Do you want to grow your own food, but don’t have any land? Try container gardening! Here are 21 different crops you can grow in containers so you can garden no matter where you live!
My very first garden as an adult wasn’t actually a garden at all. It was 3 large planter boxes on the deck of my townhouse.
It’s a common misconception that you have to own your own land or live in the country to grow your own food- but that’s not true! You can grow food crops in containers or pots just as easily!
First, what is container gardening?
It’s exactly as it sounds. Gardening that takes place entirely in containers or pots. I’ll get to the type of pots later, but all you need is a large container, some soil, and seeds or plant starts.
21 Foods You Can Grow in Containers or Pots
Now let’s get to what you can grow in pots. This is not an exhaustive list…and really you can probably grow just about anything in a container if you really wanted to, but here is a list of 21 foods you can easily grow in containers.
Lettuce is a simple crop to start from seed and it doesn’t need a lot of space.That makes it perfectly set up to grow in pots.
You can grow lettuce in long, window box-like planters very easily.
Want to know more? Here’s how to grow lettuce from seed.
Like lettuce, spinach is another green that can be grown easily in containers. Spinach is a cool weather crop that can be grown all year long in many places.
Container grown spinach can easily be brought inside during cold nights and keep you harvesting all winter long.
It can also be grown in long, window box-like planters.
Want to know more? Here’s how to grow spinach from seed.
Another great green to grow in pots is Kale. This superfood is very popular, but it’s so easy to grow your own!
Just one kale plant can feed you kale all season long!
Here’s how to grow kale.
Asian Greens (Bok Choy, Pak Choi)
If you are seeing a pattern, greens are all great for container gardening! Asian greens such as Bok Choy or Pak Choi are also easy to grow in pots.
These are also cool loving crops that grow well before the heat loving crops like tomatoes and peppers take over.
Here’s how to grow these greens.
Radishes are super easy to grow from seed and really quick to harvest.
They are small plants without a large root system that make them perfect for planting in pots.
Small radishes won’t need much room at all and can be planted in window boxes or even in containers like gutters!
Want to learn more? Here’s how to grow radishes.
Unlike radishes, carrots need taller containers due to their larger roots, but they can still be successfully grown in containers.
There are even smaller, round varieties that grow similarly in size to radishes called Parisian carrots that can be grown in shallow containers that are perfect for container growing.
Here’s more on growing carrots.
Onions are another root crop that can be easily grown in planters. You can either start from seed or from smaller sets.
You can grow onions in window boxes or long planters.
You can also companion plant onions in pots with your other crops to help with pests!
And finally, another root crop that can be planted in pots is the beet! Beets are highly nutritious with loads of folate, manganese, potassium and vitamin C.
Like other root crops, beets can be grown in window box containers or long, shallow planters.
Tomatoes are probably one of many gardener’s favorite things to grow. I know it is mine! Luckily you don’t have to have a huge yard to grow tomatoes!
Tomatoes grow well in pots. One plant can give you enough for fresh eating all summer and maybe some to preserve as well!
In general you will plant one tomato plant per large pot and you will need to provide support to stake your tomatoes to keep them off the ground.
Want to know more? Here’s how to grow tomatoes.
Peppers are just like tomatoes- and they are super easy to grow in containers. Peppers love sun and heat so make sure you have a sunny spot to set them.
Like tomatoes, one plant per large pot is the best way to grow peppers in pots.
Here’s how to grow peppers from seed.
Eggplant is another nightshade that can grow very well in a pot. Eggplant can be hard to start from seed, though it’s worth it if you can. You can also start with plant starts from your local nursery.
One eggplant plant should be more than enough especially if you choose a very prolific variety.
Yes, cucumbers! You wouldn’t think that you can grow cucumbers in a container but you can!
Cucumbers produce long vines so if you don’t want the vines all over your deck, it’s best to give them a trellis to climb up (here’s 5 ideas for cucumber trellises!)
Zucchini is a summer squash that can produce more food than you’ll know what to do with!
Plants can get quite bushy and long as they grow, so you may want to try to stake the plant a little bit to keep it stable.
One seed and one large pot is all you need for way too much summer squash!
Here’s how to grow squash from seed.
Potatoes are a great calorie crop that can fill your family up and give you plenty of food and energy. Since most potatoes grow directly under the plant, you don’t need a ton of space to grow potatoes.
A large deep container- like a 5 gallon bucket- can make the perfect spot to grow potatoes.
Or you could try making a large potato tower!
Sweet potatoes aren’t in the same family as white potatoes- they are actually in the morning glory family.
But similar to potatoes, sweet potatoes grow directly under the vine, and that makes growing them in pots easy!
Sweet potatoes do produce long vines (with pretty flowers) but you’ll want to give them something to climb so they don’t take over!
Here’s how to grow sweet potatoes.
Beans are a quick and easy crop to grow and do very well in containers.
Plant beans about 4 inches apart in your planter- either in a line or around in a circle. If you’re planting pole beans, be sure to provide a trellis for them to climb up!
Peas are one of my favorite cool weather crops. And while it might be hard to plant enough to preserve in containers, you can definitely grow peas in containers.
Like beans, plant the seeds about 4 inches apart in your containers. Give your peas a small trellis to climb up as well.
Here’s more on growing peas from seed.
Basil is a wonderful aromatic and culinary herb. It’s an annual herb that can easily be grown in containers- both inside and outside!
If you prune (harvest!) basil regularly you will never run out! It’s a great compliment to any Italian dish or salad.
Here’s how to grow basil from seed.
Want to grow your own fruit but don’t have a yard? Try strawberries.
They don’t need a lot of room and you can fit a lot of plants into just one pot or planter.
We have pots specifically made for growing strawberries on our back deck and we’ve used an old cracked wheelbarrow as well.
I love growing perennial herbs in my garden- but I actually prefer to grow them in pots so I can move them as needed.
Container growing will also keep the more invasive herbs such as mint in check and keep it from taking over the yard.
Examples of herbs you can grow in pots are:
These are also great companion planting herbs to help with pests.
And finally, broccoli. Broccoli is a cool weather crop that you can plant in your pots before the heat loving summer veggies like tomatoes and peppers.
Broccoli can grow quite large, and is a heavy feeder, so one plant per container is all you need.
Here’s more on growing broccoli.
Container Gardening FAQ
Now that we’ve talked about WHAT to grow in containers, let’s talk more about HOW.
What kind of container do I need?
This is probably the most common question for new container gardeners. What type of container should I use??
You’ve got tons of options here. Such as:
- 5 gallon buckets
- Fabric grow bags
- Terra cotta pots
- Wooden half barrels
- Plastic planters
- Wooden window boxes
The type of planter isn’t terribly important. Plants aren’t picky.
The biggest thing is drainage. Make sure your container has drainage holes or drill some yourself.
You could also consider growing aeroponically- in a container like a Tower Garden. These amazing towers grow plants more quickly, without soil, in any kind of location.
How big of a container do I need?
This is actually a more important question. The answer will actually depend on what crop you are growing, but here are some of my suggestions.
- 5 Gallon Buckets are perfect for crops like potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, squash etc. that have longer and larger root systems.
- Shallower, but wider, planters like window boxes or long plastic planters are perfect for greens and roots.
- Wider, 3-5 gallon containers are perfect for crops like beans, peas, and multiple herbs.
Really, the more space you give your crops the better. So it’s okay if the pot is larger than you think it needs to be.
What kind of soil?
Your plants will need nutrients as they grow and that’s where your soil comes in. You need a soil that can drain easily but still conserve some water.
A mixture of potting soil, garden soil, and compost can be great!
How to Care for Vegetables in Containers
Now that you have chosen a container for your crops and planted them, now what? How do you care for your growing plants?
For the most part, growing in a garden is no different than growing in containers. So if you have read up on how to grow the different crops you should have a good idea on how to care for them.
The main difference is going to be with water.
In the ground, your plants’ roots will grow deeper in search of water when it’s dry. The ground will also help conserve water. Rain is usually enough to keep the garden growing.
But in container grown plants, relying on rain only will produce dead plants.
Containers will dry out much more quickly and you will need to water more frequently.
If you live in a very hot, sunny place you may have to water every day. Water thoroughly but don’t drown your plants. And water again before the soil in the container is completely dry.
Other than that, daily tasks might be:
- Checking for and removing pests
- Tying plants to stakes or trellises
- Checking for signs of deficiencies (and feeding appropriately)
And that’s about it! As you can see you can easily grow your own food crops completely in containers. So quit putting it off and start your own container garden today!