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Ten Great Container Vegetables

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Let's be honest. There is no such thing as a fool-proof vegetable and there are no guarantees with any kind of gardening. The weather, critters and mistakes can make container gardening, well...interesting. However, these ten vegetables are a joy to grow in containers.

Tomatoes

container gardening picture of three heart tomatoes
Photograph © Kerry Michaels

You could almost start and end this discussion with tomatoes. They are overwhelmingly the favorite vegetable for gardeners to grow. Growing tomatoes in containers is easy and incredibly satisfying - there really is nothing better than eating a tomato from your garden that is still warm from the sun.

There are many ways of growing tomatoes – every gardener has their favorite - you can even grow them upside-down. There are a few things that you will need to know, no matter which of the millions of varieties of tomato that you decide to grow.

Tomatoes need great soil, plenty of sun and consistent watering. Most tomatoes also are happiest in big containers and will need staking, to keep the heavy fruit (yes, tomatoes are a fruit, not actually a vegetable), from bending and breaking the vine.

If you are buying tomato seedlings, look for short, stocky plants that don’t have blossoms yet. Tomatoes don’t like to be cold so don’t be tempted to put them out too early, they will just become stressed and won’t grow as well. Your soil should be at least 55°F during the day and nighttime temperatures shouldn’t go below 40 °F. Make sure to harden off seedlings well before you plant them.

When planting tomato seedlings, plant them deep – much deeper than you would most plants.

For more info on growing tomatoes in containers:

5 Tips for Growing Tomatoes in Containers

Peas

Peas are a great cool weather vegetable - they stop producing when it gets too hot.  Peas are perfect for succession planting – plant them in early spring and then when it gets warm, and they are finished producing, pull them out and plant something else in that container. They actually improve your soil, by adding nitrogen to it, so your next batch of plants will have a leg up. I grow snow peas, sugar snaps and English (aka shell) peas in containers. Peas are also one of the best vegetables to grow with children.

How to Grow Peas In Containers
 

Potatoes

container gardening picture of seed potatoes
Photo © Kerry Michaels

Potatoes are one of my favorite things to grow in containers - they taste totally different than the potatoes you buy. While it takes some effort to grow potatoes in containers, as well as a fair amount of soil and water, the rewards are fantastic. If you have never had a freshly dug potato, you are in for a total treat. They are also a great vegetable to grow with kids.

How To Grow Potatoes in Containers
 

Squash

container gardening picture of Honeybear squash
Photo © Johnny's Seeds

To be honest, I don’t grow too much squash, because it is really cheap and abundant at farmers markets and local groceries. Neighbors give it away by the bundle. However, there are some really cool varieties of squash that you can grow, that are hard to find. Squash is an easy vegetable to grow and squash blossoms are beautiful and edible.

Most squash takes up a lot of space and will need a fairly large container, lots of light, good soil and consistent watering and feeding.

Growing Zuchini and Summer Squashes

If you are going to grow winter squash in a container, make sure the variety you choose is not one of the giants, whose fruit can weigh in at well over 20 pounds.

Honeybear is an award winning smaller variety of acorn squash and there are even tiny pumpkins you can grow.

Growing Winter Squash

 

Lettuce and Salad Greens

Growing lettuce and other salad greens in containers is my idea of heaven. It’s easy, fast and gives you huge bang for your gardening buck. I also love growing lettuce because it has shallow roots, so you don’t need a huge pot to grow it in, which allows for some really fun choices for containers.

There are all kinds of great salad green and mesclun mixes you can buy that are great for containers. Some are so beautiful, you can use them in decorative pots. I like Johnny's Elegance Greens Mix, and Renee's Monet's Garden Mesclun and Hudson Vally Seed Library's Meclun Mix

How to Grow Lettuce
 

Peppers

Photo © Kerry Michaels

I love growing both sweet and hot peppers. Some are so glorious looking that I use them in decorative containers. Both hot and sweet peppers can be spectacularly beautiful. I like growing orange and purple peppers sweet peppers in containers. They thrive in growboxes, but can be grown in any large container, with lots of sun, good drainage and consistent watering.

Growing Sweet Peppers

Hot peppers come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They range in hotness from mild to searing (measured on the Scoville Scale). My favorite is ‘black pearl,’ which is hot and beautiful.  as well as larger varieties that are great to grow in Smart Pots or growboxes.
 

Cucumbers

container gardening picture of a cucumber
Photo © Kerry Michaels

Cucumbers are another popular vegetable to grow in containers and for good reason. They are crisper and tastier when fresh picked and they are pretty easy to grow. I’m kind of addicted to eating fresh picked cukes right off the vine as I do garden chores.

I love the smaller varieties, often called pickling cukes, but there are thousands of great cukes to grow. Cucumbers are good candidates for straw bale gardens, and grow boxes

You can grow almost any cucumber in a container, but they vary widely in taste and disease resistance. My current favorite cucumbers to grow in containers are divas. Fortunatley the name doesn't describe their personality, but their taste.

Radishes

container gardening picture of French Breakfast Radishes
Photo © Kerry Michaels

Radishes are container vegetable gardening heaven for me. They grow ridiculously quickly and some varieties are gorgeous. I also love eating the greens as I thin the radishes. Ok, to be honest I like eating the greens better than the radishes, so some I grow just for the greens.

Radishes can be grown in full sun to part shade. They don't like to get too hot though.

I like French Breakfast radishes and Easter Egg Blend

How to Grow Radishes in Containers

Arugula

container gardening picture of arugula flowers
Photo © Kerry Michaels

While arugula really is a salad green, I want to give it its own shout out because of its awesomeness and its edible flowers. While I love the spicy taste of the arugula leaves, the flowers are what knock my taste buds out. They are sweet and spicy at the same time and are also beautiful. While I don’t particularly care for the texture of some edible flowers, that isn’t the case with arugula, they are completely delightful. Oh, and arugula is really easy to grow.

How to Grow Arugula

Eggplant

Photograph © Kerry Michaels

Eggplant is one of those great vegetables that also works as an ornamental. Some small varieties are very pretty and easy to grow. The flowers are also gorgeous.

My personal favorite eggplanst to grow are fairytale,’ and 'Hansel' which are both compact plants with beautiful and tasty fruit (and yes, eggplant is technically a fruit). You can pick them as babies or wait until they get a little larger. They are both thin-skinned so no need to peel before you cook them.

 

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