Container Vegetable Gardening: The Complete Guide

Container Vegetable Gardening

Everyone deserves to experience the joy of growing. One of the easiest and simplest ways to enter into the gardening world is through container vegetable gardening.

Gardenuity Garden Home Decor

Whether you’re a first-time gardener or an experienced flower grower, a container garden should be fun and rewarding experience that yields a successful harvest. No matter where your container garden is located — patio, fire escape, or balcony — or what you’re growing, it should be a stress-free experience that makes you happier.

In this article, The Gardenuity Grow Pros share the step-by-step way to find success in container vegetable gardening.

The trick to a fruitful gardening experience is to prepare and build partnerships. Our Grow Pro team is the ideal partner.

Today, we’ll walk you through how to achieve the best results in your homegrown harvests. shares their best ideas for an enjoyable gardening experience — from choosing containers and soil, to when to water and feed your plant.

FIRST THINGS FIRST

The first thing to remember is this: you don’t need a sprawling yard or spacious raised beds to experience the “I grew that” moment! Growing a vegetable or herb garden comes down to making smart choices that fit your reality. The time of year you plant, what you want to grow, and how you want to grow it are key things to consider when getting started.

Most importantly though, remember to have fun and make it personal! Let your space help define your creativity.

PLAN AND PREPARE

Weather Alert

If you’re ready to plant right now, understand what your growing options are.

Think about the current weather and what is forecasted in the next few weeks and months.

How many days until the first or last frost?

How long will it take for your plant to fruit?

Every plant has its own timeline to thrive and bear fruit. Understanding that plant’s timeline will set you up for success.

Gardenuity Match is a great option to shorten your preparation process — they’ll match you to plants that you can successfully grow right now, wherever you are.

“Match was built to help match people to garden options, it’s based on a whole bunch of key realities, where you live, time of year, the time needed to harvest, the list goes on.”

Gardenuity Grow Pro Team

CHOOSE YOUR CONTAINER

Container vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be a second-best to the garden plot. The right container can create the perfect customized environment for your plant to thrive. Follow these two tips as you choose your container for the best gardening results.

1. Type matters!

The first thing to consider is the type of your container. There are many options: classic large pots, terra-cotta planters, concrete pots, plastic containers, resin bowls, grow bags, etc.

Grow Bags

Kara with Container Vegetable Gardens

In our experience, the most successful container is the grow bag. The Gardenuity grow bag is made of a micro-fiber that offers optimal air-flow for your roots. They are designed to ensure you don’t over-water your plants and come in all sizes. Lightweight, they’re easily moved from sun to shade.

“Grow bags are prime growing environments. We have had successful harvests of eggplants, watermelons, corn on the cob and leafy greens in the grow bag. We love the mobility — especially for our herb collections. It makes them easy to move around to protect the plants from the weather and too much sun.”

Gardenuity Grow Pros

Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets provide you with the chance for a harvest without taking up floor space, so they’re perfect for herbs and quick growing crops like leafy greens. Many hanging baskets come with a liner — our favorite liner is made of cocoa.

Terra-cotta Pots

Terra-cotta, which means ‘cooked clay,’ is easy to find and very affordable. Be careful, once they are filled, they can become heavy and often crack if exposed to freezing temperatures.

If you’re choosing terra-cotta, make sure to prepare the posts prior to planting. Scrub the inside and outside of the pot to remove any excess debris. Soak the pot in warm soapy water overnight and adding a tablespoon of bleach to help reduce the chance of plant disease. Soaking will also help the clay retain moisture, which will help the soil from drying out.

Resin

Resin is a very popular container right now. They’re lightweight and come in a variety of sizes. Just ensure the container has proper drainage holes!

In choosing a container, adequate drainage is imperative. There must be drainage holes for excess water to escape to keep the soil and plant roots from getting waterlogged. Good drainage also prevents excess salts from building up.

2. Size is Key

Bigger is often better for container gardening — especially for beginner gardeners, as you won’t need to water as often. Bigger means more soil mass and more moisture, which means a bigger root mass. This allows your plant to hold all the nutrients and water it needs so you getter a better yield at the end.

This being said, each plant type requires something different. Short rooted plants like herbs and leafy greens don’t require the depth of a tomato, eggplant, okra or pepper. 

For example, standard-sized tomatoes and vining plants, like cucumbers, do best in containers that are 20 inches in diameter or more, peppers need a pot that’s at least 16 inches in diameter, etc.

Most vegetables will grow in a 5–gallon container, but be sure to match your specific plant’s needs to the depth of your container.

PICK YOUR SOIL

Container Vegetable Garden

A major component of successful container vegetable gardening is getting the soil mixture right. Matching plant needs to the right soil may seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.

When you’re growing vegetables in containers, do not use garden soil. For best results, use soilless organic potting mixes, which you can find at your local store, or create your own soil, or buy a customized soil option.

Organic soil gives your plants better flavor, and soilless is important for moisture retention.

For more clarity on the differences between garden soil, topsoil, and potting soil, read here.

“We recommend building the perfect soil mixture from scratch. We build unique soil ecosystems based on the needs of the plant plus the realities of your location.”

Gardenuity Grow Pros

PRO TIP: To avoid the struggle of picking the right soil, use Gardenuity’s grow kit, which includes a soil mix uniquely customized to your seeds/seedlings.

Coir as a Soil Base

Coir is part of the Gardenuity customized soil. The coir is the fibrous husks from ripe coconuts and is often referred to as a soilless growing medium. Coconut coir is similar to sphagnum peat moss but more sustainable and is easier to use. Adding coir to your soil helps improve the soil structure.

Compost as a Soil Amendment

Compost is a soil amendment that, when added to your container garden, completes the soil environment. The compost improves soil and plants by returning organic matter to the soil in a usable form. Having organic matter as part of your growing media will improve plant growth, but it is not a stand-in for long planting medium.

SEEDS VS SEEDLINGS

Container Garden with Herbs

Seeds and seedlings each have their own benefits. Seedlings (often referred to as starter plants or transplants) will mature to harvest more quickly and have passed the most unstable part of a grow (the beginning), making them a great option for beginner growers.

When starting from seeds, think about the time the seeds will take to get to full maturity and how easy they are to germinate. Seed packets will give you this information. Most seed packets refer to first and last frost date, but since weather patterns are changing so quickly, use your own practical knowledge of your climate.

Seedlings, when you get them from a reputable grower, can make the gardening experience easier and more enjoyable for new growers. Good starter plants should have well-established root systems, are already on their way to maturity, and are ready to be moved into their new home.

EVALUATE THE ENVIRONMENT

Think of your container garden as a pet that needs a home. As a new plant parent, you want to create the perfect home for your new plant to thrive. Consider your climate and, then choose a space for your plant to live accordingly.

Wind can be especially problematic, depending on the growing season. Choose a protected location where wind won’t batter or dry out your foliage. Use the shelter of a building or create a temporary windbreak from fabric.

No matter what, it’s a good idea to arrange your plants carefully — if your climate tends towards extreme winds, put smaller plants towards the back.

If you struggle getting plants in the sun, make sure the smaller plants are seen! In any case, clustering plants will help to raise humidity levels and therefore keep plants more productive.

GROW PRO NOTE: When you’re container vegetable gardening with Gardenuity, we give you weather alerts through Grow Pro service. So if your garden is in danger from extreme weather, don’t worry. We’ll let you know and will provide the appropriate solution to ensure you have a stress free gardening experience with the healthiest harvest!

SUNLIGHT

Most plants require at least 6 hours of full sun, but each varies in its desire. Salad greens and herbs might be able to get away with less sunlight, while tomatoes and peppers want as much sun as they can get.

PRO TIP: If your patio has trouble getting sunlight, put your plants on caddies or casters so you can move them around during the day.

WATER NEEDS

Watering is statistically the trickiest part of container vegetable gardening — more plants die from overwatering than from anything else. Check out our grow pro tips on watering for detailed information on how to best take care of your plant.

Watering correctly is essential for ensuring your plants have a healthy growing season. Most people worry about underwatering their plants, but in reality, it is just as common to overwater your plants.

Know your plant’s needs, how your container holds water, and the weather. Plants have different moisture requirements, but every plant needs well-drained soil.

FOOD / FERTILIZER

Feeding your plants is as crucial to its survival as water. Your plants grow using energy from the sun and nutrients they find in the soil. While plants in the wild can send out “root scouts” to search for nutrients, plants in containers can’t do that. Regular feedings based on the needs of your plant is key to success.

Liquid feed along with slow-release fertilizers will help ensure your plants grow and produce a yield you love. You can feed your plants through their roots or leaves. If you are using liquid feeds, mix it with tepid water and then spray it directly onto the leaves.

Whatever type of plant food you select, make sure to read the label for directions. When you first plant, fertilize with organic fertilizer immediately. Then, feed again one month after planting with a water-soluble fertilizer.

Be careful to not over-fertilize! It will result in a grown plant that matured too quickly, got soft, and lost flavor.

GETTING STARTED, STEP-BY-STEP

  1. Decide what plants match your current season and pick a date to get started.
  2. Pick a safe and appropriately sunny location for your container garden. (Most plants need at least 6 hours of sun to fruit, but read up on growing tips for each plant.)
  3. Get smart about selecting the right home for your garden and pick a container that is as right for you as the plant.
  4. Get the soil right. Create the perfect media blend and fill up your container ¾ full.
  5. Plant your starter plants or seeds and water immediately.
  6. Feed and water your garden throughout its growth.
  7. Enjoy the journey!

GROW PRO TIP: Reach out to us! We love to help new gardeners with questions, concerns and to celebrate their harvest with them. The harvest is awesome but so is the journey.