Planting a container vegetable garden is not much different than planting your in-ground vegetable or kitchen garden. The same seasonal requirements apply–plant cool-season crops in early spring or late summer; plant warm-season crops in spring and summer.
Because your container garden space is limited in size–including the depth of the soil for root growth–first, select a container that is big enough for the crop you want to grow, next choose crop varieties or cultivars that will grow well in containers. You will have success with vegetables that are described as “compact,” “bush,” or “dwarf.”
The advantages to container gardening are many:
- All you need to start is a trowel, premixed soil, and container.
- Care is easier: container gardens rarely get weeds; diseased soil is easily tossed; water is almost always close by since most container gardens are on patios, porches, or balconies
- Containers are mobile: you can take advantage of sun and seasonal changes; plants are more easily sheltered from cold.
- Harvest is quick: place your containers near the kitchen.
- Almost every plant that grows in your in-ground garden will grow in your container garden provided the container is large enough.
Because container gardens offer so much freedom, add to the adventure by growing gourmet varieties that you do not commonly find at the farm market or produce store. Here are a few suggestions: snap peas (round, fat, and crunchy), Mizuna (frilly salad leaves), winter purslane (small succulent leaves); salad burnet (salad green tastes like cucumber), spice basil (tastes like its name), garlic chives (on potatoes or in salsa), fava beans (try them fresh), beets (how about red-swirled), purple tomatillos (enough said), miniature sweet peppers (try Jingle Bells).
Check out seed catalogs–most will recommend varieties for container growing. Here is a list of kitchen garden vegetable and herb varieties and cultivars that you can try and a suggested minimum container size for growing one plant. If you want to grow more than one plant in container add three-quarters again the width to the container.
Vegetable Varieties for Container Growing:
|Vegetable||Variety or Cultivar||Container Size: minimum for one plant|
|Artichoke||Green Globe, Imperial Star, Violetto||24″ deep|
|Beans, Lima||Bush Baby, Bush Lima, Fordhook, Fordhook 242||12″ wide x 8-10″ deep|
|Beans, Snap||Bush Blue Lake, Bush Romano, Contender, Provider, Rushmore, Tendercrop Stringless||1′ wide x 1′ deep|
|Beets||Baby Canning, Burpee Golden, Little Ball, Red Ace Hybrid, Ruby Queen||6″ wide x 6-12″ deep|
|Broccoli||Arcadia, Green Comet, Munchkin, Small Miracle||8-12″ wide x 20″ deep|
|Brussels sprouts||Jade Cross, Oliver, Rubine||12″ wide x 18-20″ deep|
|Cabbage||Baby Head, Dwarf Morden, Earliball, Fast Ball, Flash, Minicole||8-12″ wide x 1′ deep|
|Carrots||Amini, Baby Fingers Nantes, Baby Spike, Best of the Bunch, Danver’s Half Long, Early Horn, Gold Nugget, Kinko, Nantes Half Long, Little Finger, Round Baby, Short & Sweet, Thumbelina, Tiny Sweet,||10″ wide x 10″ deep|
|Cauliflower||Snow Cross, Violet Queen||18″ wide x 2-3′ deep|
|Celery||Conquistador, Early Snowball, Redventure, Ventura||8-10″ wide x 10″ deep|
|Chard||Bright Lights, Fordhook, Fordhook Giant, Lucullus, Ruby Red||12-18″ wide x 1′ deep|
|Chinese cabbage||Bok Choy, Michihli, Wong Bok||1′ wide x 20″ deep|
|Collards||Any variety||12″ deep|
|Corn||F-M Cross, Golden Bantam, Kandy Korn, Luther Hill, Precocious||3′ wide x 1′ deep; 3 per container to insure pollination.|
|Cress||Curly Cress, Upland Cress||8″ wide x 6-8″ deep|
|Cucumber||Burpee Hybrid II, Burpee Pickler, Bush Baby, Bush Champion, Bush Crop, Bush Pickle, Fanfare, Patio Pik, Pickalot, Picklebush, Pot Luck, Salad Bush, Spacemaster. Pickling: Lucky Strike||1′ wide x 16″ deep|
|Edible Flowers||Bachelor’s Button, Calendula, Dianthus, Marigold, Nasturtium, Sunflower, Violas||8-10″ deep|
|Eggplant||Bambino, Black Beauty, Dusky, Easter Egg, Florida Market, Long Tom, Millionaire, Morden Midget||16″ deep x 18″ deep|
|Endive, Escarole||Bianca Riccia, Nataly, Neos||8″ wide x 6-8″ deep|
|Garlic||German Extra Hardy||10-12″ deep|
|Herbs||Basil, Borage, Chamomile, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Shiso, Tarragon, Thyme||8-10″ deep|
|Horseradish||Maliner Kren||5 gallon or larger|
|Kale||Any variety||8″ wide x 8″ deep|
|Kohlrabi||Grand Duke||12″ deep|
|Leeks||King Richard, Lincoln||10-12″ deep|
|Lettuce||Black-Seeded Simpson, Buttercrunch, Cos, Green Ice, Green Looseleaf, Little Gem, Mignonette, Oakleaf Red Sails, Red Fire, Red Looseleaf, Salad Bowl, Tom Thumb||8″ wide x 6-8″ deep|
|Mustard||Green Wave, Osaka Purple, Red Giant||8-12″ deep|
|Onion||Bunching types: Beltsville Bunching, Crystal Wad Pickling, Japanese Bunching, White Bunching, White Pear. Standards: Copra, Early Yellow Globe, South Redport||10-12″ deep|
|Parsley||Dark Moss Curled, Paramount||8″ deep|
|Peas||Burpee’s Blue Bantam, Early Patio, Laxton’s Progress, Little Marvel, Melting Sugar, Snowbird, Sugar Ann, Sugar Bon, Sugar Daddy, Sugar Mel, Sugar Rae. Snow Peas: Little Sweetie||1′ deep x 1′ wide|
|Peppers||All varieties: Canapé, Jalapeno, Jingle Bells, Keystone, Peppery Pot, Pimento, Resistant Giant, Red Cherry, Yolo Wonder||16″ deep x 18″ deep|
|Potatoes||Charlotte, Cobbler, Irish, Epicure, Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Rose Finn Apple, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold||20 gallon|
|Pumpkins||Autumn Gold Hybrid, Baby Boo, Baby Bear, Bushkin, Jack Be Little, Small Sugar, Sweetie Pie||5 gallon tub – 3′ deep|
|Radicchio||Chioggia Red Preco, Fiero, Indigo, Pall de Fuoco Rossa; Daikon||8″ wide x 6-8″ deep|
|Radish||Burpee White, Champion, Cherry Belle, Comet, Icicle, Early Scarlet Globe, French Breakfast, Red Boy, Sparkler||5″ wide x 4-6 inches deep|
|Spinach||Any variety: American Viking, Long Standing Bloomsdale, Melody||6-8″ wide x 4-6″ deep|
|Squash, summer||Crookneck, Early Yellow Summer, Eightball, Gold Rush, Goldberg, Park’s Creamy Hybrid, Peter Pan Scalloping, Pic-N-Pic Hybrid, Richgreen Hybrid, Straightneck, Sunburst, Zephyr||24″ deep|
|Squash, winter||Butterbush, Bush Acorn, Bush Delicata, Bush Table, Cream of the Crop, Table King, Queen Heart of Gold||24″ deep|
|Strawberries||Alpine, Sarian, Tristar||8-12″ deep|
|Sweet Potato||Beauregard, Georgia Jet, Vardaman||20 gallon|
|Tomatoes||Basket Pak, Container Choice, Gardener’s Delight, Husky Gold, Husky Red, Lunch Box, Micro Tom, Patio VF, Pixie, Red Cherry, Rutgers, Saladette, Small Fry VFN, Spring Giant, Sundrop, Super Bush, Sweet 100, Tiny Tim, Toy Boy, Tumbling Tom, Yellow Canary, Yellow Pear, Whippersnapper||Dwarf cultivars: 6-8″ wide x 1′ deep. Standard cultivars: 2′ wide x 2-3′ deep.|
|Turnips||Hakurei, Purple Top White Globe||10-12″ wide x 12″ dee|
This is Part II of a three part series on Container Gardening.