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One of the best ways to get started gardening in a small space is to just use containers and in this article, we will go over the best vegetables for container gardens. Container gardening is also a great way to make use of even the smallest gardening spaces, such as patios or an apartment or condo balcony.
Growing food in containers allows anyone to take advantage of the many benefits of vegetable gardening as well as the Food Security that it offers. Some plants are better suited for growing containers than others, but almost any vegetable can be grown in a container. Some may produce less in a container than in the ground where their roots can spread, but if you really want to try a certain vegetable, give it a go and see what happens!
So even if you live in the city, or have a tiny yard, don't give up if you want to grow your own food. Container gardening can be done by everyone and you can fit a pot or two in all kinds of nooks and crannies! When choosing what to grow in your container garden you should give these vegetables some consideration as they are known to do well in containers.
If you yard is shady, yet you would still like to grow vegetables, see my article 30 Vegetables that Grow in the Shade for lots of tips!
Choosing containers for your container garden
Growing a container garden helps to make the most of your limited gardening space. You should consider which containers you plan to use. You can get grow bags which are a great option for growing food crops. Many people use 5-gallon buckets and other large food-safe totes and containers to grow their food. Or a raised planter if you have trouble bending over.
Consider local nurseries, who often have a recycle bin for plant containers. Also check your local freecycle group, or local gardening groups on Facebook as other sources to find free or cheap containers.
The best vegetables for growing in containers
Some vegetables are better suited to growing in containers because their root systems can handle a more confined space. While these are great options for containers some varieties of each are better suited to containers than others.
Many determinate tomato varieties stay small enough to be well worth growing in a container garden. These tomatoes tend to give off one large harvest at the end of their season and do not form as large a plant as indeterminate varieties. You can even find dwarf tomato varieties that only grow up to about 2 feet if you are limited in space in your container garden.
Tomato plants also love the heat, so if you live in a cold climate like I do, I actually prefer to grow all of my tomatoes in pots as it keeps the roots warmer which they love. See all my tips for Growing Tomatoes.
Cucumbers can be trained to grow up on a trellis making them a great option for planting in containers. Growing your cucumbers in containers can take a bit more work seeing you will need to train the vines up on the trellis but the reward is well worth it when your cucumbers do not have issues with pests and are easier to keep an eye on rather than digging through the vines to get them up off the soil.
Because of how picky carrots are when it comes to having smooth well-tilled soil to grow straight and even with their large tap root, they are a great candidate for a tall container or raised garden bed. In a container you can sift the soil completely before adding it and rest assured that your soil will not have any hard clumps or rocks that can lead to the carrots forking.
The size of container best for your carrots will depend on how big the particular variety you are growing will get, but like with all other taproot plants a taller container works best. Check out these cute and tiny Paris Market carrots or little finger carrots, both are perfect for containers!
Potatoes lend themselves to container planting because of how they grow and thrive when more soil is added on top of them as they grow. Harvesting potatoes from containers is much easier because you can dump the container out to remove the potatoes rather than digging in the ground. I suggest laying down a tarp first to make clean up easier!
Many gardeners even use large containers like trash cans for growing potatoes though you can do just as well with a smaller and easier to manage container like a potato grow bag. See my article on How to Get a Massive Potato Harvest from Pots to see how I successfully grow potatoes in containers.
Some varieties of peppers do really well in large containers. Growing peppers is a great way to add flavor and even powerful antioxidants to your meals making them well worth your space even if you are fully limited to a container garden. In cooler climates, peppers will actually do better in containers because the roots stay warmer.
See all my tips on growing peppers in cooler climates and how I grow them in pots in my article How to Plant Pepper Seed Indoors in Winter.
Spinach grows well in containers and loves cool temps. This superfood is packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are great for your body. Growing your spinach in containers is a great way to take advantage of this wonderful vegetable for a longer period of time than you can in your garden.
You can start your spinach in your container indoors before the last frost. Then move it outside until it gets too hot for your spinach. Once the heat hits, move it back indoors where it will stay cooler and be able to take advantage of a continuous harvest of baby spinach.
Be sure to harden off all your vegetable seedlings if you started them indoors, before moving them outside.
Onions are a great container crop. They don't need a very deep container making it well suited for upcycling totes or interplanting with other plants in containers where they will help to repel unwanted insects. Onions are heavy feeders however, so be sure to fertilize them regularly, my favorite fertilizers are Neptune's Harvest Fish and Seaweed or Espoma's Garden Tone fertilizer.
Radishes are small and grow quickly. You can also eat the greens, similar to beets. They are a great vegetable for growing in pots with larger plants while they are small.
By the time your plants need the rest of the space in their container, your radishes will be harvested allowing you to make the most of every inch of growing space even in a small garden. Radishes also come in all shapes, sizes and colors, so try a variety of them for fun!
9. Leaf lettuce
While head lettuce doesn't do well in containers there is a wide variety of leaf lettuce options that will thrive in containers. This is why leaf lettuce is a preferred plant for growing indoors over the winter and for hydroponics systems. Try growing a variety in one large planter for the perfect salad mix that happens to look like a beautiful display on your patio.
Kale, like spinach and leaf lettuce, does well in a container when you intend to harvest the tender young leaves. Try adding kale to your large pot with other salad greens. Or grow it on its own to fit more plants of this powerful superfood into your small growing space.
11. Bush beans
Green beans are a great way to replenish the soil in your containers. Green beans have nitrogen-fixing properties and provide your family with food very quickly when planting bush varieties. Bush beans will usually stay small enough to fit in your average gardening container.
12. Winter Squash
Winter squash and/or pumpkins are great option for growing in your container garden. Pumpkins and winter squash can tend to take up a lot of space for the vines but the vines can be trained up a trellis allowing you to grow more food in a smaller space. Winter squash of all types are a nutrient dense and filling vegetable making it well worth the time and space to grow for your family.
Be sure to see my article on How to Preserve Pumpkins and/or Winter Squash by Roasting and Freezing to make them go even further for your family.
Not only do beets do well in containers, but they are a crop that you can harvest twice. First for their greens which can be added to a salad or a stir fry. Then you have the beet root itself. Beets are another super nutrient dense crop that can be used in many ways.
Peas will are another crop that will do well in a container but will need a trellis for support. There are also 3 different kinds of peas to try, snap peas, snow peas as well as shelling peas. So be sure to try all three!
15. Zucchini and/or Summer Squash
Summer squash including zucchini, are generally a bush plant that will do well in a container. These do grow into rather large plants however, so one plant per each large container will be enough.
As you can see, growing food in containers is a completely feasible option. Even if you only have a small space for growing, don't be discouraged. I hope this list of the best vegetables for container gardens helps you decide to go for it! Grow some of your own food this year, you won't be disappointed!
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