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Growing Vegetables In Containers

Growing vegetables in containers is really no different than growing them anywhere – they need good soil, good sun – about six hours a day for fruiting varieties, a good supply of water and good drainage. A container can be

Containers come in all sizes
Containers come in all sizes

anything you want it to be from the most expensive decorative pot to an old shoe.  It can can be a great way to reuse rather than chucking it out. Really, many raised garden beds are just big containers.

A pot like the one on the right can be perfect for growing salad greens, herbs or strawberries.

Polystyrene boxes make great economical containers for vegetables. Just put a few holes in the bottom for drainage fill it with dirt and you are on your way.

Growing vegetables in containers can be a great way to introduce yourself to growing vegetables to see if how much you like it before you start digging up your yard. If your garden soil is difficult to dig like clay or rocks vegetables in containers is a great way to solve your problem. It also gives you great scope for managing the environment – too hot near that wall – move it to the other side of the yard – perfect.

Some plants are perfect for pots others not so great. Herbs in particular are great in containers. Plants like mint which can grow wild in the garden should always be grown in a container. Most tomatoes are great in containers – some grow huge just be careful what you choose.  While I’m not sure  that I’d put pumpkin in a pot, cucumbers grown up on a trellis instead of along the ground could be great. As a general rule the harvest yield will be a bit lower when things are grown in pots.

Make sure you put drainage holes in whatever you use.


  • You should use a good quality potting mix  – not garden soil
  • Make sure the pots are clean – if you are using pots that have been used before make sure you give them a good clean
  • Use bigger pots rather than small as it will give the roots plenty of space to grow and they won’t dry out as quickly.
  • Vegetables grow quickly and generally have a pretty good root structure they will fill up a pot really quickly.
  • If you are planning to move them around think about how heavy they will be with moist soil in them – do you need to put them on wheels?
  • Plants grown in containers need all the same things as those grown in the ground
    Tomatoes in pots still need a stake
    Tomatoes in pots still need a stake

    need – like a trellis to grow up for beans and peas and some sort of support structure for tomatoes.

  • Make sure the pot is deep enough – root vegetables like carrots and beetroot need a good soil depth of at least 12 inches to grow.
  • Think about what variety to grow. You can get carrots that are round rather than long and patio varieties of some plants which are more compact.
  • Thinks about what your pots will be made from. Porous containers like terracotta  will suck the water out of the soil so you may need to water them more often.
  • Think about the wind  some containers or  pots will blow over if it’s windy especially if the plant, like a tomato for instance, is tall.
  • Be careful if you live in a hot climate a pot plant sitting in the hot sun all day will get a lot hotter than one planted in the ground.
  • Make sure there is plenty of airflow around the plants and that the sun gets to all of them. Increased humidity caused by being too close together can help in the development of some diseases.

How big should the container be?

Vegetables are vigorous growers, so big containers are best. Small plants such as lettuce need a pot that’s at least  8-9″ (20-25cm) deep and about  12″ (30cm) wide, while more robust plants such as tomato and eggplant (aubergine) demand pots that are  12″-15″ (30-40cm) deep and  15″-20″ (40-50 cm) wide. As mentioned above look out for more compact varieties of plants. Plastic or other lightweight pots will be easier move them around if you need to.

How Many Should I put in Each Container

This really is dependant on the container just use the guides provided on the back of seed packets or on the tag that comes with the seedlings.  I always plant things just a little closer than they recommend – nothing has died yet!





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