10 Best Veg for Growing in Containers

 You do not need a large garden, a dedicated veg plot, or an allotment to grow veg. Many veg will grow well in containers.  If space is limited, you can have tasty, healthy home-grown vegetables. 

The trick is to pick vegetables which are best suited and easiest to grow in containers. The challenge with container-grown vegetables is to get enough food and water into the container over the growing season to ensure a good tasty crop. If your garden area is a balcony or small patio, you can grow some vegetables.

Bear in mind most vegetables need full sun, so if you have a balcony which maybe subject to some shade you need to take this into account. No vegetables will grow in shade but those which will tolerate some shade are Kale, Lettuce and rocket, carrots and leeks.

Top of the list for containers are tomato, cucumber, compact varieties of courgette, potatoes, strawberries, garlic, chillies, lettuces, rocket, salad crops and herbs which will all grow in containers.

Vegetables which are not so easy in containers are all the beans Broad, Runner, French, Peas, larger courgettes and squashes, Main Crop potatoes, Brassicas, Onions, Sweetcorn and Artichokes. These crops are large, and it's hard to get enough plants to make a decent crop. You buy some dwarf versions of Peas and beans to try.

Top tips for all vegetables grown in containers:

 Grow your crop in the largest pot you have and do not plant up too densely.

 Fill the pot with good quality compost and organic material to hold the moisture. 

Mulch the top to reduce water loss by evaporation.

On warm sunny days, it maybe necessary to water container grown veg once/twice daily, which can be time consuming and uses a precious resource. Using grey water on vegetables in not recommended, especially in containers because of a buildup of residual chemicals. There are ways to water wisely read more.

Often with container gardening, Water retaining gel is suggested as an option. Personally, I do not think this would be compatible with growing vegetables because of its chemical components.

The better option will be plenty of organic matter to hold water and a mulch to reduce evaporation, 

The 10 Best Veg to Grow in Containers

Rocket

Growing Rocket in a container

Rocket is ideal for growing in containers. Sow evenly into the container, quite close to the surface, and sprinkle lightly with compost. Keep your eye on it and do not let it dry out. I usually mist or lightly water the compost before sowing.

As the name suggests, Rocket is a quick crop to harvest. There should be baby leaves to cut after about 3 weeks and a more mature crop at around 6 weeks, depending on the weather.  Many varieties do well as cut and come again, and at the end of the season you can harvest the seeds for next year. Tips on growing Rocket

Lettuce

Lettuce in a container

 All types of lettuce will grow well in containers, especially Little Gem varieties, cut and come again salad crops, micro leaves, cress and radishes.

Remember, slugs are keen on lettuces and the containers will need slug protection. You can grow a decent crop of different lettuces in containers, much fresher and more satisfying than bagged leaves from the supermarkets.

how to grow lettuces.

how to beat slugs and snails.

Cucumber

Cucumber growing in containers in greenhouse

 Cucumbers are a surprisingly rewarding crop. Home-grown cucumbers are crunchy and juicy, a superior veg to those retailing in supermarkets. You can grow cucumbers inside in a greenhouse, or outside, but you will need to select the right variety for each. There are cucumber varieties solely suitable for inside and outside growing, and the packet will tell you. Growing cucumbers in a container will need a support to accommodate the upright growth, and they will need to be well watered.

More about growing cucumbers. 

Chillies

Chillies

 Chillies make a great pot plant and because they need a good amount of warmth, Chillies often crop best grown indoors under cover. In the kitchen on a sunny windowsill is an option.

Chillies need a long growing season and are best germinated late in February or early March. Sow 2/3 seeds to a small container and keep warm and moist. Once the true leaves appear and the seedlings are sturdy enough, pot up into larger containers and grow on. Chillies are easy to grow.

Potatoes in Containers

growing potatoes in containers

First earlies and salad potatoes are easy and well suited to growing in containers. Choose a good-sized container with drainage holes, potatoes dislike being water logged. Fill the container with quality compost and firm down. Add just 2/3 tubers per container depending on the size of the pot and cover tubers with a thick layer of compost about 20cms. Raise the container off the ground to protect against frost and aids drainage. Protect new top growth from frost.

As new growth comes through earth up in the pot, carefully covering the new growth, taking great care not to damage the stems. Potatoes are ready to harvest once flowering starts and after flowering.

More about growing Potatoes

Tomatoes in Containers

Growing Toms hanging basket

 Tomatoes are ideal for growing in containers, and in the UK are more usually grown in containers under glass or in a sheltered spot. The UK summers can be a bit cool, and growing under glass offers more heat and significant protection from blight.

Homegrown tomatoes are tasty, but time-consuming to grow. For the best tips on how to get a good crop, checkout growing tomatoes for important advice on watering and feeding.  Tomatoes start off in small containers and need to be potted on to a larger container and then finally into the biggest container in which they will grow for the rest of the season. 

Detailed growing advice and short video about the importance of removing side shoots.

The easiest types of tomatoes for containers are the bush types such as tumbling tom, Sungold which can even be grown in a hanging basket.

Growing Garlic

garlic growing in container

Onions generally need too much space to be suitable for growing in containers, but garlic is ideal and easy to grow.

Place a few cloves in a suitable pot, plant about twice the depth of the clove, cover with compost, water and put in a sunny position. You can plant Garlic into containers in autumn or spring, just check the suitability of the type of garlic you purchase.

A bonus is that Garlic stores really well and you can keep it for months over the autumn and winter after harvesting more information on growing garlic.

Strawberries in a hanging basket

Strawberries in a hanging basket

Strawberries grow in well in a hanging basket or container, and even if grown in a greenhouse the pollinators will do their business and there will be plenty of fruit.

The advantage of growing strawberries in a hanging basket is that you do not need to net them to protect from the birds, or use straw to avoid dirt splashes. The downside is they need regular watering. This You Tube Video includes tips about growing Strawberries in containers.

Had I been more organised when I planted this, I would have included some Nasturtium for extra colour and interest, a thought for next year.

Herbs

growing herbs in containers

Herbs are ideal container plants, either in separate containers or several planted together.

If planting several herbs together, they need to be tolerant of similar growing conditions. Thus, Rosemary, Thyme and Sage will grow well together. Mint is best in a container of its own and some herbs like it more moist and even a tad shady such as parsley and coriander.  

Dwarf peas and beans in containers

flowers and beans

In the main, most beans and peas are too tall and we need too many plants for a decent crop. However, the dwarf varieties of peas and beans grow well in containers, although they may need some slug protection.

As illustrate veg in containers can be combined with annuals to make an interesting display. Illustrated is marigold, Nasturtium and climbing up at the back beans.

Updated 05.11.2021