UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County
University of California
UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County

General Gardening

Vegetables in containers

Many people live in small spaces and garden in patios or on balconies.  Even if your garden space is small, you should have room for at least one large container. And with that one container you can grow many vegetables.

There are a few basics for gardening in containers that vary a bit from in-ground gardening. The main difference is that the soil can be depleted of nutrients more quickly, since the frequent watering flushes out nutrients. However, that is easily managed by combining watering and fertilizing.

Here are the basics:
Sun – a minimum of six hours daily
Soil – a good potting soil is best
Water – be diligent when watering your containers, since the only source of water is what you provide
Mulch – generally not needed in a container, since generally there is not a weed problem
Fertilizer – use a complete, balanced fertilizer (one that contains nitrogen-phosphorous-potassium in approximately equal proportions); a liquid fertilizer can be added to your irrigation water
Support – very useful for saving space – many plants can be encouraged to grow up onto a support system, leaving space in the container for other plants
Containers – generally the bigger the better, because they don’t dry out as quickly as smaller containers do, but most any size will do if you are careful about watering. Match the size of the container with the plant.  Root vegetables and deeply rooted vegetables (carrots, beets, tomatoes) require larger, deeper containers than leafy vegetables (lettuce, spinach, chard). Also, it is critical to have drainage holes in the bottom of any container.

What vegetables will grow in a container?  The answer is, almost any.

Here’s a short list. And if the vegetable you like is not on the list, you can always try it and see if it grows.

      Warm Season           Cool Season     
cucumber Asian greens
eggplant beets
peppers lettuce
snap beans peas
squash radish
tomatoes spinach


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