Growing Vegetables In Containers For Beginners – A Complete Guide

Eating your own homegrown fruits and vegetables is a wonderful thing, and you don’t need a big garden. Learn all about growing vegetables in containers for beginners.

Growing your own fruit and veg is not only very satisfying, but it also encourages you to eat healthier, because if you grow it, you’ll eat it.

And the good news is, you don’t need a big garden or any garden at all to get your own homegrown veg.

In this article we will tell you all you need to know about growing vegetables in containers for beginners. 

The Basics Of Growing Vegetables In Containers For Beginners

basics of growing vegetables in containers

If you are new to container vegetable gardening, then you need to start with the basics, which this growing vegetables in containers for beginners will provide you with.

Technically, all fruit and veg can be grown in pots, although some do better than others.

To grow fruit and veg successfully in containers, you need to know all about the three Cs:

  • Container
  • Compost
  • Care

Choose The Right Container

One of the most important things about growing in pots is the choice of container. One size doesn’t fit all, so you have to make sure you select your pots according to the plants you want to grow. 

It’s not just about the width, the depth is important too. Because some veg plants have shallow roots, others will develop a deep root system, it’s important to pay attention to how deep a container is.

Don’t worry though! In this guide about growing vegetables in containers for beginners we will tell you which container is best for which veg.

There are some vegetables that are easy to grow in even the smallest places. Lettuce leaves and herbs can be grown in pots as small as just 15cm (6in), ideal for growing your windowsill. Lettuce leaves are great for container vegetable gardening because they are quick growing and can be planted year round. 

Lettuce needs pots that are at least 15cm (6in) deep to accommodate their roots. Other plants that will grow in this size container are:

harvesting your spinach

Slightly bigger pots that are at least 20cm (8in) deep will be ideal for spinach. Spinach is another quick-growing crop that doesn’t just taste yummy but is also packed with vitamins and minerals that are good for your health.

Other veggies that will thrive in pots of this depth are:

Use larger 25cm (10in) pots that are also at least 25cm (10in) wide to grow bush tomato varieties. These can be grown on a large windowsill, out on the patio or in a small courtyard garden.

Other crops that can be grown in this size pot include:

If you have room for larger pots that are at least 30cm (12in) wide and deep, or even better 45cm (18in), you have the opportunity to grow most vegetables. Large containers or compost bags are ideal for growing potatoes in.

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In large pots and containers, vegetables that will do well include:

Special strawberry planters are available from many retailers and give you the chance to get a huge crop of fresh strawberries from a pot. 

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Whatever container you use, and you can be as creative as you want, you need drainage holes to allow excess water to drain away.

Otherwise, the soil will get waterlogged, which can cause your plants to die.

 If you have space for large containers, you can even plant different plants in one pot and use companion planting to keep your veg safe from pests and diseases.

I always grow tomatoes and basil together in one pot. Not only will they keep each other healthy, but the basil is also improving the flavour of the tomatoes.

Compost Is The Key To Success

One of the most important factors when growing vegetables is the soil. That’s why we had to include a section about this in our guide about growing vegetables in containers for beginners.

The compost you use to grow your plants in needs to have all the nutrients your vegetables need to thrive for you to get a good yield.

But you also want soil that retains water whithout getting waterlogged.

Peat-free compost from your garden centre will work fine, but I like to use my own potting mix for the vegetable plants I grow in containers.

To create this, I mix our homemade compost with coco coir and horticultural grit at a ratio of 40-50-10.

Our homemade compost is packed full of nutrients, which will ensure that our veggies get all they need.

Coco coir is a sustainable alternative to peat and I have discovered a small UK company that sells it called for peat’s sake.

Like peat, coco coir absorbs moisture and releases it to the plants slowly. Unlike peat, it’s sustainable, because you don’t destroy a bog to get it

Coco coir comes from coconuts and is therefore eco-friendly.

The horticultural grit will make sure that excess water will run down the pot and out through the drainage holes. This will keep the soil moist but not wet.

How To Care For Your Container Garden

crop rotation in small spaces

The third factor for success is caring for your potted plants the right way. So this is an important section in our guide about growing vegetables in containers for beginners.

The most important thing when growing veg in pots is that you water them regularly. The soil will dry out much quicker in a pot than in a bed, especially in hot weather.

If you use coco coir as part of your soil mix, you will see that you will have to water less.

Not every plant needs the same amount of water though. Thirsty plants like cucumbers, courgettes and potatoes will need watering more often than for example chilli plants.

Regularly watering does not necessarily mean watering every day. So make sure you know how much water each plant needs.

While you shouldn’t get too many weeds in your pots, you might still get some.

It’s important that you weed your containers regularly, because the weeds will compete with your veggies for food and water.

The easiest way is to remove weeds from your pots by hand. It won’t take as long as weeding a bed or patch, which is one of the advantages of growing vegetables in containers.

A further advantage of container gardening is that you can move your pots. So you can make sure that you find the perfect spot for your veggies.

A sunny spot for tomatoes, afternoon shade for lettuce or a sheltered position for peas, everything is possible. 

Finally, you need to feed your plants. Because they only have a limited amount of nutrients available, due to being in a pot, feed them every other week with a liquid fertiliser.

You can use a homemade liquid fertiliser or buy one.

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Start Small

If you are new to growing vegetables, then it would be worth looking for varieties that grow well in pots.

While almost every plant can be grown in containers, some need a bit more experience to thrive and give a good yield.

That’s why we include some information about veggies that can easily be grown in pots in this guide about growing vegetables in containers for beginners.

1. Grow Bushy Tomato Varieties

There are two different types of tomatoes: cordon (tall) varieties and bush tomatoes. 

Although both will grow well in containers, for a beginner we suggest to start with bushy varieties.

These don’t grow as tall and also don’t need to be pinched out as much. Therefore they are easier to maintain.

You will still get a good yield though, as these varieties have been bred to be grown in pots and containers.

Give it a go! Bushy varieties to try include: Balconi Red and Red Alert.

You can also grow tomatoes in hanging baskets. Varieties that work well include Tumbling Tom and Bajaja.

2. Grow Small Or Round Carrots

carrots with leaves

Carrots are an amazing crop to grow in containers. By choosing a small or round variety and selecting a pot the right size you can have good success.

If you choose to grow your carrots in a pot it’s a good idea to use compost or very fine soil as this will allow you to grow the best carrots.

Carrot varieties ideal for pots include Chantenay and Caracas

3. Salad Leaves & Lettuce

There are hundreds of different types of lettuce that can be grown in pots and containers both indoors and outdoors.

You can begin growing a range of different salad leaves in pots on the windowsill very early in the spring to get really early crops. You can also plant the same leaves throughout the summer and into the autumn outdoors.

If you’re new to growing vegetables in containers, it’s best to buy a pack of seeds that has a mix of different lettuce and salad leaves included to give you a range of different leaves to try.

4. Spring Onions In Growbags

Spring onions can be grown in grow bags or containers very successfully.

Planting can begin any time in March and ends in July. I like to sow the seeds quite close and harvest the small spring onions once large enough to eat. The remaining spring onions I leave for around 12 weeks to mature.

You can plant your spring onions with your carrots, and they will keep the carrot fly away.

5. Herbs Are Ideal For Being Grown In Pots

Herbs are a quick, easy and ideal for growing in containers. Either indoors or outside, in big pots or small, there are herbs you can plant and harvest all year round.

Start with the five easiest to grow: mint, basil, thyme, sage and rosemary.

6. Strawberries Are A Treat

Caring for your strawberry plants

If you have kids, or love strawberries yourself, then these are a great place to start with container gardening. 

That’s why we just had to include them in our guide about growing vegetables in containers for beginners.

Sweet and juicy, strawberries just belong to summer like sunshine and ice cream. And you can grow them in small pots without much effort.

Once planted, you just have to give them a sunny spot on a windowsill, the balcony or on your patio.

Water them regularly, and you will have a sweet treat in no time.

You can even grow strawberries in a hanging basket. As long as they have enough sun and water, they will thrive.

If you are keen to grow more veggies in pots, read our article about the 6 best veg to grow in containers.

Now that you know all about growing vegetables in containers for beginners, you will soon harvest your own homegrown fruit and veg. Happy Growing!

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