If you’re limited to gardening without a garden, no problem. It’s easy to grow vegetables in containers. You’d be surprised how much you can grow with just a patio, balcony or deck space to work with.
When you’re ready to transplant your seedlings, start looking for the right containers to fit the needs of your vegetables or flowers. Your pots need to be easy to handle and move if needed. They should also allow for easy drainage and aeration of soil with room for roots to flourish.
Plants in containers will dry out faster and be more susceptible to frost than vegetables planted in the ground.
Most vegetables will benefit from having a depth of at least 12” of soil to spread roots into. The bigger container the better. Allow at least 6” of soil on sides and below roots. This soil buffer will retain moisture better and give your vegetables room to thrive.
Depth of Soil Needed in Container
- 8” – beets, broccoli, lettuce, arugula, turnips
- 10” – cabbages
- 12” – carrots, tomatoes
- Drainage – you need at least one drain hole unless your container is made of porous material that naturally allows moisture to evaporate. With long containers, you’ll need multiple drainage holes along the bottom. One every 12” is ideal.
- Filler – It can get expensive and heavy to fill a container completely with soil. Use broken pot shards, river rocks, stones or pebbles to make up a bottom layer of 3-6” deep. Filler also allows water to drain and avoids the soil compacting. Clean and scrub any filler before adding.
- Foundation – If you’d like raised containers – easier to water and tend to – build a foundation or framework to rest your containers on. This can be as simple as stacking bricks or blocks.
Best Containers to Grow Vegetables – Flowers Too
Wood Planter Box
DIY your own box in redwood or cedar for rot resistant boxes you can use year after year. Don’t use pressure treated wood, as the carcinogens used to treat the wood aren’t a good thing to have in your vegetables! Although laws have changed since 2003, it’s better to be on the safe side and use a natural wood like redwood or cedar instead.
Look for DIY videos on YouTube for how to build a planter box.
Raised Cedar Beds planters above can be found at garden centers, online or in big box stores.
If you want the ultimate planting box system, look into an Earthbox. It’s a maintenance free self watering system designed to make container gardening goof proof. The manufacturer claims it doubles the yield of a conventional garden. If you want to super-charge your container gardening, it might be worth the investment. Prices start at $32.95 for the original Earthbox.
Environmentally friendly Smart Pots are made in the USA from an innovative fabric that breathes. Because the “pot” is very light, you can place these anywhere you want to start your vegetable garden. From patio to rooftop. The woven Fabric Smart Pots encourage better aeration and release of excess water. Traditional plastic pots especially black ones, can easily get very hot in sun which can burn roots so this is a great advantage.
Grow Box Kit
This self watering raised grow box kit on wheels is another quick solution for starting a small veggie patch. At only 9.5” deep, it’s not suitable for plants that need more root space such as carrots but may work for spinach or herbs. There’s a self watering system built in which makes watering easy.
Traditional wooden barrels are just the right size for a container garden. This one is 26 in dia x 17.5 deep which is perfect for deep rooted veggie plants. Because oak isn’t resistant to rot, eventually this planter will fall apart from weather and water. Plastic barrels are more durable, but dark plastic may get too hot in direct sun for plant roots to stay cool and happy.
Similar to Smart pots, these cheaper fabric grow bags can be found on Amazon. You might want to try these out if you’re just getting started or trying to keep the the cost of starting a vegetable garden down.
Plastic, Styrofoam or Clay Planters
Recycling or reusing old plastic pots for your vegetable garden may be your cheapest solution. Make sure the drainage is adequate and the pots get some shade during the day so they don’t overheat. Styrofoam planters and plastic resin pots like this one are a better option. They’re lightweight, don’t heat up and provide some insulation to your plant’s root system.
Traditional clay pots or planters can also be recycled or repurposed for your vegetable garden. Clay will dry out quicker than any plastic or resin pots, so regular watering is essential.
Container Must Have’s
- Check to make sure it’s deep enough for the type of vegetables you’re trying to grow.
- Provide good drainage via one or more drain holes in the bottom.
- Easy to move to follow the sun to take advantage of daylight
- Be prepared to cover your plants if a frost is predicted.
- Planters on wheels let’s you roll them into a protected space like a shed or garage.
Don’t forget the right soil mixture, water regularly and you’ll soon be an urban farmer!