Congratulations! You decided to start your own container vegetable garden.
But where do you begin? What pitfalls should you avoid?
You’ll have a lot of questions. But don’t worry.
In this post, let’s look at all the steps you need to design your container vegetable garden. This will help you plan your garden and take action to build one.
1. Design the garden on paper or tool
I prefer to design the garden layout on paper or a pen tablet because it gives a good high-level view. You can plan the location of the vegetables as you see fit.
It helps you see the different areas of the garden depending on the sunlight, wind and drainage conditions. So you can plan the plants, support, and protection as required.
You can use paper, a digital drawing tool, or a garden planner software depending on which is comfortable.
Once you have designed the container vegetable garden on paper, it saves time and energy once you start the actual work. You don’t need to guess how many containers you need and where you need to place them.
If certain plants don’t work out in your original layout, you can easily adjust them without having to start from scratch.
To get started with designing your container vegetable garden on paper or digitally, begin by measuring the area where the garden will be located. Include any obstacles that might affect the placement of containers such as trees and pathways.
2. Choose the right location for the garden
You’re growing a vegetable garden, so it’s important to select a location that gets good sunlight. Some vegetables such as tomatoes, squash need at least 8-10 hours full sunlight. Some leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce may need at least 6-8 hours of sunlight.
So consider the available space, and how the sunlight reaches the different areas of this space. You’ll need to plan which plants you grow in them based on the sunlight.
Check for places where there may be sunlight reflecting from mirrors or glass, causing it to become very hot. There may be wind flowing through certain areas that can damage the plants, so consider that as well.
It’s important to pick a location that has a water source such as a tap nearby. You’ll have to water the plants and don’t want to walk a long distance every time. Even if you use a drip irrigation system, it will be easier to set up when the water source is close to the container garden.
- What is the best location for container gardening?
- How big of a container vegetable garden do I need?
3. Select the vegetables and plants you want to grow
This is a crucial part of designing your container vegetable garden. The choice of vegetables will influence many things, like the type of containers you pick, the location and placement of the containers.
Pick vegetables you enjoy eating, but remember to consider the hardiness zone of your region. This will influence the type of vegetables that will grow well in the region.
I would suggest choosing dwarf or bush varieties of vegetables if that is possible. It helps the plant grow well in containers and makes it easier to manage. Tomatoes are one such plant where you can get a bush variety.
You’ll also need native and flowering plants that can attract pollinators and beneficial insects to help and protect vegetable plants.
4. Plan the correct placement and spacing of the containers
You can start by planning the tallest vegetable plants at the north end of the container garden. And then proceed placing the smaller plants in the next row as you move towards the south side.
This plan helps all the plants get the maximum possible sunlight during the day as the tall plants are at the back and won’t block sunlight.
I would suggest finding out the spacing your vegetable plants would need and planning that as well. You can find this on seed packets, seedling tags, or research on the Internet.
It’s best to keep sufficient spacing between the container plants so they get the required sunlight and aeration. It helps them grow better and protects them from fungal diseases caused because of humid conditions. Do consider spacing between the plants so you find it easier to move around and maintain them. Typically, spacing of 1-2 feet between the containers should be sufficient.
The benefit of container vegetable gardening is you can move the containers around if you feel the position is not correct.
5. Select the required containers for the garden
I would suggest deciding on the type of containers you’ll use as part of your garden design. The first factor would be your budget because plastic containers will be cheaper than ceramic or metal ones.
Then you should consider the size of the containers you’ll need. This will depend on the type of plants you’ll grow and their width and height requirements.
You can pick containers with different colors depending on how attractive you want to make your container garden. Do note that black containers will absorb more heat than other colors, so don’t use them if your garden gets very hot.
I would ensure the containers have sufficient drainage holes, otherwise you’ll have the extra work of drilling them.
- How much space is needed for container gardening?
- How many plants to grow in a container garden?
- How many plants to grow in each container?
6. Plan the required drainage
You may have planned the container vegetable garden in your backyard. Or it may be in your house, such as the patio or balcony.
It’s important to design the container garden so the draining water does not damage the floor. When the container vegetable garden is outdoors, this is easy to do. You can place a layer of gravel before keeping the containers. The space between the drainage holes and gravel will help drain the excess water away from the ground.
If the container garden is going to be on a patio or balcony, you need to take care it does not damage the flooring, especially if it’s made from wood.
If there are a few containers, you could use trays underneath them and throw the collected water. But this is not an option if you are growing many vegetables. You’ll need to plan a drainage system so the water flows out without affecting the flooring.
7. Plan the required vegetable plant support
You’ll need to plan some support for growing vegetables that are vining or weak stems, such as tomatoes, squash, and beans.
You can use support such as stakes, trellis, or cages depending on the plant and available space. The benefit of using a trellis is you can place it against a wall and grow the climbers on it.
8. Get the required gardening tools
One benefit of container gardening is you don’t need many tools. But there are some that you may find useful.
A trowel is one of the versatile gardening tools for your vegetable plants. You can use it to dig, mix, add compost, fertilizer, remove weeds, or aerate the potting soil.
A watering can is useful when you have a few vegetable plants. But if there are many, you can invest in a drip irrigation system.
You may find a trolley useful for transporting plants, containers, fertilizer or compost bags if you have a big garden space. If you plan to move the plants around, it would be good to place each of those on a dolly.
A pruner or scissor is useful to prune the vegetable plants and to harvest the vegetables.
9. Figure out the required potting soil
Once you know the type of vegetables you want to grow and the number of containers, you can figure out how many bags of potting soil you’ll need.
There is a table below that will help you get an approximate idea of how much potting soil is required depending on the container size.
There is also a potting soil calculator you can use to figure out the how much volume you need.
10. Figure out the required fertilizer
You don’t need to use fertilizer immediately if you’re starting seeds. But if you are planting seedlings, you may need it.
You don’t need to use fertilizer very often. Adding it every 15-30 days should be sufficient for most vegetable plants.
The type of fertilizer you use would depend on the growing stage and type of plants. You need a nitrogen-rich fertilizer when the plants are growing foliage. Later you can switch to one that is rich in phosphorus and potassium for fruiting vegetables like tomatoes and peppers.
I would suggest using organic fertilizer as you have less risk of over-fertilizing the plants. For each container vegetable plant, you can take approximately 100 grams for each application. So you can estimate how much fertilizer you would need initially by number of plants x 100 grams.
So if you are planning to grow 20 plants you would need 20 x 100 = 2000 grams = 2kg initially.
11. Identify common pests and diseases that may affect the garden
I face this problem, as does any container vegetable gardener. You’ll find pests and diseases attacking your container garden once you grow vegetables.
So it’s good to make a plan on how you’ll tackle these problems after setting up the garden. I would suggest a schedule every day where you check each of your plants.
This helps you to find out such issues as soon as they happen and you can take the right actions before it becomes a big issue.
There’s no universal solution to pests and diseases. You’ll need to take care of each separately. But you can get an idea of the pests and diseases that are common in your region and prepare accordingly.
You can get this information from local gardening books or the Internet on common pests and diseases in your area. This will help you understand what precautions you can take and what steps to get rid of them.
In my case, I find aphids and whiteflies are a common problem, especially on my pepper plants. The best solution I find is to spray neem oil solution until the problem goes away.
I would recommend the next thing you should read is about the basics of setting up a container vegetable garden. This contains all the information such as how much space is required, when to plant vegetables, how many vegetables to grow in a container, what type of containers and soil to use, how to prepare the containers and a lot more.
Here are some of my favorite container gardening tools
Thank you for reading this post. I hope it helps you with your gardening needs. I’ve listed some tools below that can help you with container gardening. These are affiliate links so I’ll earn a commission if you use them.
Gardening Gloves – I find the Pine Tree Tools Bamboo Gardening Gloves really good for both men and women. It’s made from bamboo so helps absorb perspiration. They are also comfortable and fit very well.
Containers – You know picking the right container is crucial for your container gardening. I’ve written a detailed post on the best containers you can choose from. If you’re happy with a plastic container, you can check out the Bloem Saturn Planter.
Watering Can – This is a must-have tool when you’re growing plants in pots or grow bags. It helps to water the potting soil without splashing on the foliage. The Kensington Watering Can is stylish, strong, and can provide precision when watering potted plants.
Trowel – Garden Guru Trowel is my favorite because it’s durable and comfortable to use. My gardening friends really love having a trowel because they use it for digging soil, mixing fertilizer, moving seeds, leveling out the soil, mixing compost or mulch, and also dividing tubers
Bypass Pruner – I really like the Corona Bypass Pruner because it’s durable and gives a clean cut that helps plants recover faster. If you’re looking for something cheap, get the Fiskars Bypass Pruner that is really good as well.
To see an extensive list of the best container gardening tools gardeners recommend, check out this resource that I made for you.
Kevin is the founder of Gardening Mentor, a website that aims to teach people to grow their own food in a limited space. As a self-taught gardener, Kevin has spent several years growing plants and creating gardening content on the website. He is certified in Home Horticulture and Organic Gardening by expert gardeners from Oregon State University.