Less challenging crops: carrots, onions, eggplant, radishes, peppers, beans, peas, Swiss chard, squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, eggplants, cabbages, herbs, and salad greens. Don't forget to provide supports for vine crops like peas, beans, cucumbers, and squash.
More challenging crops: corn, melons, and potatoes. These crops need a larger volume of everything: food, water, and space. They can all be grown in containers, but if you're limited by space, they may not be the most cost efficient choices.
Here is a range of minimum container sizes and suggestions for plant spacing. This is a general list. You may find you need more or less space depending on the varieties you choose.
|Vegetable||Suggested Minimum Pot Size||Spacing between plants|
|Beans, green||3-5 gallons; 8-12 inches deep||2-3 inches (provide supports)|
|Beans, lima||3-5 gallons; 8-12 inches deep||2-3 inches (provide supports)|
|Beets||1/2 to 3 gallons; 8-12 inches deep||2-3 inches|
|Broccoli||4-5 gallons||1 plant per container|
|Brussels Sprout||4-5 gallons||1 plant per container|
|Cabbage||4-5 gallon; 8-12 inches deep||12-18 inches between heads|
|Carrots||1 quart to 3 gallons; 8-12 inches deep||2-3 inches|
|Chard, Swiss||1/2 gallon; 8-12 inches deep||4-6 inches|
|Collards||12 inches deep||4-6 inches|
|Corn||21 inches wide, 12-14 inches deep||2-3 plants per container, 6 inches apart|
|Cucumbers||4-5 gallon; 1-3 gal. (dwarf)||14-18 inches (provide supports)|
|Eggplant||3-5 gallon||1 plant per container|
|Horseradish||5 gallon; 24-30 inches deep||1 plant per container|
|Kale||3-5 gallons; 8 inches wide X 8 inches deep||4-6 inches|
|Leaf Lettuce||1/2-3 gallons; 4-6 inches deep||4-6 inches|
|Mustard Greens||3-5 gallons; 8 inches wide X 8 inches deep||4-6 inches|
|Onions, green||1/2 to 3 gallons||2-3 inches|
|Onions, yellow/sweet||5 gallons||3-5 per container|
|Peas||4-5 gallons; 12 inches deep||3-4 inches (provide supports)|
|Peppers||1-3 gallons||1 plant per container|
|Potatoes||1-20 gallons||space plants 6" apart|
|Pumpkins||12 inches deep, 4 foot wide||1 plant per container|
|Radishes||1-3 gallons; 4-6 inches deep||2-3 inches|
|Spinach||3-5 gallons; 8 inches wide X 8 inches deep||4-6 inches|
|Squash, summer||2-4 gallons; 24 inches deep||1-3 plants per container|
|Squash, winter||3-5 gallons; 24 inches deep||1 plant per container|
|Tomatoes, full-sized||4-5 gallons||1 plant per container (support)|
|Tomatoes, cherry||1-3 gallons||1 plant per container (support)|
|Turnips||1/2 to 3 gallons; 10-12 inches deep||3-4 inches|
Wood containers are subject to rot. This can be minimized by lining the insides with plastic or wax, and sealing the outside with a non-toxic water-sealant designed for decks. Avoid containers made from treated wood. They can leach toxic chemicals into the soil that may harm plant roots, or even worse, end up on your dinner table.
Container vegetables need to be watered frequently-sometimes daily. Containers made from terra-cotta (clay), or wood will wick water away from the plant's roots much faster than those made from plastic, so pay even closer attention to watering your veggies when using them.
If in doubt about the container size you should use, bigger is better. Don't forget, small containers will need to be watered and fertilized more frequently because they hold less soil.
Dark colored containers (especially made from plastic) absorb sunlight. This can create a hostile environment for your plant's tender roots. Paint the outside of dark containers a light color so they will reflect heat rather than absorb it.
Water draining from containers can leave marks and stains on concrete and wood. Make sure to catch excess water by placing a saucer or reservoir underneath them.
Large containers filled with moist dirt and growing plants are heavy! Save your back and use a plant caddy to move them from place to place.
Hardiness Zone: 8a
Michelle from Dallas, TX
Growing vegetables on your patio certainly doesn't need to be expensive. The lack of sunlight, however, could prove to be a problem. For successful growth, most vegetables will need a minimum of 5 hours of direct sunlight a day. Some will need even more. "Leafy" vegetables (cabbage, lettuce) will tolerate the least amount of light, but vegetables like tomatoes, cucumbers and carrots will need more sun. You'll have to experiment to see what grows best. To maximize the light you have, use strategically placed shiny materials and light colored rocks around your containers to reflect light back onto the plants.
The most inexpensive way to start vegetables is from seed. Varieties labeled "patio, bush, or dwarf" are often bred specifically for container gardening. Saving seeds from year to year will cut down on expenses even further, but you'll need to start with heirloom seeds and avoid hybrids if you want offspring true to the parent plants.
Just about anything that can hold a soil can be fashioned into a container: pails, trashcans, dishpans, plastic detergent or cat litter containers (cut down), wooden or wicker baskets, or even old leather or rubber boots. I like containers made from plastic materials, even though they tend to deteriorate over time with repeated sun exposure. They don't dry out as fast a terra cotta, transfer heat or rust like metal, and you can usually recycle them when you're done using them. If you use plastic containers, try not to spend much on them. Crops with shallow roots, like radishes, beets and onions, will grow just fine in old cake pans. Provide cages or trellises for climbers like beans, peas and cucumbers to save space, or plant them in hanging baskets and let their vines trail downward. If you don't have anything suitable on hand, shop around at flea markets, rummage sales or dollar stores. Make sure your containers have adequate drainage holes on the bottom.
In regards to a growing medium, plan on using a very light soil or a soil-less mix-something that will drain rapidly, yet hold nutrients and keep the plant's roots consistently moist. You'll need to water your vegetables daily and feed them frequently with a 1/2 strength liquid fertilizer like fish emulsion.
I grew vegetables in plastic containers this year. And somebody said eating veggies from plastic containers isn't healthy. I got these at the flea market. I suspect they came from a nursery. Am I OK to eat these as I did this year?
Thank you for any help you can give.
By Herrold D
I agree with all the others. I've been growing more plants in containers as well- due to lack of room & just wanting to grow more varieties of herbs & vegetables. I'm not sick or dead yet either. I think it's just fine. Here's a tip;
Give your plants some Fish Emulsion ( 1 TBSP diluted in 1 gallon of water) . Mark on calendar. Wait 2 weeks & give them Thrive for vegetables (1 packet to 1.5 gallons of water) that week. Wait 1 week & give fish emulsion once every week till almost ready to harvest.
There is also Thrive Esp. for Tomatoes & Fruits,and Plants & Flowers. It makes plants get bigger-like double sized & they are beautiful! I have so so many squash plants with lots of runners as a result & my basil plants got huge! I got a sample (they sent me 2 packets) & it works great! Definitely going to buy some for next year. Happy Gardening. : )