Container Gardening with Vegetables

Container Gardening Yields More Vegetables with Less Work!

By Robin Sweetser
January 22, 2020
Tomatoes Container Gardening

Tomatoes are an excellent candidate for container gardening.


Container gardening is an easy way to grow vegetables, especially when you lack yard space! If you have a small garden or simply a patio, balcony, or rooftop, explore the magical world of gardening in pots!

Want to have more control over growing conditions and enjoy higher yields with a lot less work? Garden in containers.

Tips for Container Gardening

Pots: The Bigger, the Better

  • Large plants need lots of space, and most roots need room to grow. Avoid small containers as they often can’t store enough water to get through hot days. Plus, the bigger your container, the more plants you can grow!
  • Use barrels (a wooden half-barrel can yield an amazing amount of food), buckets, baskets, boxes, bath- and other tubs, and troughs—anything that holds soil. Just be sure that it has drainage holes in the bottom.

Care Tips for Container Gardening with Vegetables

  • Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better and won’t dry out as fast as unglazed terra-cotta ones. To get the best of both, slip a plastic pot into a slightly larger clay pot.
  • Black pots absorb heat when they are sitting in the sun.
  • Many plants grown in pots must be watered as often as twice a day. To keep plants adequately cool and moist during hot summer days, double-pot: Place a small pot inside a larger one and fill the space between them with sphagnum moss or crumpled newspaper. When watering the plant, also soak the filler between the pots. 
  • Hanging baskets make good use of extra space, and herbs, cherry tomatoes, and strawberries grown at eye level can be easily tended and harvested. 
  • Add about 1 inch of coarse gravel in the bottom of containers 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.

Vegetable Container

Window Boxes

A large window box can provide the makings for a handy salad within arm’s reach! (Here’s a video on how to grow salad greens in containers.) Whatever the size or type, place your containers where they are most convenient to be cared for and will grow best. Most vegetables need 6 to 8 hours of direct sun in order to thrive and produce well.

Plants in containers need the best possible soil, aeration, and drainage for healthy root growth and optimum harvest. Do not use soil from the garden: It is too heavy, can become waterlogged, and brings disease and insects with it. Choose instead a soilless mix (quick-draining and lightweight) or use compost, alone or combined with a soilless mix.

Nasturtium Flower

Attractive in window boxes, edible flowers such as nasturtiums, calendula, and signet marigolds also add color to the plate!

To keep vegetable plants growing, feed them organic soil amendments, like liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, or manure tea, weekly. To ensure growth, vegetables need consistently moist soil. 

Plant Supports

Support your climbing vegetables with trellises, stakes, netting, twine, or cages. Here’s how to build your own trellis or wooden supports

A teepee of bamboo stakes will hold pole beans or snap peas. Cucumbers trained to climb up a nylon mesh fence will develop fruit that hang down and grow straight. To avoid damaging the plants or their roots, put supports in place at planting time. 

To maximize space and thus your harvest, plant root crops, low-growers, and tall climbers together in the same container. The climbers will eagerly scramble up a trellis, while the small plants spread around their base. You’ll hardly need to weed because there won’t be any room for weeds to gain a foothold, and during the height of summer, some low-growers (leafy greens, for example) will thrive in the shade provided by the taller plants.


Mix quick-maturing plants, such as lettuce or radishes, with longer-growing ones, like tomatoes or broccoli.

Group plants with similar needs for sun and water, such as pole beans, radishes, and lettuce; cucumber, bush beans, and beets; tomatoes, basil, and onions; and peas and carrots

Read seed catalogs. Many list varieties of vegetables bred specifically for growing in containers. 

Lettuce is excellent for container gardening.

Which Containers To Use for Your Vegetables

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. As mentioned above, 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’

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

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

Container: 1 plant/1-gallon pot
Varieties: ‘Patio Pik’, ‘Pot Luck’, ‘Spacemaster’

Container: 5-gallon pot
Varieties: ‘Black Beauty’, ‘Ichiban’, ‘Slim Jim’

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: ‘Ruby’, ‘Salad Bowl’

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: ‘White Sweet Spanish’, ‘Yellow Sweet Spanish’

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

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: ‘Cherry Belle’, ‘Icicle’

Container: Bushel basket
Varieties: ‘Early Girl’, ‘Patio’, ‘Small Fry’, ‘Sweet 100’, ‘Tiny Tim’

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

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Does anyone have some good

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

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.

Growing in pots, how to fertilize.

CHECK OUT SOIL REGENERATION GROUP.COM. They farm with minerals and a little compost or humate, no other fertilizer, and get incredible yields, healthy crops that are bug resistant. Bugs only eat stressed or damaged crops.



Hi Evie, If you have sand and

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:

Hi All! What is a good

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

It depends what you are

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:

I'm going to be using cat

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

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

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

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

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.

It seems to me, if the

It seems to me, if the container is light, that perhaps the soil is too dry. You need something to old water under the container, and when you water, see if the water runs through into the container you put underneath. If it runs through immediately, then that is your problem. The 10 gallon container is plenty large enough, and in a container that size, root bound should not be a problem. Yellowing of bottom leaves is typical of tomato plants, and of no consequence.

Sorry, I forgot to mention,

Sorry, I forgot to mention, if you have no holes in the bottom of the tub where your tomato is planted, your problem could also be root rot. You must drill several holes in the bottom of t
he tub for drainage, or next time, put about four inches or so of gravel in the bottom of the tub before planting. But drilling holes work much better!

So, I really dislike

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!

I have been growing all types

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)

You can use buckets and

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.

Sometimes the BEST pots are

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!

I am growing cucumbers in a

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

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: 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

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?

The problem with the upside

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 tried the Topsy Turvy for

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!!

This was my first experience

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

I had excellent success with

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!

I have had success growing

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.

They will be less traumatized

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 had two topsy turvy's that

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

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.

I haven't had much luck with

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.