You don’t have to live in the country or the suburbs to have a vegetable garden. You can grow a garden in a container in a window, patio or balcony if it receives at least five hours of direct sunlight a day. It is ordinarily better to buy a vegetable as a seedling and move it to a container garden than to plant seeds yourself. Bush and dwarf varieties of seeds, usually the best vegetables to grow in containers, can be obtained from garden supply centers and specialty seed catalogs.
Generally speaking, the easiest plants to grow in a container are beets, bush beans, collards, green onions, kale, leaf lettuce, mustard greens, radishes, peas, summer squash, Swiss chard and turnips.
Vegetables that have a compact growth pattern are best to grow in a container. These include beets, carrots, chard, green onions, peppers, salad greens, spinach and radishes.
Broccoli, corn, cucumbers, cauliflower, broccoli, corn and potatoes are generally more difficult to grow in a container because their roots demand more space. If you do want to grow beans, cucumbers, or summer squash, look for bush varieties. Get dwarf varieties of cabbage, peas, peppers, and tomatoes. Bush varieties of summer squash do especially well.
Specific Container Sizes
You can grow beets, lettuce, onions, radishes and spinach in a container from 6 to 10 inches in diameter. Plant chard, peppers and dwarf tomatoes in containers with a 16-inch diameter. Cucumbers, eggplants, squash and tomatoes need containers with a diameter of 20 to 22 inches. Lettuce spinach and other greens have shallow roots and can grow well containers over 22 inches.
The benefit of container planting is that you can move container plants to follow the sun. Leafy crops like cabbage, greens, lettuce and spinach don’t need as much sun. Root crops--including, beets, onions, radishes, and turnips--need more sun.
Cucumbers, corn, melons, and tomatoes will not tolerate frost. Broccoli, cabbage, carrots, onions, peas and spinach can tolerate cooler weather, even frost.