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12 Vegetables That Thrive in Containers, So You Can Grow Produce Almost Anywhere

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12 Vegetables That Thrive in Containers, So You Can Grow Produce Almost Anywhere

Dreaming of an abundant vegetable garden but worried that limited outdoor space could decrease your harvest? Well, there’s good news: your patio garden can still produce an impressive amount of food if you choose vegetable plants that thrive in containers. Ahead, we spoke with experts to find a dozen superstar vegetables well-suited to container life.

Tips for Growing Vegetables in Containers

Remember these tips when growing your container vegetable garden and you’ll have flourishing plants in no time.

  • Your patio garden will require plenty of water because containers dry out faster than raised beds or in-ground beds.
  • Containers should be roomy! Allow enough space for appropriate root development.
  • Remember that some of your crops still need pollinators. Tomatoes, peas, beans, zucchini, and others cannot be isolated from the greater ecosystem.
  • Kathy Jentz, co-author of The Urban Garden: 101 Ways to Grow Food and Beauty in the City and host of the GardenDC Podcast
  • Christine Froehlich, horticulturist and owner of Gardening With What You Have, where she offers landscape design services to home gardeners

Tomatoes

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You can’t go wrong with tomatoes as a container crop. Not only are they among the most popular garden vegetables, but there is no shortage of varieties to explore, and they handle container life quite well.

Look for determinate tomato varieties, which are less sprawling and more suitable for containers than indeterminate varieties. You’ll need to keep your container tomatoes well-watered, but you’ll also need to consider soil needs. “To get an abundant tomato crop in a container, make sure that you are regularly fertilizing the plants as they are very limited to the nutrients they can access when growing in a pot,” says Kathy Jentz, host of the GardenDC Podcast. “I like to use organic fish fertilizer on my container-grown tomatoes. It is not the best smelling, but a little goes a long way.”

  • Zones: 3 to 10
  • Mature size: 24 to 36 inches tall x 12 to 30 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Full sun; rich, well-drained soil; plenty of water

Peas

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Fresh peas from the garden are one of the true delights of the season. If you want to get the most out of your container peas, try planting sugar or snow peas with edible pods. Pea plants love to climb, which isn’t always easy in a container. Look for dwarf pea varieties that don’t necessarily seek extra support and may perform better in containers. 

  • Zones: 2 to 11
  • Mature size: 24 to 36 inches tall (for bush or dwarf varieties) 
  • Care requirements: Fertile, well-drained soil; full sun

Beans

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Pole beans or bush beans can be grown in containers, but you’ll need a larger container for the pole varieties. “My best tip for growing peas and pole beans in pots is to place the stakes in the container at the same time as you place the seeds,” says Jentz. This prevents having to add the supports later and possibly injuring the plants’ roots.

  • Zones: Varies; 3 to 10
  • Mature size: 16 to 24 inches tall (for bush varieties)
  • Care requirements: Well-drained soil; full sun

Cucumbers

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Think beyond pickles—fresh cucumbers add a light, fresh crunch to your garden salads, and the sheer variety of shapes and colors that you’ll find in heirloom cucumbers will easily win you over. “Cucumbers like to climb, so attach a trellis to the container,” says Christine Froehlich, horticulturist and owner of Gardening With What You Have. Remember to attend to the soil, too. “They’re heavy feeders, [so add] a good dose of compost and organic fertilizer,” she says. “Seed or plant them as early as possible.”

  • Zones: 3 to 10
  • Mature size: varies; 24 inches tall by 24 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Full sun; rich, well-drained soil; plenty of water

Peppers

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Pepper plants are well suited to container life, and since peppers don’t tolerate cold temperatures, having them in containers makes it easy to quickly move them indoors in case of a frost. Peppers are versatile in the kitchen and fun to grow, too. They do require a little care, says Froehlich. “For abundant container peppers, never let them dry out, and feed weekly,” she says.

  • Zones: 9 to 11, grown as an annual elsewhere
  • Mature size: depends on variety; 6 to 18 inches tall x 12 to 18 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Light and loamy soil; full sun (at least 6 hours); average watering needs

Eggplants

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There are a lot of wonderful heirloom eggplant varieties with colors that include green, red, yellow, and white. Eggplant is also quite susceptible to the cold, so container gardening is a great choice and gives you easy control over temperature. “I love growing eggplants in containers as there are some terrific small-sized eggplant varieties available these days, including ‘Patio Baby’ and  ‘Little Finger’,” says Jentz. “This allows me to move the pot into the best full-sun spot for growing them and to throw a cover cloth on top to keep out the flea beetles.”

  • Zones: 4 to 9; hotter climates can grow a fall crop
  • Mature size: 24 to 48 inches tall x 24 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Well-drained soil; full sun

Lettuce

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You have many easy ways to incorporate lettuce into your meals—a fresh crunch on a grilled burger, a salad with your favorite dressing, wraps, or even grilled. Lettuce is extremely easy to grow in containers, and you can grow as much or as little as you wish. Try leaf lettuce for containers—you’ll be surprised by how much usable lettuce can be grown in a very small space.

  • Zones: 4 to 9; some varieties can stand colder temperatures
  • Mature size: 6 inches tall x 6 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Partial sun; loose soil

Potatoes

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You can grow a surprisingly impressive amount of potatoes on your patio. You’ll need a deep container because the developing tubers must be protected from light (a 10 to 15-gallon bucket works well). Before you know it, you’ll be harvesting your homegrown potatoes by the handful. 

  • Zones: 3 to 10
  • Mature size: 24 to 36 inches tall x 24 inches wide
  • Care requirements: Full sun; well-drained soil

Radishes

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Radishes have a distinct, spicy flavor that some people enjoy and some people dislike. If you enjoy radishes, you’re in luck because radishes are almost ridiculously easy to grow. From planting to harvest, you can enjoy radishes in just 20 days with some varieties, but even the slowest-growing radishes are ready to eat in 60 days. 

  • Zones: 2 to 11
  • Mature size: 4 to 8 inches tall
  • Care requirements: Loose soil; full sun

Spinach

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Like lettuce, spinach grows fast and isn’t very tall, so it doesn’t put down deep roots. This makes it a terrific container crop. Spinach is packed with vitamins C and K, not to mention iron and magnesium, which puts it in a class of those green crops like kale that have plenty of nutritional benefits to offer. 

  • Zones: 3 to 9
  • Mature size: 8 to 18 inches tall
  • Care requirements: Light loamy soil; partial to full sun; prefers cool weather to prevent bolting

Carrots

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Wait—carrots? In a container? Absolutely. You can grow superb carrots on your sunny deck inside a container. “My favorite vegetable to grow in containers are carrots,” says Froehlich. “So much easier than in the ground!”

She explains that the warmth of the container itself can help temperature-sensitive carrots germinate, and the container helps the gardener control the soil’s moisture content. “[It’s] much more successful for anyone who has issues getting carrots up and running,” she says.

  • Zones: 3 to 10; in warm climates, they can be grown year-round
  • Mature size: The carrots themselves can be 2 to 12 inches long depending on variety; plants are 12 inches tall
  • Care requirement: Light and sandy soil (no rocks); full sun

Zucchini

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Summer squash, including zucchini, has a reputation among gardeners for producing over-abundantly during the height of the growing season. In fact, you may have difficulty using all of your harvests—and your neighbors may start turning down your summer squash gifts. You can raise these top producers in containers, but it’s a little trickier than some of the other vegetables due to the zucchini plant’s tendency to spread widely and rapidly. You’ll need a large pot to support the plant’s sprawling leaves and large fruit. But zucchini is delicious, so it’s worth the effort!

  • Zones: 3 to 11
  • Mature size: 12 to 24 inches tall x 24 to 36 inches wide
  • Care requirement: Full sun