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How to Grow Vegetables in Tubs

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017
Half wine barrels make good tubs for vegetables.
wine barrels image by Horticulture from Fotolia.com

Large containers allow you to grow vegetables even if you don’t have a good area for a garden. Tubs work well for vegetables because they can hold many gallons of soil, they are compact, and they can even be portable. You can choose from large plastic totes or half wine barrels to unusual containers such as wheelbarrows and bathtubs. Just make sure your tub has at least one drainage hole or the roots of your veggies will rot and the plants will drown.

Drill several evenly spaced drainage holes in the bottom of your tub if it doesn’t have any. Use a large drill bit, at least 3/8 of an inch in size. Then place your tub or other container in an area that receives as much full sun as possible. Prop it on top of three or four bricks to improve drainage.

Fill your tub with either a good all-purpose potting soil, or combine topsoil with compost and other organic materials such as dried leaves or grass clippings. You can use up to 50 percent compost and other amendments—the richer the soil, the better.

Water the soil well by running a hose at a slow drip for about one hour, or until water flows out the drainage hole(s).

Dig small planting holes for your vegetables that are large enough for their root systems. Depending on the size of your tub, you can plant several varieties of vegetables in each tub. Just leave about 6 inches of space between them. Water well, and then water once a week, or whenever the soil at a 2-inch depth feels dry to the touch. Container-grown vegetables might need more frequent watering than those in the ground—but don’t overwater.

Fertilize your vegetables once a month with a balanced plant food, such as one having an N-P-K ratio of 10-10-10. You can also spread a layer of compost on top of the soil as mulch—this will give your plants continuous nourishment every time you water and will also help keep weeds away.


Things You Will Need

  • Large tubs with drainage holes
  • Drill gun with 3/8-inch or 1/2-inch bit
  • 3-4 bricks
  • Potting soil
  • Large plant saucer or plastic sheeting
  • Topsoil
  • Compost
  • Organic materials
  • Trowel


  • If your tub is located on a wooden deck or patio, protect the wood from water damage by keeping a large plant saucer underneath. If you can't find a saucer large enough, cover the wooden area with a sheet of heavy-gauge plastic.
  • Choose smaller varieties of vegetables for container gardening. For example, cherry tomatoes will probably yield more than larger varieties, and bush or compact cucumbers and zucchini are more suited to container gardening. Drive stakes into your tub to support pole beans and other vegetables on vines.
  • When tomatoes start flowering and setting fruit, switch to a plant food that is low in nitrogen, such as 0-10-10. This will help the plant to produce more fruit instead of excess foliage.

About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.