Are you looking for tips on how to grow vegetables in pots and containers?
Whether you need advice on growing vegetables in pots for beginners, or want to expand your container vegetable garden, there’s lots of inspiration here.
This post lists ten of the easiest vegetables to grow in pots. I’ve also included tips for taking care of your vegetable plants, and a guide to the basic tools you need to grow vegetables in pots.
The benefits of growing vegetables in pots
Growing veggies in pots has lots of advantages.
If you’re new to growing your own vegetables, growing plants in pots is a great beginner gardening project. You can keep things small-scale, moving onto a larger vegetable patch as you learn and become more confident.
The other element of growing vegetables in pots that suits new gardeners is the low maintenance aspect. It’s easier and quicker to take care of plants in pots than it is to keep on top of a whole vegetable garden or allotment. In addition, containers are relatively portable, so if your plants aren’t thriving you can easily move them to a different location.
This portability is a big plus for renters too, allowing you to take your plants with you when you move.
Containers are also perfect if you want to grow your own vegetables in a small space. You don’t even need a garden. Containers allow you to grow vegetables in pots on a balcony, outside a front door, on a window ledge, or on a hanging bracket. This makes growing vegetables in pots easy regardless of the size of your outdoor space.
Growing vegetables in pots, baskets and containers allows you to adjust the height of your garden too. This is particularly helpful if your movement is restricted, or you struggle to garden at ground level. Being able to play with height is also a fantastic way to create a bigger container vegetable garden in a small space by using a range of pot sizes, trellis or even shelving.
Growing vegetables in a pot is also perfect for kids. They can have their own pot to look after, and it’s easy for them to plant in a smaller space. They can also get creative and decorate their pots, or make some fun plant markers for their mini veg garden.
Finally, if you’re short on time when it comes to gardening, growing vegetables in pots is ideal. Growing your own on a smaller scale means you’ll need less time to plant, water, weed and deal with pests. And of course, there’s no time-consuming digging either – this last one is also a big plus for less mobile gardeners.
So many great reasons why container gardening is a perfect way to start growing your own vegetables. Are you ready to get cracking?
Can you grow vegetables in pots?
Some edible crops are better suited to growing in the ground, and some will be very happy growing in a pot. Choose varieties that are well-suited to growing in pots and containers, and you’re well on the way to a bountiful container vegetable garden. In the gardening world this if often referred to as ‘right plant, right place’.
Right plant, right place
Right plant, right place is a simple but powerful approach to helping your plants thrive. It’s relevant to all plants, including those we grow for food.
Every variety of plant – regardless of what you grow it in – has its own set of conditions that it will thrive in. Put your plant somewhere that provides these conditions, and you greatly increase the chance of it doing well.
The flip side of this idea is that by forcing a plant to grow in conditions it doesn’t naturally enjoy, you will automatically limit how strong and productive it can become.
The ‘right plant, right place’ concept goes a long way towards explaining why you might have lost plants in the past, and also gives you a simple framework for growing your plants going forward. It’s just as relevant to fruit and veg as it is to ornamental plants, so it’s a great place to start when you’re planning what vegetables to grow in containers.
So how do you work out the conditions that your plants need? First of all, check the care label or seed packet. If you don’t have one, look the plant up online, or use a plant identification app. Some edible plants need full sun, while others are happy growing in partial shade. Your plant may need a high humidity level, or love to bake in dry heat. Once you’re armed with this information, you can choose the perfect spot for your container and make sure you’ve given your plants the best possible chance of doing well.
Should I buy vegetable seeds or vegetable plants?
When it comes to vegetables you can grow in pots, you have two options. You can grow vegetables in pots from seed, or buy small plants and pot these into a larger container.
Seeds are the cheaper option, and a single packet will usually provide more than a year’s worth of plants. Growing vegetables from seed does require a bit more effort than buying established plants, as you will need to look after your seedlings as they grow. You will also need some basic seed planting equipment. Bear in mind also that growing from seed means your plants will take longer to produce a harvest than if you buy plants that are already further into the growing process.
If you don’t want to grow your plants from seed, or have simply left it a bit late, you can buy a wide variety of vegetable plants and herbs from garden centres, DIY stores and even supermarkets. Look for plants that have plenty of healthy growth, no signs of over or under watering, and no visible pests.
Easy vegetables to grow in pots, containers and baskets
So you’ve got your containers, and you’re wondering ‘what vegetables can I plant in pots?’. It’s time to choose some easy to grow vegetables!
Here’s how to grow your own vegetables in pots and containers.
The best vegetables to grow in pots
I’ve picked my top ten easy vegetables to grow in containers. Choose from this list, and you’ll be able to create a low-maintenance and productive container vegetable garden.
Potatoes are easy veggies to grow, and you can grow them perfectly well on a small scale in containers. You need to be a little bit organised, as they take at least two to three months to produce a harvest.
Potatoes are grown from ‘seed’ potatoes. These have been grown for the specific purpose of being replanted to produce a crop of potatoes. Once you’ve got your seed potatoes, leave them in a cool, bright place to start sprouting before you plant them. When they’re ready, plant them in your container, but don’t fill it up with compost to the top. Once you see leaves emerging, cover these up with more compost, repeating the process until your pot is full. At this point you can allow the plants to grow and flower, then harvest your potatoes once the flowers have died back.
Salad is such an easy vegetable to grow in a pot. It’s fast-growing, happy in small spaces, and you can protect it from slugs and snails much more easily than if you grow it in the ground.
I always grow salad from seed. It grows so fast that there’s not much benefit to spending more on established plants, and planting it is literally a case of sprinkling seeds onto compost, covering them over and watering them. Because it’s so easy, it’s a great grow your own food project for kids to try too. I’ve got a whole post on doing this here.
Choose a salad variety that you enjoy eating, or go for a packet of *mixed seeds to mimic the expensive bags you buy in the shops.
To give you a continuous supply of salad, sow your seeds at regular intervals – every week or so. This is called succession sowing. You will always have some leaves that are ready to harvest, and you’ll avoid being overwhelmed with more salad than you need.
Radishes are another great option for fast growing vegetables in pots. They can really perk up a salad, and some varieties are ready to eat in as little as four weeks. They don’t need much space either, so they’re ideal container garden vegetables.
Sow *radish seeds directly into the soil, about 1cm deep. Thin out the seedlings while they’re small, leaving 2-4cm between plants. It’s tempting to leave all the plants to grow, but if you do your radishes will be smaller. This is because there are more plants competing for the same amount of soil and nutrients.
Radishes are another good candidate for sowing little and often to provide a continuous crop.
Runner beans are one of the easiest vegetables to grow in pots. They’re climbing plants, so they will need some support – garden canes made into a wigwam shape are perfect – but this means they don’t take up much space and are well-suited to pots. The big seeds are ideal for kids to plant too.
You can start *runner beans off in small pots, or plant them straight into their final container. Tie the plants to their supports as they grow, and pinch out the end of the growing shoot when they reach the top. Harvest the pods when they are still young and tender, this will be around four months after sowing.
Carrots have a bit of a reputation for being tricky to grow, but they’re easy plants to grow in pots. They don’t like heavy soil and stony soil can cause them to grow in weird and wonderful shapes, but if you grow them in compost in a pot you can easily avoid these problems.
A shorter variety such as *Chantenay is perfect for smaller pots. You need to thin out your seedlings before they get too big, otherwise you’ll end up with teeny tiny carrots. This can actually be a fun thing for kids to do on a small scale; this video shows you how.
Don’t assume you have to use a traditional grow bag to grow your tomatoes. They will also be very happy growing in more attractive containers and hanging baskets. Choose a bush variety such as Balconi Red or *Tumbling Tom, as opposed to a cordon variety.
Growing tomatoes in pots is pretty low maintenance. You can grow tomatoes from seed, or buy small plants. If you decide to grow from seed you will need to provide a warm, bright environment until your seedlings are established. A sunny windowsill is ideal.
Plant your tomatoes in a sunny, sheltered location outdoors in late spring, when the risk of frost has gone. You may need to add a garden cane to your pot as the plant grows to provide support.
Dwarf french beans
Dwarf french beans are compact plants, making them a brilliant choice for containers. They don’t need protection from birds and butterflies, and you can get away without giving them any supports. All this makes them a very low-maintenance crop.
You should be able to start harvesting beans around two months after sowing the *seeds. If the weather is on the cooler side this could be a bit longer. Try sowing a few seeds every couple of weeks to provide a continuous supply throughout summer.
Beetroot is much tastier if harvested when young and small, so it’s well-suited to a container.
Sow the seeds directly into your container, and thin out the seedlings when they’re around 2cm tall. Two good varieties of beetroot to grow in pots are Red Ace and *Pablo.
Don’t assume your container grown vegetables have to be outdoors! Microgreens are a perfect candidate for an indoor grow your own vegetables project.
Microgreens are seedlings of herbs and vegetables. They’re small, but they’re absolutely packed with nutrients. They require very little in the way of space, equipment and attention, and you can have a harvest in as little as two weeks after planting. A mixed packet of *microgreen seeds is a good way to get started. I’ve got a whole blog post on growing microgreens which includes a step-by-step growing guide, plus ten easy varieties to try.
Herbs grow really well in containers, and having a pot outside the kitchen door is really handy when you’re cooking.
Some herbs are better suited to growing indoors because they prefer a bit of heat. These include basil, oregano and parsley, all which are some of the easiest veggies to grow in pots. My post on growing a windowsill herb garden takes you through doing this in more detail.
Other herb varieties such as coriander, chives, thyme, sage, rosemary and mint will all be happy in a sunny spot outside.
For lots of ideas on creating a herb garden and easy herbs to grow in pots, check out my Pinterest board.
Tips for looking after vegetables grown in pots
Choosing the right varieties of vegetables to grow in pots is a big part of making a success of your container vegetable garden, but there are a few other factors that also have an impact. These gardening tips for taking care of vegetables grown in pots will help you take your container veggie growing to the next level.
The best pots for growing vegetables
When it comes to pots to grow vegetables in, there are only a couple of rules. The most important one is to make sure your pot has drainage holes in the bottom. Most plants hate to have their roots sitting in a puddle, and you can quickly kill a plant this way. If your pot doesn’t have holes, you need to either make some (a hammer and a nail do the job nicely on plastic and metal pots), or add an inner plant pot which does have drainage holes before planting. If you choose this last option, make sure you check the outer pot regularly and empty out any excess water.
How deep do containers need to be to grow vegetables?
The other key area to consider when choosing containers to grow vegetables is the size of your pot. Think about the number of plants you want to grow in it, and the eventual size they will reach. If you’re growing root vegetables, consider also the size of the vegetable itself when choosing a pot depth. The plant’s label or seed packet might tell you the size, or you can look it up online. Bear in mind also that you’re aiming to eat the results here. Skimping on the pot size will have an impact on the size of your harvest, because the plant will have access to less compost and nutrients.
Other than that, it’s really up to you when it comes to the shape, colour, material and style of your pots. You can match the style to your existing outdoor space, or mix things up a bit. There’s also lots of potential to upcycle and recycle containers for growing vegetables. Old sinks, chimney pots, car tyres and storage crates all work well. Just remember to add those drainage holes.
Are plastic planters safe for vegetables?
Generally, plastic planters are considered safe to use for growing food. Having said that, it’s definitely a good idea to try and avoid using plastic in the garden as much as possible, to limit your impact on the environment. There are plenty of more eco-friendly materials available, including wood, terracotta, metal and hemp. If you do decide to use plastic pots, try to choose ones that are made from recycled materials, and use them for as long as you can. You can find lots of other tips on gardening sustainably here.
Choosing compost for vegetables grown in pots
Compost matters more than ever when plants are grown in pots. If you grow plants in the ground, their roots have easy access to nutrients in the soil, and aren’t restricted by the limits of a pot. In contrast, plants that are grown in containers will quickly exhaust the nutrients available to them from the compost.
For this reason, it’s always a good idea to use a good quality, *peat-free compost for growing container vegetables. A general-purpose compost will be fine for most plants, but you can also buy compost that’s specifically designed for growing vegetables.
We cover this area of container gardening in more detail in our guide to the best compost for pots.
Can I use soil from my garden instead of compost?
The short answer is yes, you can use soil from the garden to grow vegetables in pots, but your plants probably won’t do as well as they will if you use compost.
Garden soil generally doesn’t contain enough nutrients to support plants grown in containers. It can also be quite dense, which causes problems with waterlogging and doesn’t provide the plant with adequate air.
If you do use garden soil in your pots, try to mix it with some compost to loosen it up and boost the nutrient levels. Be prepared to feed your plants more regularly too.
Should I repot my vegetable plants after buying?
Definitely. The small trays and pots that vegetable plants are sold in are nowhere near big enough to allow the plants to grow big and strong.
Aim to repot your plants into your own containers as soon as possible after you buy them. Ease the pot away from the plant, and transfer it to a larger pot which is already filled with compost. Firm the plant in gently with your fingers, then water carefully.
Feeding vegetables growing in pots
As your container plants will use up the nutrients in their compost, you should feed them regularly to help them thrive. Make sure you use a plant food that is designed specifically for use with fruit and vegetables
Plant food is available in a few different formats. The most common is a *concentrated liquid, which you dilute according to the instructions and use to water your plants. You can also buy *granules which should be scattered on the surface of the soil and lightly raked in.
Drainage for vegetables grown in pots
We’ve already touched on drainage in terms of holes in the bottom of your pot. It’s also a good idea to add a few stones or broken pieces of terracotta pot into the bottom before you add your compost.
If you’re thinking ‘why do I need to put rocks in the bottom of a planter?’, here’s the answer. Adding a layer of stones will increase the container’s ability to drain away excess water, which in turn helps to provide a more balanced growing environment for your veggies.
Watering vegetables grown in containers
When it comes to water, a container plant is more reliant on you than a plant that’s grown in the ground. A vegetable plant growing in a container will generally dry out much quicker than a vegetable patch in the garden, and not just because there’s a limit on the water in there. The sides of a pot are more exposed to warmer temperatures, which heats up the soil and speeds up evaporation.
In warmer months, check the soil in your containers regularly. If it feels dry to touch, you need to water them. Another telltale sign is drooping plants, but ideally you should be watering before your plants get to this stage. Try to avoid watering your containers at the warmest part of the day, so you don’t lose as much water to evaporation. Watering in the early morning is ideal, and the next best option is early evening.
In cooler months, you may not need to water your pots at all, but it’s still worth checking the soil regularly.
Support for vegetables grown in pots
Some varieties of vegetables grown in pots will need you to provide supports. Climbing plants such as runner beans and peas like to scramble upwards. If you don’t give them something to hold onto they will quickly look messy, and you risk the stems breaking too. Push garden canes into the compost around the edges of the pot, and make a wigwam shape by tying them together at the top with string. As your plants grow, you might need to tie the stems to the canes to keep things tidy.
Tomato plants can also benefit from support, unless you’re growing a trailing variety. A garden cane and string is all you need here. Again, you will need to tie the main stem to the cane as it grows.
Protecting your plants from pests
There are a number of things you can do to stop pests becoming a problem on your vegetable plants. The most obvious option is vigilance; keeping a close eye on your plants and taking action at the first signs of infestation can really limit the impact. Strong, healthy plants are also much more able to cope with a small amount of pest damage.
Another option is to create a physical barrier to prevent pests reaching your plants. Things like lettuce and cabbages can be protected with netting, and consider also wrapping copper tape around your plant pots or crushing eggshells around the base of plants to deter slugs. Soft, leafy growth is particularly appealing to the likes of greenfly and blackfly, so you can limit their impact by removing this growth.
It’s also worth pointing out that your garden is probably already home to a very natural form of pest control: namely the insects that feed on the pests. Not all insects are bad for your plants, and some will do a great job of controlling pests for you. Ladybirds, ants, spiders and lacewings are brilliant for controlling aphids (greenfly and blackfly), and ground beetles will happily deal with slugs and caterpillars. Encourage the beneficial varieties, and your pest control job will be much easier.
If you decide to use a pesticide on your vegetable plants, I would always recommend choosing one that’s made from *naturally occurring active ingredients and certified for organic use. This will limit the impact on the environment. Do bear in mind though that it will probably also kill or deter beneficial bugs, so it’s not the ideal solution.
The best tools for growing plants in containers
Container vegetable gardening doesn’t require much in the way of garden tools and equipment. Having said that, there are definitely a few items that it’s worth having to make planting vegetables in pots easier.
As well as containers, it’s a good idea to buy a *hand trowel. You can use this for the majority of your planting and re-potting jobs, and it’s also handy for weeding.
I’d also recommend a decent pair of *gardening gloves to protect your hands. Look for a pair that you can move properly in while wearing them – it sounds obvious, but not every pair will be a good fit.
A *watering can is also an essential piece of kit. Choose one with a ‘rose’ head attachment, this will help to avoid washing away the top layer of compost in your pots with a big gush of water. I use my daughter’s *mini watering can for my smaller containers, because it makes it even easier to control the flow.
Depending on the variety of vegetables you’re growing, you might also need some garden canes and string to provide supports.
Finally, a pair of *secateurs will come in handy for pruning and harvesting.
This is really all the tools you need to grow vegetables in containers. There are lots of clever products out there if you like the idea of going all-out on the kit though!
More gardening inspiration
For more ideas on grow your own and container gardening for beginners, take a look at these posts.
I hope this guide to easy vegetables to grow in pots has given you lots of tips and inspiration on how to grow vegetables in pots, and helps you to create a productive container vegetable garden. Which container veggies are on your list to grow in pots?