It’s easy to grow your own vegetables using container gardening once you know the basics. This includes things like selecting a suitable location, figuring out how much space you need for the garden, the number of plants you want to grow, etc.

I’ve written all the details below that will guide you to learn the basics of vegetable container gardening. Click on the links in each section that will give you in-depth details on each of the topics.

What is container gardening?

You know that container gardening means growing plants in containers and creating a garden. We want to take it a step further and grow vegetables, herbs, flowers, and fruits in the containers. We want to grow our own food using this concept.

One important suggestion I have is to consider growing such a vegetable container garden in an organic matter. This means only using natural and sustainable products in the garden for fertilizers, pesticides, and any plant supplements.

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What are the benefits and drawbacks of container gardening?

There are several pros and cons when deciding to use container gardening to grow vegetables. I choose to use this method because I live in a small apartment and have limited growing space on my balcony.

But you need to decide for yourself whether you want to use container gardening or something like raised-bed or square foot gardening for your needs. I’ve written these pros and cons of container vs raised bed. You’ll also get information on whether plants grow better in pots or in the ground. Check out the links below for more details.

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Vegetable container gardening on a budget

Gardening can become an expensive hobby if you don’t set a budget. But the good thing is it doesn’t have to be. There are several free or inexpensive options you have to grow vegetables in containers.

You can get the seeds for free or low cost when you buy off-season or in bulk. You can reuse containers at home and don’t have to buy those. It’s best to make your own potting soil if you want to save money. You can do this at quite a low cost.

You don’t even need fertilizer if you can manage to either use natural materials as fertilizer or make your own compost. This helps you recycle organic materials that would have ended up in a dump.

A good thing about container gardening is you need minimal tools. And often, you can make use of some materials at home without the need to buy such tools. For example, I use a fork to dig up the potting soil instead of a trowel. I’ve also made my watering can reusing a soda bottle and making holes in the plastic cap.

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Vegetable container gardening for seniors

One of the good things about container gardening is that it’s accessible even to seniors who may find regular gardening challenging.

This is because you can grow plants in containers that are placed at a height and don’t need to exert yourself as much.

The container gardening helps seniors develop a hobby and enjoy nature. This reduces stress and keeps them healthy.

You need to plan and set up the container garden so that it’s suitable for seniors to tend and grow plants in. Take the required precautions, such as keeping the containers in a safe and secure location. Give the seniors the right clothing, such as gloves, full sleeve shirts and long pants, so they don’t injure themselves.

Teach them to avoid lifting heavy containers and seek help if that is required. You can keep the containers on moving trays to make it easier. You can set up self-watering containers or automated drip-irrigation, so it’s easier for them to manage watering the plants.

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What is the best location for vegetable container gardening?

You can grow your vegetable container garden in any location that gets the required sunlight and protection. This could be the backyard, patio, driveway, balcony, rooftop, or windowsills. I’ll help you pick the best location based on the space you have available near your house.

I recommend designing your container vegetable garden on paper or a digital tool so it becomes easier to start building the garden.

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How much space is needed for vegetable container gardening?

Now that you have selected the best location for your vegetable container garden, you should also figure out how much space you need in that location. This will be based on the number of vegetables you want to grow and how much is feasible in the location you have chosen.

You can efficiently use the space by growing certain vegetables that take up less space. Or you can consider growing two or more vegetables in a single container if that is possible. This will be based on the size and depth of the container and the plant requirements.

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When to plant the vegetables in the container garden?

It’s important to know when to plant vegetables in the container garden. They can be warm-season plants that need sufficient temperatures to grow well. Or they may be cool-season plants that need lower temperatures.

You want to grow these vegetables in the right months so that you get the best chances of a successful harvest. In some plants, such as leafy and fruiting vegetables, you may get multiple harvests during the growing season.

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What container should you use for vegetable container gardening?

The container you need to use will depend on the type of plants you want to grow. Each of them will have their needs for width and depth of the soil to grow well.

You want to pick a container that has the right size, so the plant does not get cramped while growing. You may need a bigger container if you intend to grow several plants in a single one.

You can pick containers made from several materials such as plastic, terracotta, ceramic, metal, wood, concrete, or fiberglass. You can make your container garden using plastic or fabric grow bags as well.

I prefer to use grow bags because I need to grow plants on my apartment balcony. They are lightweight, durable, and easy to move around if I need to.

Make sure that the container you pick has enough drainage holes at the bottom. This will help excess water to drain out after watering the plant and prevent overwatering. The drainage holes should be big enough to drain the water without getting blocked.

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How to prepare the container for planting?

Once you have selected the container you need, it’s time to prepare it for growing the vegetables. As part of this, you need to select the right soil. I would recommend using a good potting soil that is specifically made for growing container plants.

Avoid using garden soil as that can be too heavy to use in containers and cause soil compaction. It may contain too much clay or sand, causing underwatering or overwatering issues. Or it may contain pests and diseases that harm your container plants.

It’s important to give the right nutrients so the vegetables grow well. I like to add compost to the potting soil when preparing the containers. You can opt for an organic fertilizer if you don’t have compost.

There are some vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, beans that may need support to grow well. You can add a stake or cage as part of preparing the container.

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What soil should you use for vegetable container gardening?

The soil you use in a container needs to differ from just garden soil. This is because the soil has to be lightweight so it does not compact in the container.

The soil has to have the right texture, so it keeps the required moisture but drains out the excess. You don’t want too much clay or sand in the soil that can cause overwatering or underwatering issues. The soil texture should encourage good aeration for the roots.

That’s why I recommend either buying a good potting mix made specifically for container plants. Or preparing your own potting soil if you want to save some money and have the time to do it.

I would not suggest directly using garden soil because of the issues it can cause. The soil will be heavy, causing compaction and issues of underwatering or overwatering. The soil may contain pests or diseases that can affect the plants in containers.

You can use one part garden soil when preparing your own potting soil. Just don’t put 100% garden soil in the container.

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How to water the vegetables growing in containers?

One drawback of growing vegetables in containers is the roots have limited growing space. So they can only get the required moisture as present in the potting soil.

This means that you may need to water the container plants often compared to those plants growing in the ground or a raised bed.

I recommend checking the potting soil every morning as part of your daily garden routine. Stick your finger 2 inches into the potting soil and check if soil is sticking to it when you take it out.

You only need to water the potting soil if your finger comes out dry. Give the potting soil a good watering until the excess water comes out from the drainage holes.

The best water you can use to water container vegetables is rainwater if you can store some. I don’t have this and am OK with using tap water for the plants. If you want to spend some money, you could invest in a distiller and use distilled water, but I don’t think you need to.

Tap water works just fine. You can keep the tap water in a container for a day so the chemicals like chlorine and fluoride can evaporate from it.

If you have a few container vegetables, you can use a watering can to water them. But if there are several plants, it may be good to invest in a drip irrigation system and timer, so your efforts are reduced.

I suggest only watering the potting soil near the base of the plant. Avoid splashing water on the foliage as this causes humid conditions that can attract pests and diseases.

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How to mulch the potting soil in containers?

I don’t mulch all of my container plants, but it has benefits that you should consider for your garden. The mulch helps keep moisture longer so you spend less time watering the plants. It can prevent weeds from growing.

The mulch will prevent soil from splashing on to the foliage when you water the potting soil. This helps protect the vegetable plants from some soil-borne pests and diseases.

If you use mulch, I recommend using organic mulch such as dried leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, or wood chips. This gives all the benefits of mulching and over time the mulch will decompose and add organic matter to the potting soil.

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How to fertilize the potting soil in the containers?

Vegetable plants will need nutrients once they have grown a few inches. Leafy vegetables like spinach or lettuce will need plenty of nitrogen to grow foliage. Fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes and peppers will need good phosphorus and potassium to develop fruit.

My advice is to add a couple of inches of compost every month to the potting soil. This gives a boost of nutrients and beneficial organisms to it.

If you want to add fertilizer, I would suggest only using organic fertilizer because it has less impact on the environment and low risk of damaging plants because of an overdose. Dig the compost or fertilizer a few inches into the soil to get the best results.

You can find organic fertilizer that is slow-release after you add to the potting soil and water it. Or you can use liquid organic fertilizer that you spray on the soil and foliage for an instant boost of nutrients.

Follow the instructions by the manufacturer on how much fertilizer you need to use and how often to get the best out of your vegetable plants. Typically, you need to add a little fertilizer once every 15-20 days when the vegetables are in the growing phase.

Once you have added the fertilizer and/or compost, give the potting soil a good watering so the nutrients will get released.

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How to harvest the vegetables in containers?

You can harvest the vegetables once the plants have matured. This will depend on the type of vegetables you’re growing. 

For leafy vegetables and herbs such as spinach, lettuce, cilantro, and mint, you harvest the foliage and it will continue to regrow so you have multiple harvests during the growing season.

For fruiting vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, you harvest the fruits and they will regrow until the end of the growing season.

For root vegetables such as carrots, radishes, beets, you have only one harvest from a single plant during the growing season. If you want more, you grow more plants. Or start seeds again if it’s still possible in the available growing period.

I recommend using sharp and clean scissors or bypass pruners when harvesting the leafy and fruiting vegetables. This prevents damage to the tissue and reduces risk of infection by diseases. You should clean the tools with rubbing alcohol before harvesting.

For harvesting root vegetables, a trowel or garden fork should be sufficient to dig the vegetable out of the potting soil.

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Further Reading

I would encourage you to go to the post below that will show you more details about planning a vegetable container garden. This includes information about some of the best vegetables to grow, what soil you can use, and many how to articles related to container gardening.

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