Keep herbs handy for easy clipping

Summertime meals are made for just-picked flavors from the garden, so keep savory herbs in pots near your back door for quick snipping when you’re cooking up a storm.

Use raised beds

A raised bed is an excellent option if your soil isn’t up to par. Build the bed frame using materials like untreated wood, stone, or bricks. Ensure the raised bed is at least 16 inches (40 centimeters) deep to allow plant roots to grow. Fill the bed with topsoil or triple mix; compost or composted manure may be added for heavy feeders.

Make it pretty

Play with color—juicy red, deep aubergine, and crisp citrine—and texture to create attractive displays that are as easy on your eyes as they are on your taste buds. Lettuce, with its striking foliage, makes for a lovely edible border in early spring. Once the lettuce is harvested, plant small, colorful hot peppers (like habanero or jalapeño).

Separate invasive plants

Be careful of aggressive spreaders, such as strawberries and mint, which can take over your garden. Plant them in individual containers, where you can reap the tasty benefits and keep plants controlled at the same time.

Incorporate edibles into your living space

Use a combination of built-in raised beds and containers to bring an edible oasis onto your deck. No space? No problem—this design works as well for a small condo balcony as it does for an oversized backyard patio.

Think outside the pots

Make attractive con­tainers for individual plants with recycled tin cans and jars. Wash and dry the jar or can, then drill holes in the bottom for good drainage.

Mix edibles and ornamentals

Combine practical and pretty: In addition to being beautiful, flowers draw pollinators and beneficial insects (such as ladybugs) to your garden to help control the harmful pests.

Mulch it up

Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil, adds organic matter, and discourages weeds; it also makes an attractive back­ground. Straw is a traditional organic mulch, but be sure to avoid hay, which contains weed seeds.

Create a border

To add structure to your vegetable garden, plant a border. Boxwood was used here, but it can be high maintenance. Try lavender or germander, which have similar growing requirements to a vegetable garden.

Let them climb

A surprising array of annual crops—pole beans and peas—are well suited to growing vertically with the support of a trellis. Vertical plantings take up less ground space and can cover up unattractive siding on your house.

Keep out pests

Use a sheet of thin-gauge chicken wire to deter pests from digging up your seeds before they sprout.

Make your own markers

With so many distinctive heirloom varieties available these days, be sure to identify your plants so you can keep track of what you’d like to plant again next year. Get creative with Popsicle sticks—washed and dried; they make excellent markers and are a fun project for kids.

Even the smallest nook and cranny can accommodate a pot of edibles.

Whether it’s a backyard patio, small apartment balcony, the edge of a driveway, or even an urban rooftop, all you need is a space with a few hours of sunlight to grow container veggies. Colorful crops such as cabbage and red lettuce, multicolored ‘Bright Lights’ Swiss chard, and orange and yellow peppers add visual allure. And while you’re at it, combine pots of flowers, particularly edible ones such as nasturtiums, bergamot, lavender, and pansies.

When choosing vegetables, the most crucial consideration is how many hours of sunlight the growing area receives. If possible, select a site with easy access to water; being able to hook up a hose to a garden tap or an indoor faucet will save you laborious and time-consuming trips with a watering can.

What are the requirements for vegetable containers?

You have several options for containers, including buckets, barrels, garbage pails, and plastic crates lined with plastic garbage bags—even window boxes or hanging baskets should work. Bear in mind, though, that clay pots, unless they’re glazed, absorb moisture from the soil, so your plants will need more frequent watering.

Consider the following vegetable container tips:

  • If your growing area is on a rooftop or an apartment balcony, use lightweight pots and a lightweight soilless mix. If you’re planning on having multiple containers, check if your building has any weight restrictions.
  • Avoid using anything that’s been coated with toxic substances or preservatives.
  • If the pot is too little, the plant may develop poorly and become root-bound.
  • Drainage holes in the bottom are critical.
  • Smaller containers require more frequent watering; those less than 20 centimeters wide are challenging to maintain.

How to prepare your fruit and vegetable pots?

Before you add the potting mix to the container, place fiberglass screening (available at hardware stores) or landscape cloth over the base’s holes to keep soil in and undesired creatures out. Fill to within a few inches of the top and carefully press the mix down—not enough to compact it but sufficient to settle the mix (if needed, add more to once more bring it to the required level). If the soil doesn’t contain slow-release fertilizer, mix in an organic fertilizer or slow-release types, such as 10-10-10 or similar all-purpose fertilizer for greens 5-10-10 for other vegetables, according to manufacturer’s directions.

How to plant your vegetable pots?

Once you’ve decided on a container, a suitable growing medium is essential for success. The mix (available with or without soil) needs to be porous enough to allow for good drainage and oxygen to reach plant roots. It must also hold moisture well; most garden soil is not suitable, as it becomes too compacted when wet. Buy the best available (ask a knowledgeable person at a garden center for advice, as there is usually more than one quality for sale). You can also add compost or composted manure (up to one part compost/manure to three parts potting mix).

While some vegetables can be planted in cold weather, others require warm temperatures. You can sow seeds directly into the containers or plant out seedlings. Thin seedlings once their first real leaves appear. After planting, water well.

Tip: A liquid seaweed solution—available at garden centers and nurseries—gives veggies a good start (follow manufacturer’s directions).

The leaves of the vegetables should become dark green (unless they’re specially colored), and the plant should grow at a steady rate. If the leaves are pale or discolored and growth is slow or stunted, they most likely need fertilizing (see Feeding schedule for more details).

When you check your containers for dryness, also examine plants for disease and pests. Remove any diseased plants and destroy (do not compost). If possible, isolate those that have pests. Aphids are a reasonably common problem and can be washed off with a shower of water; repeat every four or five days. Remove dead leaves to discourage mold.

At the end of the season, empty your containers, saving half the soil. (Don’t leave filled clay or ceramic pots outside over winter, as they may crack.) Refill your containers the following spring with a combination of fresh potting mix and saved soil.

Vegetable Pot Feeding Schedule

  • Some potting mixes contain slow-release fertilizer. In this case, vegetables won’t need feeding for eight to 10 weeks after planting. If you’re using good-quality soil, compost, and organic fertilizer, you can wait four to six weeks. Then add liquid fertilizer every two weeks or if plants need it once a week. Exceeding the amount recommended on the package can burn or even kill the plants.
  • Even better: feed your plants with composted manure (any kind is acceptable except for chicken, too high in salt) or compost tea. (To make tea, suspend a cloth bag containing one part compost or composted manure into a pail with five to eight parts water. After one day, the water will turn dark brown; dilute to the color of weak tea before using.)
  • Properly fertilizing your plants is essential for success. How often depends on your growing medium, the quality and nutritional value of your compost (if used), and the type of vegetable.

What is the correct watering routine for vegetable pots?

A regular watering routine is crucial to successful vegetable growing. Containers dry out quickly and need to be checked at least once a day. On sunny, dry days or in scorching conditions, such as those found on rooftops, they may need to be checked twice daily. Even after a rainfall, don’t assume the container has been sufficiently watered, as leaves can prevent the water from reaching the soil.

Water when the soil feels dry 2.5 centimeters below the surface. To help prevent problems with mold or fungus, water in the morning. If you must water at night, avoid wetting the leaves.

When you water, make three passes with the watering can or hose (holding each time until the water reaches the top of the pot). Initially, the water will likely run right through because the soil is dry. If the soil has separated from the pot around the edges after the first pass, gently press it back against the container’s inside. Water a second time until water once again drains out the bottom. The third time, thoroughly soak the soil.

Watering is more challenging if your containers rest on saucers, as roots can rot if a plant sits in water. Remove any water that hasn’t been absorbed after 20 minutes—don’t forget to check plants after heavy rainfall, too. Choose saucers with raised supports or put a layer of pebbles, gravel, or river rocks on the saucer’s bottom.

Temperature, Light, and Planting Chart

Light requirements: High—5-8 hours of sunlight; Medium—5-6 hours; Low—4 hours
Temperature: Warm— 59 Fahrenheit (around 15°C) needs warm soil and air temperatures; doesn’t tolerate frost; Cool—May survive a light frost; will grow in colder temperatures
Planting: Seeds—Seedlings—best planted as seedlings – best planted as seeds;

Beans

Light: High

Temp.: Warm

Planting: Seedlings or seeds

Tips: For a sustained crop of bush beans, sow every 2 to 3 weeks throughout midsummer

Beets

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds

Tips: Keep well watered to prevent scab

Kale, Broccoli, Cauliflower, and Cabbage

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seedlings

Tips: Grow in 22-liter containers. Spray with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) or use a row cover to minimize insect damage

Carrots

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds

Tips: Choose varieties with small, ball-shaped roots for shallow containers.

Melons and Cucumbers

Light: High

Temp.: Warm

Planting: Seeds or seedlings

Tips: Three cucumber or two melon vines will grow well in a 90-liter garbage pail. They need their flowers pollinated by bees; otherwise, you can hand-pollinate with a paintbrush in the morning.

Peppers and Eggplant

Light: High

Temp.: Warm

Planting: Seedlings

Tips: If you plant before the weather and soil are warm, growth and fruiting will be set back

Leeks

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Start seeds 10-12 weeks before last spring frost date

Tips: Use containers at least 45 cm deep. Fill with 20 cm of soil; plant seedlings. As they grow, top-up containers with soil to keep stems blanched.

Lettuce

Light: Low

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds or seedlings

Tips: In hot weather, it does best with afternoon shade and the morning sun

Onion

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds or sets

Tips: Keep well watered to prevent small, pungent bulbs

Peas

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds

Tips: For autumn crop, sow two months before the first fall frost

Asian greens

Light: Low

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds or seedlings

Tips: Follow package instructions for when to plant each specific type and how to avoid problems with bolting

Potatoes

Light: Medium

Temp.: Warm

Planting: Tubers

Tips: Containers should be at least 45 cm deep. Keep well watered to

avoid scab.

Swiss chard

Light: Low

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds or seedlings

Tips: Water well to keep from bolting to seed

Radishes

Light: Medium

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seedlings

Tips: Small, round radishes can be grown in a container as shallow as a shoebox; best grown in spring and fall

Squash

Light: High

Temp.: Warm

Planting: Seeds or seedlings

Tips: Best grown in a 90-liter garbage pail. Flowers must be pollinated by bees or hand-pollinated in the morning.

Tomatoes

Light: High

Temp.: Warm

Planting: Seedlings

Tips: For large varieties, use 22-liter containers; fill with soil to within 7.5 to 10 cm of the top. Plant seedling somewhat deeper than it was growing. As the seedling grows, remove lower leaves and add more soil.

Spinach

Light: Low

Temp.: Cool

Planting: Seeds

Tips: Best grown in fall and spring; will bolt to seed in summer