How to Start a Container Vegetable Garden


Even the smallest porch or patio affords enough space to create a vegetable garden. You don't need a huge plot to enjoy gardening and eating fresh vegetables grown right in your outdoor living space. Choose containers that are large enough to accommodate the type of vegetable you're planting, and make sure they drain well to prevent root rot. Vegetable container gardening begins with choosing the best location for your pots. Most vegetables prefer at least six to eight hours of sunlight each day.

Step 1

Gather various size containers. Planters should range in size from 6 inches for smaller plants, such as herbs and onions, to 5-gallon containers for tomatoes and peppers.

Step 2

Choose smaller vegetable plants from the garden center, preferably in 4-inch pots. Many garden centers carry dwarf variety vegetable plants specifically designed for container gardens.

Step 3

Check the bottom of each container for drainage holes. If needed, punch at least three holes into the bottom of each planter using the screwdriver and hammer.

Step 4

Place a 2-inch layer of gravel along the bottom of each pot to aid drainage.

Step 5

Fill each container two-thirds full with loose potting soil and create an indentation in the center of each pot. Use high-quality potting soil that's suitable for vegetables. Do not use soil from old plant pots, or an outdoor garden. This will invite weeds that can compete with vegetable plants for limited growing space.

Step 6

Hold the small plant pot in your hand and squeeze it gently to loosen the roots. Tip the pot sideways and slide the vegetable plant into your hand. Place the plant into the indentation in the pot, adding or removing potting soil to assure the top of the root ball lies about 2 inches below the pot rim. Combine plants in a container only if adequate room allows for additional plants. Read plant labels to determine planting distances.

Step 7

Fill in around the vegetable plant and firm the soil by pressing down carefully around the plant.

Step 8

Water carefully around the base of the vegetable plant (not the leaves) to encourage deep absorption of water into the container. Test the soil every day to determine if the plants require more water. Press a finger into the plant pot. If the soil is dry 1 inch below the surface, water the potted vegetable plant.

Step 9

Fertilize the containers with all-purpose fertilizer every four to five weeks to provide plenty of nutrients in the potting soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Containers
  • Screwdriver
  • Hammer
  • Potting soil mix
  • Gravel
  • Vegetable plants
  • All-purpose fertilizer
  • Watering can


  • Virginia Cooperative Extension
  • Texas A&M University
  • Oregon State University
Keywords: container vegetable garden, vegetable container garden, growing vegetables

About this Author

Currently studying for her Maryland master gardener certification, Sharon Heron has written professionally since 2006. Her writing includes hundreds of articles on a wide range of topics including gardening, environment, golf, parenting, exercise, finances and consumer how-to articles.