Consider plants' depth requirements when buying pots. Vegetables such as broccoli, cucumbers, eggplants and tomatoes need pots that are at least 10 to 12 inches deep, while plants like beans, peas and carrots require at least 6 inches.
Make sure pots are large enough for plants. Each squash and cucumber plant needs containers at least 10 inches in diameter, but radishes, chives or salad greens will grow close together in smaller pots. Use only containers that have drainage holes on the bottom.
Fill the containers with a high-quality potting mix that contains peat or sphagnum moss, vermiculite and sand. Add compost to the potting mix before planting.
Select dwarf varieties of plants when you buy seeds and starts for container growing. Small, bushier varieties of squash, cucumber, beans and peas will fare better than large, sprawling types of plants.
Sow vegetable seeds directly into the pots. Large plants such as squash and cauliflower can be started indoors if it is still cold outside. Follow the instructions on the seed packets for sowing times and depths. Seeds in containers generally may be sown more closely than indicated on the packet.
Pay attention to the estimated number of days to maturity listed on the seed packets. Stagger a few plantings of seeds that mature quickly, such as radishes and salad greens so you can harvest those vegetables for longer.
Make the most of limited container space by mixing plants that have different planting times and varying times until maturity. For example, peas are planted in early spring and harvested in early summer, but eggplant is started in late spring and harvested in the middle or end of summer. Fast-growing crops such as lettuce and radishes can be harvested when slower-growing crops in the same planter are still small.
Water your vegetables in pots well after seeding or transplanting, and check the soil moisture daily. Plants in containers dry out faster than plants in the ground, so plan to water them at least once per day.
Place the containers in a sunny place. Most vegetables need at least 6 hours per day of full sun, but check the seed packets for those that need less sun, such as lettuce and sweet peas.
Fertilize the vegetables weekly. Potted vegetables use up the nutrients in the soil quickly, so feed the plants until you harvest them. Because you're going to eat the vegetables, use an organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, compost or worm castings.
Stake plants like beans, peas and cucumbers to make them grow upward and expose the fruit to sunlight. When the plant starts sending up shoots tall enough to tip over, push a stake into the soil next to it and gently tie the shoot to the stake with string or a twist tie. As the plant grows, keep tying the shoots farther up along the stake. Some plants may need more than one stake.
Keep an eye out for pests on your container garden. Many pests can be removed manually. If the infestation is more serious, make a spray by mixing 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil, 2 tbsp. of baking soda, 1 tsp. of dish soap and 1 quart of water in a spray bottle to apply directly to pests.