Growing Vegetables in Containers

Why Grow Food in Containers ?

With modern backyards becoming smaller, many people are turning to alternative methods of producing food for their familes. Growing vegetables and herbs in pots can be even easier than traditional gardening, and can produce fantastic yields of tasty, organic food with only a little work.

There are many varieties of Vegetables, Herbs, and Fruit that can be successfully grown in containers. I'll mention some specific varieties later, but also look out for seeds and seedlings at your local nursery that are marked as good for container growing.

I've grown many different things in pots, many of them might not be recommended for growing in containers but you'd be surprised how well some plants do if you give them enough light, water, and nutrients. Photos in this hub are from my own garden, and I'll post up more as I think to take them.

Mixed varieties of lettuce thriving in a large black plastic tub
Mixed varieties of lettuce thriving in a large black plastic tub

Containers for Vegetable Gardening

Luckily for home gardeners, there are many kinds of containers suitable for growing in, and many of them are available very cheaply, some even for free. They all have their pros and cons, but in the end the most important factors are probably size and drainage. Make sure you have as much room as possible, and make sure that your containers are free draining, as stagnant water caught in the pots will very quickly kill some plants.

Commercial Pots: These are most commonly available as moulded plastics, and simple black plastic. The simpler varieties are the kind you're likely to pick up seedlings in at the nursery, but you can also buy much larger versions. They can hold 50 litres of potting mix and be more than 60cm in diameter, and so they make very cheap and hard wearing growing containers. Be aware that black plastic absorbs heat readily from the sun, and in hot conditions can cause the roots of a plant to overheat, in turn killing the plant. In cooler climates this can actually help keep plants warmer than in a regulargarden bed.

Terracota Pots: Traditional terracota pots I find very easy on the eye, especially in a traditional garden. They tend to be more expensive, especially in larger sizes. Terracota allows water to seep through and evaporate off the pot, so watering becomes very important.To combat this, you can spray the inside of the pot with a water sealant before planting.

Decorative Pots: Terracota, and more often glazed, moulded, shaped pots. These are not very useful for food gardening, and tend to be small.

Halved Wine Barrels: A classic for planting small fruit trees and mass plantings of vegetables. These are great if you can find them cheap, though many people seek them out and they've become quite scarce. Be wary of cheap imitation barrels, that are not built like traditional barrels and will not last long. Always treat barrels with a water repellant or sealant to help them last longer.

Recycling Bins: These are probably my favourite, as they're made of the same material as cheap plastic pots but they come in a much more appropriate range of sizes, such as rectangular boxes, which lend themselves very well to container gardening. Remember to puch a few drainage holes in the bottom.

Polystyrene Boxes: The budget choice, but also very practical. These can usually be picked up for free from the greengrocers, and are lightweight, usually have holes perfect for draining, and insulate the roots of the plants.

Potting Mixes

Potting mixes are a lot more important than people think, and by following a few simple rules you can ensure the success of your potted plants.

When adding a growth medium for pots, remember that the required structure is a lot different than what you would expect for soil. Never use garden soil to fill pots, as it does not have the best structure and will quickly collapse and become stale. Unless you can mix your own potting soil from quality ingredients, it is best to buy a certified potting mix from a reputable dealer.

Here in Australia it is easy to find a good quality potting mix because they are all labelled in accordance with standards. If you can't find the label, simply don't buy it. Look for the certified premium mix, as they meet high standards and will always produce better results. I have tried many cheap mixes, and often tried to improve them, but nothing has ever given me such good results as buying good quality mix to start with.

Planting Your Containers

This should be the most enjoyable part of your container growing experience, and I find is only exceeded when harvesting your first crops.

When planting in pots try to group items as close together as possible, while maintaining the required distance between plants. Try pushing plants closer together than recommended and you may well be surprised how well they grow. If you use a good quality potting mix with plenty of available nutrition for the plants, minimum spacings are less important. Do remember to allow each plant enough room to grow.

After planting, water your seedlings in with a dilute liquid seaweed fertiliser. I always find it boosts growth and gives plants a strong early start.

Young Tomato Plant
Young Tomato Plant

Coming Soon

  • My favourite container plants
  • Morepictures frommy garden
  • Step by step instructions and photos

Please leave a comment, I'd love to get some feedback on my first hub ;)

I'd also love to know what gardening topics you'd like me to write about, I love gardening, and I'd love to help everyone else get their start in the garden.

Comments 3 comments

Jo 6 years ago

Great, thans for the good advice. What I want to know is- what grows fastest!! (as my kids are taking on this project and it would be great for them to get some "quick results" to eat)


CasualNerd 6 years ago from Launceston Author

If you want quick results, plant some lettuce or other salad greens, and use a liquid seaweed fertiliser every few weeks to really boost them along. Some varieties are just as nice as baby leaves, so you'll only have to wait a couple of weeks.


parrster profile image

parrster 6 years ago from Oz

Thanks, that was helpful. My wife and I are just starting our own container vege garden.

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