Container Gardening for Vegetables

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Container gardening is an easy way to garden, especially when you lack yard space. 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 appropriate seed (or transplant) varieties. In addition to providing 5 hours or more of full sun, watering is critical. 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.

Beans, snap
Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: Bush 'Blue Lake', Bush 'Romano', 'Tender Crop'

Broccoli
Container: 1 plant/5 gallon pot, 3 plants/15-gallon tub
Varieties: 'DeCicco', 'Green Comet'

Carrots
Container: 5-gallon window box at least 12 inches deep
Varieties: 'Danvers Half Long', 'Short 'n Sweet', 'Tiny Sweet'

Cucumbers
Container: 1 plant/1-gallon pot
Varieties: 'Patio Pik', 'Pot Luck', 'Spacemaster'

Eggplant
Container: 5-gallon pot
Varieties: 'Black Beauty', 'Ichiban', 'Slim Jim'

Lettuce
Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: 'Ruby', 'Salad Bowl'

Onions
Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: 'White Sweet Spanish', 'Yellow Sweet Spanish'

Peppers
Container: 1 plant/2-gallon pot, 5 plants/15-gallon tub
Varieties: 'Cayenne', 'Long Red', 'Sweet Banana', 'Wonder', 'Yolo'

Radishes
Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: 'Cherry Belle', 'Icicle'

Tomatoes
Container: Bushel basket
Varieties: 'Early Girl', 'Patio', 'Small Fry', 'Sweet 100', 'Tiny Tim'

Tips for Growing in Containers

  • Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better. To get the best of both, slip a plastic pot into a slightly larger clay pot.
  • Avoid small containers. They often can't store enough water to get through hot days.
  • Add about 1 inch of course gravel in the bottom of the container 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.

See our individual Vegetable Plant pages for advice on growing your most common vegetables.

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Comments

My first time with container

By garysxterra on April 17

My first time with container veggie garden and I'm also trying out with a sub irrigation system.

Hello! I am really unsure why

By Tori_Kenney

Hello!

I am really unsure why there are little nats around my plants. I am growing tomatoes in a topsy turvy, sweet banana peppers, bell peppers, green onion, sweet onion, garlic, cucumbers, lettuce, and multiple types of flowers in clay/plastic pots. Everything is growing amazingly and I am so proud of it. These nats are very confusing to me. I water them once a day because of how warm it gets down in Florida and since its been sunny out. My roommate is growing chives and mint. Can that be attracting these little critters to all of the plants? I am not understanding why these annoying bugs are even near the plants! Also how can I avoid bugs coming near my plants? I put coffee grinds in my soil and I use potting/garden (specifically for vegetables) soil. Is the soil way too damp where these bugs are growing in it or do my plants have a disease or something? Please help me out!

There are several tiny flies

By Almanac Staff

There are several tiny flies that might be causing a problem. Could these be fungus gnats? They can often be a problem in wet, rotting organic matter. The adult gnats don't harm your plants, but they lay eggs in the soil. The larvae of the gnats live in the top of the soil feeding on decaying matter, root hairs, mulch, compost, and fungi. Since they can feed on root hairs, the larvae can stunt a plant's growth if in large numbers, but this usually only occurs in indoors situations, such as greenhouses. Outdoors, they usually don't cause serious damage.

Outdoors, they might be harder to control, but to help get rid of the eggs, you can try to remove and discard some of the loose soil around your plants without disturbing the roots. Add fresh sterile soil and a thin layer of sand to the surface of the soil. Let the soil dry out and only water when the soil becomes dry down to about 2 inches deep or so.

To control adult gnats, you can try setting out yellow sticky traps. Or, trap them by setting out a jar filled with 4 parts apple cider vinegar and 1 part liquid dishwashing soap; cover the jar with a lid in which several holes have been punched.

Hi Tori, These gnats are

By Almanac Staff

Hi Tori,

These gnats are sometimes called fungus gnats and are common around houseplants. They infest the soil in the containers. The larvae feeds on organic matter and roots. Let the soil dry out and then spray the plants and soil with insecticidal soap. If possible water the plants from the bottom.

My husband and I just built a

By Mrs Kelly

My husband and I just built a really cool raised garden for our rather small patio. We live in an apt complex and have very limited space, so when we found this idea on Pinterest, we were immediately sold. The plans cost $10 and they are worth EVERY penny. She gives perfect, step by step instructions. Check it out... http://www.raisedurbangardens.com/

hello, I live in the greater

By nikkie

hello, I live in the greater portland area in oregon. I have been notorious for not being able to keep plants alive, but I am desperate for a cost effective food source and love the idea of successful gardening. does anyone here have tips for creating a successful vegetable and herb garden in containers? I am completely lost as to where to start, other than I know I'd like to raise my own starts and hopefully outdoor transplant into containers. I'm just a little confused as to where I start this process exactly.... any help is much appreciated.
:)

A good guideline for

By synthia dunn

A good guideline for containers is square foot gardening there's a book on it and you can also find info online

I live in Baltimore and

By baltimoretool

I live in Baltimore and maintain lots of container plants in my 'concrete' backyard. I am also on my second year at an allotment garden plot (10' x 15'), through a program administered by the city. Ten yeas ago I wanted nothing to do with gardening, but I've really developed sort of a green thumb. Baltimore is blessed with good sunshine and usually good rainfall. I also water the vegetables in my containers with water collected in a basement dehumidifier, and flowers with dishwater after it's cooled (careful not to use dishwater after eating a meal that contained meat). Containers are a great way to get started, can be bountiful, and you can begin your new avocation in small steps. Begin with a couple or few pots, then add some every Spring as time and schedule allow. A few perennials, like strawberries, spearmint (think tabbouleh or sauteed with yellow squash or zucchini and garlic), and possibly rosemary will impress you with a return every year. Buy sturdy pots, good potting soil, and add some slow fertilizer to each pot, like bone meal. Water but don't over-water. Pay attention to the needs of your plants and move according to each container's requirement for sunshine.

Regarding edible plants, I recommend you start with herbs. I've only met a few people who couldn't grow basil and such. I transplanted a Genovese (or sweet) basil seedling from a big box store in 2006. The basil volunteered in the same pot the next year, and I've planted larger quantities of basil from seeds I gather from those plants every Fall. Don't discount herbs as merely flavorings, basil is essential for making pesto and Insalata Caprese.

Another suggestion is to try potting some strawberry seedlings. I planted several 'All-Star' variety strawberry seedlings (also in 2006) and have had them thrive every year, producing five or six dozen delicious strawberries every Spring. Be patient, sometimes strawberries need some time to 'pop', and a lot depends on the variety you select to grow.

Neither of these recommendations will put a ton of food on your table, but you are likely to grow them with relative ease. It's important to start small with plants that provide a pleasant reward. The treat of a handful of fresh strawberries or the aroma of freshly made pesto will inspire you to try something new in your container garden every spring. This year I am trying potatoes in containers (adding straw as the plants grow taller), leaf lettuce, scallions, cilantro, dill, and purple basil.

Best of luck and happy gardening!

Here are some guidelines:

By Almanac Staff

Here are some guidelines: http://www.almanac.com/blog/editors-musings/blog-how-make-container-garden-planter

Does anyone have some good

By linda welling

Does anyone have some good pointers on how to assist me so my veggies in pots grow?/can using too big of a pot be reason why they do not grow..?Also what is the best fertilizer to use..asking for all the help i can get for season 2013..thanks so much fellas and gals.

I've had good luck adding

By baltimoretool

I've had good luck adding bone meal to my container plants, either mixed in with the soil at initial transplant or sprinkled lightly on top of the soil. Coffee grounds provide a nice hit of nitrogen. Epsom salts are an inexpensive product for giving your plants a boost of magnesium. Just sprinkle a tablespoon or so around the base of a plant and soon it will green-up nicely.

I BOUGHT ME SOME

By evie

I BOUGHT ME SOME SEEDS,CARROTS ,BROC.CALI.BUTTERNUTSQUISH,COLLARDS,.CHEROKEE WAX,STRING N PEAS,I LIVE IN FLA,YUCKY SAND DIRT BUT I HAVE PLENTY OF HORSE,DUCK,CHICKEN,GOAT AND RABBIT POO,I WAS WONDERING IF I MADE A MIX OF WELL DRIED POO AND SAND ,WOULD THIS BE GOOD FOR 5 GALLON OLD PAINT BUCKETS FOR GARDEN POTS TO GROW THEM???, I GOT POTATOES N A CANALOPE THAT I JUST THREW IN AN OLD PLASTIC TOY CHEST AND THERE DOING FINE I WATER THEM AND ALL MY PLANTS/FLOWERS FROM MY DUCK POND.

Hi Evie, If you have sand and

By Almanac Staff

Hi Evie,
If you have sand and manure, you have some of the ingredients. A good container mix is composed of peat moss, vermiculite or perlite, sand, and composed cow manure. See this page for details:
http://www.almanac.com/blog/gardening-blog/make-your-own-potting-mixes

Hi All! What is a good

By LowBat

Hi All! What is a good perlite to soil ratio?

It depends what you are

By Almanac Staff

It depends what you are growing. Avoiding garden soil in containers as it brings other organisms (disease, etc.). In general, use 80% peat moss and 20% perlite. See more: http://www.almanac.com/content/blog-how-make-container-garden-planter

I'm going to be using cat

By Troy Dirt

I'm going to be using cat litter containers that hold 5 gallons this year. We plan to wrap them in burlap and fill this will a great potting mix.. Really looking forward to this season.. This site is great :)

I found standing water in the

By LaurieLeslie

I found standing water in the terra cotta saucer of my container tomato plant. When I lifted up the plastic whiskey barrel I saw white larvae and white specks. The leaves on my tomato plant have white markings on the upper side of the leaf. Can anyone tell me what this might be?

My tomatoe plant leaves are

By helene marie

My tomatoe plant leaves are moist and smell like mint. Does anyone know why that is and if this can cause a problem. I am growing them in a planter and the tomatoes look and taste good.

I am concerned with my tomato

By bridges9

I am concerned with my tomato plant. It is in a 10 gallon tub and the bottom leaves are turning yellow. There are several tomatoes on it but they are not as large as the should be. Should I transplant into a larger container--the plant and container seem very light as if maybe it is root bound.

Has it been fertilized in any

By Troy Dirt

Has it been fertilized in any way? Does your soil drain well? If it's in a 10 gallon tub I would assume it would have plenty of room. Depending on the soil your using or fertilizer for that matter... It may just need fed.

So, I really dislike

By rera1397

So, I really dislike gardening (well, the weeding part anyway) and our soil is VERY sandy. I thought it would be good to use containers (trying to be frugal). Do I HAVE to use actual pots? Can I use a 5 gallon bucket or a tub of some sort? I think I am going to plant peas, lettuce, green beans and peppers and tomatoes in containers, any recommendations for things to use that are "around the house"? I don't think it will save me any money if I have to buy pots, soil, seeds, etc. This is likely a stupid question, but I am learning!

Sometimes the BEST pots are

By Ginger Rawls

Sometimes the BEST pots are those that are unusual... like your 5 gallon bucket or tubs. In our area you might find things like boots and toilets and bathtubs in people's yards! Raised gardens are all the craze lately. I have had one long since that started but it is growing like crazy and I am very proud of my garden! If you have things that are going to sprawl like green beans or peas use poles and chicken wire or strings for them to climb on! I have cucumbers and beans on mine now! Good Luck!

You can use buckets and

By Farmer Heather

You can use buckets and plastic tubs or anything you can drill drainage holes into. and the drainage holes should be on the bottom..just sayin'. Depending on what kind of soil you have, you may need to enhance it with potting soil, lime, etc. Just dont buy the garden soil and use it in containers. make sure its potting soil.

I have been growing all types

By Shari Salisbury

I have been growing all types of Tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, eggplant, brussel sprouts, broccoli and herbs in 5 gallon buckets & other containers for years. As long as they have been cleaned and have good drainage you can use anything. Last year I even used a wicker basket that I put a trash bag in and filled it with soil (poked holes for drainage)

I am growing cucumbers in a

By rosey

I am growing cucumbers in a container. They are growing well, and I have an abundance of flowers. However, the lower leaves are turning yellow, and the "baby" cukes are also turning yellow and then shriveling up. Any suggestions?

Hi Rosey, There are a number

By Almanac Staff

Hi Rosey, There are a number of things that could be causing this. It could be a plant disease, such as Powdery Mildew or Mosaic Virus. You can see pictures and tips here: http://www.almanac.com/topics/gardening/pests-and-problems Or, it could be something as simple as overwatering. Try easing up on the water, and give plants a dose of nitrogen rich fertilizer. They need good drainage and full sunlight. Crop rotation from year to year is also beneficial.

Do those topsy turvy

By mouser3xcharm

Do those topsy turvy vegetable upsidedown planters work, what would be the best soil to use?Being in the desert
Would planting in the morning sun be to much? Does the water make it down to the bottom plants?

Last year was our first using

By Charity

Last year was our first using one of these planters - but it was also our first year having agarden in our new home. We placed it on the wrong side of the house (too much direct heat in 100+ degree weater), but after switching it over it did amazing. We did have to water mroe frequently, but this just meant more time examining for pests. We did not have nearly as many pest issues with the topsy turvy plant as we did out 5-Gallon bucket tomato plants. I would recommend using these for smaller tomatoes - cherry, plum, or something like Early Girls. The Topsy Turvy broken when we tried to pull the dying plant out, so don't expect them to last more than one season - if memory serves, the included informational packet noted that it should last more than one season. =D

Additionally, we liked that

By Charity

Additionally, we liked that it uses so little soil compared to a tradition container. We used good organic potting soil from our local feed store - if you stop by your local feed store, they should be able to give you a great recommendation!

I haven't had much luck with

By Ginger Rawls

I haven't had much luck with these! Yes, the water runs all the way to the bottom if you water from the top. You have to start the plants first and then put in the topsy turvy thing. I have tried tomatoes and strawberries and neither did anything.

I had two topsy turvy's that

By maridane

I had two topsy turvy's that I tried growing tomatoes in and we ended up with blossom rot on both of them. I am in the South, hot, humid with days feeling as tho one lives in a steam sauna and don't know if that had anything to do with the problem or not. I watered once a day but wondered if it was bad for the plants to have all that water pouring out all over the plants. If anyone has a suggestion, I would be willing to try it again.

Try adding 1 tsp of epson

By sandi h.

Try adding 1 tsp of epson salts to your water. They can be found in a pharmacy. Blossom end rot is usually caused by lack of calcium during the growing season. Good luck and don't give up.

They will be less traumatized

By JoAnn Sherman

They will be less traumatized if you cover the dark exterior with light paper, thick cloth, or canvas. The "heat is drawn to dark" theory is real. And in this case - it is not beneficial.

I have had success growing

By turnerke

I have had success growing eggplant and chili peppers in Topsy Turvy's I wish they made one with a zipper on the side so that it would be easier to put a larger plant in the bag. I have found when working with smaller plants there is a lighting issue until they flip their leaves, like the bag shades the plant to the point where they start off slow. Once the plants gets bigger it is game on these things work great as long as you water the plants correctly. I am not positive of this but I also think certain pests have a harder time getting to the plants when they hang upside down.

I had excellent success with

By kpleffler

I had excellent success with my topsy turvy's this year. I bought seven and hung them in a wooden frame I made from 4x4's, with the bottom of the planters being about 8 feet off the ground (my wife says it looks like a row of planters hanging from a gallows...). In their current location, they get about 7 hours of direct sunlight per day.

I had initially purchased several shepherd hooks, but I immediately learned that my freshly prepared planters were far too heavy for them. I then put two double hooks together with a brace and that still didn't hold a single planter. Also, three of my plants became so large that, had the hooks been strong enough, half of the plant would be dragging on the ground.

Five of the seven held tomatoes (1 Cherry, 2 Roma, 2 Globe-type), one held peppers (sweet banana, hungarian wax, and low heat jalapenos), and the last one held strawberries.

My soil for each of the planters was the same: a combination of fertilizer, good dirt, perlite (to help with drainage), and miracle grow potting soil. I then added bone meal once the plants started to flower.

Once the plants begin to grow, they will curl upward. This is normal. As the plant begins to grow, gravity and the mass of the plant will do their thing and the plant will straighten out.

The topsy turvy's have some huge benefits (no weeding, no steaking, I had no need to support the plant, etc). And, I don't have to stoop over to pick or prune. Another benefit was pest reduction. I did lose one Roma early to a nasty, huge worm, but I let the plant come back and it is now producing again. In all, I had far fewer pest problems with the turvys than I did with my raised bed planted tomatoes.

The only draw back I experienced is that they need watered DAILY, and when the weather is hot an additional watering may be necessary. I was initially concerned about over-watering, but I quickly learned that more water was necessary. Also, we had a lot of rain this year, but the topsy turvy's didn't seem to capture rain as well as I would have liked.

I grew up in the desert, but the topsy turvys did not exist then. I would still use them, but would have some sort of temporary shade available should you have too many hot days in a row.

My best producer was my cherry tomato plant; 437 delicious tomatoes weighing just under 7 lbs, and I will be picking a bunch more in a few days. I also picked 102 Romas and about 20 lbs of globes. I was very pleased with the peppers, but the strawberry plants were a total bust. I live in the northern midwest, so our growing season does not traditionally begin until mid-may and it usually ends in September, so my plants may not have been as prolific as plants grown in warmer climes.

Good Luck!

This was my first experience

By ancestralroots

This was my first experience with topsey turveys. I have 2.I have a patio garden. At first I planted tomatoes in both.The plants started to curl up into the bottom of the turvey.I replanted both. Same thing happened again. Once again I replanted. This time one was tomatoe and one zucchini.I just let them do thier own thing.Not many tomatoes were produced, though season isnt over yet. The tomatoes that were produced are very large(not many- but Id be happy with just one). I had to make a sling for the branches. Once the branch breaks, its over.The zucchini is awesome. Lots of male blossoms 2 zucchinis that are very slow growing.Both turveys have produced majestic displays of greenery on my porch.I dont expect to get another growing season out of the turveys,as I dont believe they are made to last multiple uses/seasons.I will be using them again.I sit on my porch and compare zucchini plants. I also have a mistake/ rogue zuccini seed that has florished into a freak of nature it the corner of my porch.With the turvy producing so many male blossoms, I want to get a shepards hook and plant next years turvey above the ground plated zucchini. Figuring/ hoping the male pollen might dust down onto the female blossoms below(just a thought).Being disabled it is an awesome way to be able to grow. Literally no weeding, no bending. Id send pics as I have been photo documenting every week. Im very proud of my patio garden

We tried the Topsy Turvy for

By bsbowlan

We tried the Topsy Turvy for the first time last year. We didn't get a single tomato but I think that where we placed the plant was not ideal. This year we put it in a different place and it is growing very well. We have green tomatoes on the plant right now. However, make sure that you secure the top with a screen or something because birds will try to nest in it!!

The problem with the upside

By kevinjones29

The problem with the upside down planters is that the dry out very fast. If you want one of these besure it has a water resevor at the top that will trikle water into the soil over time.

We have a problem with White

By cactus4

We have a problem with White Flys this time of the year.They get on anything green it seems.I spray with water from the hose trying to drown the things,but an hour later their back.How can I kill them and repel them??can't grow anything in containers or the ground,they die.
Thanks
Ray

I had white flies on my

By wvjlmartin

I had white flies on my tomatoes last year. I tried the yellow plastic smeared with oil or Vaseline. They were attracted to it, but were still on my plants.

My neighbor told me to use 2 tablespoons of bleach to a gallon of water and spray my tomatoes. This worked better than the oil on a yellow plate. It did not harm my plants either.

Hi there Cactus4, I was told

By nanaleronna

Hi there Cactus4, I was told by the Cooperative Extension office to take a Yellow Plastic plate (disposable kind) & smear vaseline on it & hang it outdoors. They are attracted to the yellow color. (Although it might get real dusty because we haven't had any rain.)There are LOTS of whiteflys this time of year because of the crop dusters spraying the cotton. You also might try a spray bottle with water & a little dish soap in it & spray the whiteflys on the plants. The dish soap wont hurt the plants.

I was told to save my dish

By Mamaw.debdeb

I was told to save my dish water to pour over my plants to kill pests. It helped. The dish liquid didn't hurt them and the tiny food scraps in the water is like feeding them.

Any tips for container

By Sam Almer

Any tips for container gardens in a green house? We use 5 gal buckets as well as large plastic planters in our green house.

Hi, Sam, Here is a good

By Almanac Staff

Hi, Sam, Here is a good reference source for container gardening in a greenhouse: cmg.colostate.edu/gardennotes/723.pdf

We also have a nice article on Cold Frame Gardening on our Web site here: http://www.almanac.com/content/cold-frames-gardening
--Your OFA Editors

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