There are many appealing reasons to grow your own vegetables at home. They’re fresh and flavorful, you’ll save money on your grocery bill and avoid trips to the store, and it can be very rewarding.. But if you live in an apartment or don’t have a large yard, you might feel like growing your own food isn’t possible in your limited space.
Fortunately, many vegetables can be grown in containers on a balcony, patio, or other small outdoor space, given a few basic requirements. Full sun, well-drained soil, and consistent watering are key in growing vegetables in pots.
What to Grow
It’s best to start out with a few containers if it’s your first growing season. Many people begin with tomatoes, smaller varieties like ‘’Celebrity’ or ‘Rutgers’ are especially suited for container gardening, as are cherry tomatoes. Peppers, which don’t need as much water as other plants, are also a great vegetable for first-timers, and come in a range of colors and heat.
Cucumbers planted in early summer can have a very large yield. Zucchini are fast growing squash that may need some support. Green onions and herbs also do well in pots. Other vegetables to grow in summer include eggplant, bush beans, which can grow in pots as small as 8 inches, and greens like kale, collard greens, and chard, which can all be harvested throughout the summer and fall.
If you’re planting a spring or fall vegetable garden, try radishes or beets. Beets do especially well when planted with greens. Try lettuce and spinach in the cooler seasons.
You can read more tips in this list of top 10 plants to grow in containers from the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.
What Not to Grow
While many vegetables thrive in containers, some do much better in the ground. Pole beans, for instance, need large supports and require more space than pots can provide. Artichokes typically grow too large for containers and aren’t ideal for a small space. Corn is too top heavy and tend to topple over in containers.
Choosing Your Container
When selecting your container, keep in mind the size of the vegetables you’re looking to grow. Generally, pots that are 12 to 18 inches deep are an ideal size for vegetables. Well-drained soil is essential for container vegetables, so be sure to use only containers that have at least one drainage hole at the bottom. If you already have a container without drainage, you can drill a hole into the bottom.
Creating the Right Conditions
To get your potted vegetables to thrive, avoid using soil from your garden. Instead, look for soil mixes specially formulated to use in containers And don’t forget to fertilize! Even if the soil mix you chose includes fertilizer, your plants will eventually deplete those reserves. Pick up some additional fertilizer and follow the instructions on the packaging.
Another great tip is to always plant annual flowers with your vegetables. Flowers attract pollinators, which are essential for producing good yield of fruiting crops like tomatoes, eggplants, and squash. Some annual flowers, like marigolds, are also edible!
For more detailed information about growing specific vegetables, check out these fact sheets available through the Kemper Center for Home Gardening.
Public Information Officer