Get Started - Container Vegetable Gardening

There are a few simple ingredients for success— a little bit of room, sunlight, containers, growing media (a.k.a. “potting soil”), water, and nutrients (fertilizer).  The single most important ingredient for success is Tender Loving Care because your container plants have to depend entirely on YOU for all of their needs.  It’s always best to start small the first year.  Share ideas and create a plan with the other people in your household. Plant crops that you and your family like to eat, and keep your containers filled with edible plants through the entire growing season.


whiskey barrel containerIncorporating containers into outdoor living space requires some basic knowledge about the needs of the plants you want to grow. An eye for design will produce more pleasing, aesthetic results. 

  • Containers can be placed on any level surface— decks, balconies, and along driveways and sidewalks.  You can also set them on bare ground and allow the plant roots to grow down into the soil or place them on top of a mulched area.  Edibles can also be grown in hanging baskets and window boxes.
  • Southern and western exposures will be the sunniest and warmest, while northern and eastern exposures will be shadier and cooler.
  • You’ll need 6-8 hours of direct sun for warm-season crops (tomato, pepper, eggplant, squash) and 3-5 hours of direct sun for cool-season crops (lettuce, spinach, Asian greens).   
  • Easy access to water is crucial.  Some containers will need watering every day when the weather is hot and dry.
  • Consider the microclimate in the container garden area.  Watch out for heat sinks created by brick,  concrete, and reflective surfaces.

herb containers deck

Herb containers on deck.

Cautionary notes:

  • Containers and the water that drains from them can mark and stain concrete and wood decking.  Using self-watering containers or plastic saucers to catch water will prevent this problem (and is very helpful if you are gardening “above” your neighbour’s balcony.)
  • The light weight of large plastic containers leads gardeners to believe they can be easily moved.  But a 20-inch diameter container filled with moist growing medium and plants can weigh 100 lbs!  (You can buy or make plant caddies to make heavy containers portable.)
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