Now lets take a look at a few favorite vegetables that are perfect to grow in containers.

Tomatoes : Tomatoes are a perfect choice for container growing! Small cherry-style tomatoes like chocolate cherry and sweet 100 are great selections to have salad tomatoes all year long. But don’t stop there! We have grown our San Marzano and Amish Paste salsa and sauce tomatoes with great success in 5 gallon buckets. Be sure to provide a trellis or wire cage for support.

grow vegetables in containers
We grew this tiny hot McMahon pepper last year in a big patio pot. It added color and interest all summer long

Peppers : Just like tomatoes, peppers are an excellent patio container choice. Small sweet snacking peppers like the lunchbox variety grow very well in containers. If you love hot peppers, containers are perfect for nearly all varieties. Jalapeno, Cayenne, and our favorite, Chinese Five Color all grow exceptionally well in pots. You can even grow a few of the larger bell peppers too, just remember to provide support. We grow quite a few of our ornamental peppers in baskets and pots purely for the beauty they add to the landscape. 

Cucumbers :  Believe it or not – small bush-style or even vining cucumbers grow really well with a trellis. Here’s an extra tip – grow a little alyssum or nasturtiums in the pot as well. They will help keep the cucumber beetle.

Sugar Snap Peas : Much like cucumbers, sugar snap peas will perform well in containers as long as they have a trellis or wire support to grow up on. you can plant several pots in succession to have fresh sugar snap peas all summer long.

grow vegetables in containers
Our potato crates

Potatoes / Sweet Potatoes : We actually grow all of our potatoes in our garden in containers. We found out years ago that it is far easier to grow our spuds in crates than in traditional rows. Not only does it save big space – but super simple to plant, maintain and harvest!  You can see more on our potato growing crates here :  Growing Potatoes in Crates.

Salad Crops / Kale / Spinach / Herbs  Salad and herb crops are among the easiest to grow in pots. They don’t need a lot of depth in the soil, so you can select smaller containers and grow many varieties. Just remember to keep harvesting and stagger your plantings in new containers to keep the fresh greens coming all summer long!

Happy Container Gardening! – Jim and Mary. We hope you enjoyed this week’s gardening article! If you would like to receive our DIY, Gardening and Recipe articles each week, you can sign up to follow the blog via email in the right hand column above, “Like” us on Facebook, or follow us on Twitter.  This article may contain affiliate links.


3 thoughts on “How To Grow Vegetables In Containers – Growing Food In Small Spaces

  • April 15, 2017 at 5:41 pm
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    HI JIM/MARY; I FOLLOW YOUR WEB SITE AND ENJOY READING YOUR ARTICLES. I DO HAVE A QUESTION ABOUT YOUR WATER WELL AND SEPTIC SYSTEM. WHO DRILLED YOUR WELL AND WHO PUT IN YOUR SEPTIC SYSTEN FOR YOU? WE ARE IN THE PROCESS OF BUILDING SOUTH OF NEWARK ON FOUR ACRES. I WOULD REALLY BE THANKFUL FOR INFO ON WELL AND SEPTIC.

    Reply
  • April 14, 2017 at 6:04 am
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    As we are currently renting, we are growing our veggies in containers. Five gallon food grade buckets can be acquired from bakeries, delis and grocery stores for free. That’s how we are growing our garden and when we find our new home, the whole garden can be transported to the new place.
    Thanks as always, for the valuable information.
    Enjoy your holiday.

    Reply
  • April 13, 2017 at 1:25 pm
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    Great article for the newbies! Need to get my hands on some San Marzanno seeds, they are the best! And I LOVE tomatoes in any form I can get them.

    Reply

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