Growing Vegetables in Containers: Planning a Vegetable Garden

 Growing Vegetables in Containers

Growing vegetables
Growing vegetables

Growing vegetables in containers is an option for almost anyone even those who have the space for a tradtional garden. What are the upsides and downsides of container vegetable gardens?

What Kinds of Vegetables?

While you can grow just about any veggie in a container, some are better-adapted than others.  For example, a determinate tomato plant is an excellent candidate; sweet corn is not.

While you could grow sweet corn in containers, you’d need an awful lot of them, because corn is a wind-pollinated vegetable.  Normally the minimum number of corn plants you’d want is 4 rows of 4 plants (16 total).   So in general, corn isn’t a good option (but certainly possible if you have the room and the containers).

The only other plants I wouldn’t suggest for a container vegetable garden are pumpkins and watermelons.  Both of them get huge and for the most part, you can’t trellis them (unlike most other curcubits).

So aside from these three, you have a lot of options, most of which depends on your space and the size of your containers.

What Size Containers?

I’ve done my share of container gardening, in spite of having lots of room for a traditional garden; right now I have both.  The most often used containers in my garden is 5-gallon size, followed by 3-gallon.  I also have a few 10-gallon and 15-gallon containers, where I grow the bigger plants.

What about the little containers?  While I have successfully grown vegetables in 1 gallon pots, it was a bit more trouble than it was worth.  Unless you are growing the veggies inside under lights, I don’t recommend them.

I’ve grown the following very nicely in a 5-gallon container:

  • Beans
  • Lettuce
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
  • Spinach
  • Summer Squash
  • Tomatoes
  • Zucchini

I’m about to experiment with some cantaloupe in a container as well.

When it comes to 3-gallon containers, my best luck has been with the shorter determinate tomatoes and peppers (sweet and hot).  Bell peppers seem to do better in 5-gallon pots, though (at least for me).

I personally haven’t tried veggies such as eggplant, carrots, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, etc. mainly because they aren’t vegetables that I choose to grow -or – my climate isn’t suitable.  But certainly they can be grown in containers!

Choosing Your Garden Location

It’s very little different from choosing a location for a traditional garden.  You want at least 6 hours of direct sun per day (8 is better) and easy access to water — container-grown veggies drink quite a bit!  It’s best if you can avoid a very windy location, but if you can set up a windbreak of sorts, that would work.  A windy location dries out the plants fast.

How much space do you have available?  Whether you have a large patio or a small balcony, your vegetable plants will still need room between them for air circulation.   They also need to be spaced so that a tall plant doesn’t shade out a shorter one.

Plus, you need to be able to move around easily to water the plants and harvest your crop!

One final thought; you are potentially going to be hauling  (heavy) bags of potting soil and compost to fill these containers; consider how you’re going to get the soil/compost to the location you’ve chosen.  I’ve discovered that 40 pounds of compost + 40 pounds of organic potting mix fills roughly four 5-gallon containers.  Not necessarily a problem if you are on a ground floor; might be a problem if you have to climb stairs.

Growing Vegetables in Containers – Final Notes

Growing vegetables in containers can be very, very rewarding.  But there are two things that you will need to consider, to make your plants happy and producing.

In containers, plants need more water and fertilizer than if they were in the garden.  More water because the soil in the containers dries out faster.  More fertilizer because more watering dilutes the fertilizer faster.  And especially with 3 and 5 gallon containers, there isn’t a whole lot of space in which to find extra nutrients.

You’ll also need to consider which plants are “greedy”.  Squash in particular likes to be well-watered and well-fed.   Cukes and other such plants aren’t far behind.

The general rule of thumb is to feed your vegetable plants twice as often, with half as much.  For example, I use a fish emulsion/kelp liquid fertilizer, and I dilute it to half strength — but feed twice as often.

So grow your vegetables in containers and with just a little extra care,  enjoy a  nice harvest!

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