Story and Photos by Laura Bauer
Growing vegetables in containers is a great option if you have limited space or poor soil. If you are looking to cut down food costs, keep in mind that starting your plants from seed will be much cheaper, although it will take a little longer. Almost all veggies will grow in pots, but some are definitely easier than others.
Before you start planting, make sure you have high-quality soil – this is very important. (My favorite is Fox Farm’s Happy Frog Organic Potting Soil.) Fertilizer is optional, especially with rich soil, but some plants do better with a little extra nutrition.
Container size will depend on how much space you have, but bigger is better. Ideally, your pots should be 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep. If your containers will be smaller, don’t worry, your veggies will still produce! Add about an inch of gravel at the bottom to ensure good drainage.
Veggies appreciate 4-6 hours of full sun per day and plenty of water. If you live in a hot climate, you may have to move your plants into the shade to avoid burning.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, here are 10 of the best vegetables for containers:
There are a million varieties, and they all take to pots extremely well. Lettuce has shallow roots, so make sure to keep your greens moist. You can even plant lettuce in with other taller plants to save space. It grows relatively quickly, so you can usually get in at least two crops, depending on where you live. Try several kinds, and enjoy an extra fresh salad!
The queen of the container world. This one is definitely a favorite among gardeners. It’s easy, fun, and tasty. From flowering to harvest, this plant is a colorful addition to your garden and your plate. These do better with a little bigger pot and may need to be staked or caged as they grow. You’ll surely have salsa to die for.
Radishes are one of the best veggies for beginners and children because of their success rate and rapid growth. Their quick growth allows for multiple crops, so experiment with the various types. Make sure to plant your seeds about an inch apart. Taste ranges from zesty to spicy!
Cucumbers are always popular. Pick from seedless, burpless, and sizes galore. If you pick a vine variety, we recommend a trellis. This will keep your plants out from under your feet and make it more difficult for critters to reach them. If bush is the way you’ll be going, you can plant several crops for a higher yield.
You may not know that carrots come in a kaleidescope of colors: orange, yellow, white and purple. A looser soil mixture will enable them to grow straight down. The larger the container, the larger your carrots will grow; although a small pot will force you to pick early, young carrots are especially sweet. Most carrots are ready to harvest and munch between 60-75 days.
You’ve got the choice between a green bean bush or vine. Both work equally as well in pots. As with the cucumbers, a trellis or stake is recommended for green bean vines. Picking the beans before they mature will ensure new flowers. The more beans you pick, the more beans your plant will produce!
Picked fresh, they have a sweet taste that’s hard to “beet.” These plants prefer a deeper pot (around 10+ inches). Keep your beet plants about three inches apart to give them room to mature. Keep the soil most and watch them grow! They’re usually ready to enjoy after 50-60 days.
Tomatoes are very popular plants to grow, but they do require large containers. Unless you get a small variety, you’ll need a container that is at least five gallons. These guys are a little more sensitive to watering. They like a consistently moist soil, but too much water will cause root rot. Tomato plants also appreciate fertilizer (only if your soil has little nutrients). You will probably need to cage your tomato plants as they grow.
Red, yellow, purple, or white! Potatoes come in many different sizes and colors. You can grow them from seed or from a potato. Make sure the soil is loose and moist so your potatoes can grow easily. When the leaves of the plant turn yellow, your potatoes are ready to be harvested. Don’t eat unripe, green potatoes; they are poisonous.
Turnips are very easy to grow in containers. You can eat the leaves and the root. Although they need plenty of sun, they grow well in cooler weather. Avoid cabbage root maggots by covering your Turnip plants with a mesh cover in Spring. Turnips grow quickly and can be harvested 35-60 days after planting.
Whether or not you decide to plant all ten of these veggies, you’ll have a fantastic harvest come late summer and fall. Happy gardening!