How to Grow Vegetables in Pots & Containers


Growing vegetables in pots or containers allows you to garden in areas that receive adequate light. Where garden soil is unsuitable for growing vegetables, containers are a great alternative. Container planting provides access to gardeners with limited mobility. These gardens brighten decks and porches, and provide a warm welcome to guests when perched on steps or along the walkway. The reasons for plantin vegetables in containers over in-ground planting are many, but the techniques are similar.

Step 1

Choose a container in the appropriate size for your container garden. A window box or shallow planter provides adequate room for salad greens, radishes or beets, vegetables that develop shallow roots and do not require deep soil. Larger plants--like tomatoes or cucumbers--require pots or containers with a depth of at least 10 inches.

Step 2

Check for drainage holes in the bottom of the pot or container. If there are none, drill 1/4- to 1/2-inch holes around the outside of the pot 1/2 inch from the bottom. Space the holes evenly around the pot approximately 4 inches apart.

Step 3

Mix equal parts all-purpose potting soil, peat moss and perlite to create a lightweight soil for planters. Add a cup or two of compost or manure to each container and mix in well with the soil mixture.

Step 4

Add slow-release fertilizer designed for vegetables following the recommended application rate to give plants a good start.

Step 5

Select seedlings labeled as patio, dwarf or bush varieties. These plants are bred for their small size or compact growth and require less space in which to grow. Although fruit production is typically less with these miniature plants, they thrive in small spaces and so are ideal for container planting.

Step 6

Plant seedlings to the original planting depth. Water until the water runs through the drainage holes of the container or pot.

Step 7

Place the container in an area that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Provide some shade from the hot afternoon sun in southern climates to prevent excessive drying and damage. Vegetables in northern climates typically thrive in afternoon sun.

Step 8

Water when the soil dries. Soil in containers or pots dries quickly and may require daily watering. Watch for signs of wilting, and check soil often until you establish a routine for watering. Soil should feel damp 2 inches below the surface, but should not remain soggy. Water until water runs free of the drainage holes and allow soil to dry slightly before watering again.

Step 9

Apply water-soluble fertilizer or foliage feeder on a 10- to 14-day schedule throughout the summer. Follow the application rate on the container.

Things You'll Need

  • Containers or pots
  • Drill
  • Soil mixture (potting soil/peat moss/perlite)
  • Slow release fertilizer
  • Vegetable seedlings
  • Water-soluble fertilizer or foliage feeder


  • North Carolina State University Extension: Container Vegetable Gardening
  • AgriLIFE Extension: Vegetable Gardening in Containers

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Successful Container Gardens
Keywords: grow container vegetables, container gardens, vegetables in containers

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.