5 Best Container Vegetables for Beginning Gardeners

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Growing vegetables in containers is easy! Here are the 5 best container vegetables, including varieties, planting instructions, and more.

vegetables growing in washtub

Are you a beginning gardener? New to ideas like crop rotation and plant thinning? Don’t worry–vegetable gardening doesn’t have to be a chore.

Even if you only have an apartment patio, you can grow your own vegetables in pots or containers. There’s no comparison in flavor, and a $3 packet of seeds will give you plants for several years.

Are you a brand new gardener? Not sure what to plant or when to plant it? I can help.
You’ll find lots of great information in my new book, The First-Time Gardener: Container Food Gardening.

container food gardening cover

Growing vegetables in containers is an easy way to enjoy fresh food without the hassles of pulling weeds or tilling the soil. All you need is a pot, good soil, and sun!

Here are the 5 best container vegetables for beginning gardeners. They’re all easy to start from seed and will grow happily in pots on your patio, driveway, next to your pool…wherever they fit.

grow vegetables in containers

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Most vegetable and herb seeds will be viable for many years, but some need to be replaced every year. Get your free Seed Viability Chart here!

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Best Vegetables to Grow in Containers

Growing vegetables in containers is easy, especially for beginners! Here are the 5 best container vegetables for beginning gardeners, planting instructions, and recipes for your harvest.

Container Gardening Tips

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Hi, Im Pam!

I created Brown Thumb Mama to share my natural living journey, and help you live a greener life. Thanks for being here!

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58 thoughts on -5 Best Container Vegetables for Beginning Gardeners-

  1. I have planted tomatoes in 5 gal buckets for years. They produce a high yield of tomato. Now I will try the ones you recommend. Thank you

    1. 3of the 5 are fruits not vegetables. It’s cool though, I didn’t know the difference until middle school, myself.

        1. I love all the information for growing plants in pots. This will be my first time for a veg. Pot garden. Was discussing it with my husband when I found your info. Good find. Thank you for sharing.

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        Delores Scarcella

        I’m allergic to a lot of stuff so if I use the garden and grill my own at least I’ll know what’s in them. I will be able to use it fertilize I need to use anything else that’s necessary for me but I don’t have to worry about the pesticides and all this kind of stuff. Then I’m allergic to all that stuff.

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    Deanna Bellinger

    We live in desert, poor soil, lose most of our harvest to critters. Got idea recently to repurpose a defunct refrigerator into large raised garden box. Took doors and other parts off, placed on its back, blocked lower part, put landscape cloth and filled upper portion with soil. Planted veggies and companion flowers interspersed. Shared idea with neighbors and got several more fridges donated. Now have 8 planted with veggies and companion flowers. Perfect waist high, insulated, critters can’t get to them! No more back-straining, less water and soil loss

  3. The last two times I planted zucchini,when they came up they were beautiful plants but every flower was a female. Both plants were all female, What do you do in a case like this?

  4. I’m about to try my hand at gardening using grow bags. This article had tons of good tips, that’ll I’ll be referencing once I start.

    Those plants look amazing, I hope to have a crop that is at least half as good. 🙂

  5. I have crooked neck squash in 5 gal buckets. they got blooms on them but no squash. also my bell peppers and tomatoes has blooms but no tomatoes or bell peppers. they are in a rectangle box 13 inches deep. have back and hip problem so habe them raised.

  6. As far as container gardening I’m in zone 7, do you recommend planting seeds now or just wait another couple of weeks for the plants at a local nursery. How do you know which cucumber seeds to buy, there’s so many? Thanks any info is appreciated .

  7. We live in the Central Valley and our yard only has partial sun. Lots of morning and noon sun, but trees shade the later afternoon sun. Are there vegetables I can grow in containers that don’t need full sun? Thanks!

    1. Eggplant, cucumber, peppers, and lettuce all sometimes get sun-scalded if they’re in hot afternoon heated sun. Most of my garden gets sun from 10-4 if lucky. So I place those mentioned on the side of the garden that goes into shade earlier. Tomatoes on the other side which gets afternoon sun. That’s one benefit in container gardening– you can move the pots by handtruck, or dragging to change placements of the pot. Crop rotation is easy because I change and remix the top 1/4 or more of the soil. I add any composted manure and fertilizer at the same time each spring. Burpee is selling a ‘cloudy day’ tomato this year, that I’m going to try. Remember best to use large pots or containers like tubs that are 18 inches fr smaller veggies & herbs. Larger veggie plants need 24 inches or more. About same depth. You can use some drainage material in the bottom to lighten the pot. I bought pot saucers to keep water access during hot dry weather.

  8. My backyard is huge, over 260 feet deep. But I’m getting older and an inground garden was getting too hard for me to weed and keep cleaned up. So I threw grass seed in the garden area, and I have a huge round tractor tire full of good Iowa black dirt, two half wine kegs, about 10 large planters, and a 8×4′ above ground plastic garden spot. I get enough tomatoes, peppers, green beans and squash to keep me happy. And I can take a chair out, and sit and weed and clean around the plants. Then in the fall, I buy two bushels of tomatoes to freeze. And I’m done!

  9. We have an absolutely horrible time with cucumber beetles each year. The decimate our plants. Any suggestions for keeping them off if we plant in a patio container?

    1. Google cucumber beetle traps. If the work like japanese beetle traps, though… you’ll want to buy some & give them to your neighbor… because they invite more beetles to visit!

  10. Gorgeous vegetables grown in pots. I saw your post on Twitter and I thought I should share this wonderful product with you. TwistPot is a revolutionary new pot and tray system. These pots are ideally suited to a wide variety of plants. Vegetables that pretty much hate ‘wet feet’ such as Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucumbers, would do exceptionally well in these pots. If over watering happens accidentally, the pot can be raised to allow surplus water drain away. There are plastic, and come in a range of colors and sizes. Please feel free to visit the website http://maxipot.com/contact-us/ or via twitter @TwistPot

  11. We have out Faith Mission garden ready for the S.M.A.R.T. kids[ low income& homeless ] to come do their thing we have 15 lg plastic cylander’s that cow food comes in and 8 above ground container made from rail road cross ties, soil & mulch are donated , I have been doing this for 7 yrs the kids got so much from this ,we put potatoes in the cylanders so the roots can grow deep ,tomatoes,green beans ,bell peppers, radish, cantelope,cucumbers are put between the pop corn rows this is what we are planting this yr ,we start off with a classroom for our lesson then to a neighbor’s back yard for the magic to work

    1. WOW I would give anything to be involved with some kids & doing some gardening like this! Sounds Amazing! My Sunhat is tipped for you my friend! I got my garden right out on Main St in our little city! Apparently Ive become abit famous in town I had no idea! People are amazed at my little #CityGarden ( not so little any more! Plus I clean the entire street in front of ppl & sidewalk etc! Cleanest building around! Around! Im hoping it catches on & every one starts doing it!

  12. Hello, new to this post. I tried growing tomatoes and peppers in a planter (rectangle) my MIL gave to me and I had no luck! I live in SE Texas, started the seedlings in April in our window and they did well, planted them in the planter and they grew tall and were ‘leafing’ like crazy, a few flowers, but they fell off and no tomatoes. Then they died. I was watering when the plants looked dry. At first I was using a miracle but then I quit, because someone at the farmers market told me there was enough nitrogen in the soil. Ugh! I really want fresh tomatoes… I am going to try again this spring.

    1. Those rectangle pots are a joke! Tomatoes, especially, have a deep root system, so they need a big, deep pot. We are all organic…except for our potted plants. Miracle Gro potting “soil” is the easiest to find. Do not use the newer one for water retention. We had no luck with it. Get your big pot…5 gal. or larger and PLASTIC…and lay some cheesecloth or old pantyhose over the hole. Maybe a handful of gravel for drainage. Fill will potting soil, tamping it down well as you go. I add a small handful of bonemeal and sprinkle time release fertilizer and work it into the top 4-5 inches. Plant ONE tomato or pepper plant per pot. Add stakes at this time also. I also plant 2-3 basil plants around the veggies. Basil is shallow rooted and won’t compete. (Clip off any basil flowers as they form, so the plants won’t die.) Place pot where you want it! You won’t be moving it! Half a day of sun is a must…preferably morning. Our pots just get dappled afternoon sun. Water pot til top of soil is covered. Wait at least five minutes and then water at least twice more the same way. Heavy watering can just run out the sides. During hot weather, if soil has pulled away from the sides of the pots, use an old fork to loosen and stir the soil around the sides. An old timer told me to always water in the late afternoon, since plants grow at night. (??) but keep water off the leaves(fungal infections). A tomato plant can use one gallon of water a day, so water regularly. During drought, you can even collect used bath water! I add more time release fertilizer, maybe early July, and sometimes water with MiracleGro. We had lovely tomatoes, one or more a day, until August. Heat? Exhaustion? This year, I may plant one or two more in July. We had plenty of peppers too. I wish you better luck this year!

  13. I tried container gardening this past spring, but had no luck! I tried zucchini and edamame. I live in Northwest Florida and I am wondering if the plants get too hot in the pots? I didn’t think about it until someone mentioned it to me. Also, the pots were black plastic. Does anyone have any ideas if this could have been the problem? Thanks!

    1. Container plants can overheat. Some afternoon shade can help. But watering morning and afternoon could help also. My one tomato, planted with basil, and one pepper did real well in upper 90 degrees. You could paint your pots white.

      1. AND….veggies in pots are big feeders! I added a tbsp. of bone meal plus time release fertilizer to the top 4″ of my potting soil before planting, plus more time release fert. after about 2 mos. due to almost daily watering. (A grown tomato or pepper requires 1 gal. water daily!) if plants get puny, feed with MiracleGro. Better luck next year!

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      Julie McLean Dever

      You could…but I would rather use food grade….some restaurants get their pickles and condiments in 5 gallon buckets and will save some for you. I also got some nice semi-clear ones after running a want ad on Craigslist. I have used some that used to hold natural laundry soap, sold to me by a man who ran a coin-operated laundry. Only drawback, heavy and can hurt your back!

  14. Thank you so much for this post. I’ve been thinking about growing my own veggies for some time now but found it overwhelming and didn’t know where to start. Your post gives me that starting point – we get very dry in Australia too but it’s winter here right now. Just the time to start I think 🙂

  15. Is there anything that can be planted now? Are there fall and winter veggies that can be done this way as well? Thanks so much for the advice!

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  17. Thanks this is great! I’m VERY new to gardening (I’ve only tried basil before and I almost always end up killing it). When should I start planting these? Like now? I live in Utah.

    1. I don’t have good luck with gardening every year, but keep at it and you’ll be overflowing in zucchini in no time. You should be able to plant in the middle of May, but I’d check with the County Extension office or a friendly neighbor to make sure. Good luck!

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    Michelle Merrick

    This year I am doing ONLY container gardening. Our area is in severe drought and are VERY restricted in watering. But I have tanks that gather the little rain we do get. This year I am going to change my watering system. In the past I would water my containers daily (with a watering can) only to watch half (or more) drain right out:( I looked into buying cones and glass bulbs that water slowly but found a better way and cheaper!!!! I have found that using”smart water” brand disposable water bottles with the blue flip caps do a GREAT job. I fill the bottle, tip it into the container,and it takes about 20 minutes to drip into the container with NOTHING leaking out from the pot. Let me know what you do!

    1. Another great use to water are large plastic bottles that pop comes in. Punch holes in the cap with a nail or drill, and put in soil, or hang above plants. This is a great repurpose of a litter product, and also release water slowly. Your kids can paint them great colors to add a great feature and make it a family project.

    2. Your idea is great. We take the bottles hung upside down on shepard’s hooks above our container pots. We paint each bottle with either a pretty design or we paint them with the same plant(flower or veggie) in the container and then put the containers around in the yard. Fancy and we have had many compliments.

    1. I live in the city. My garden grows all but corn, and ALL in pots. You need at least 18in circumference for smaller single plants like pepper & egg plant. I grow any variety of tomatoes, but they need 24 inch across pots. Small pots don’t hold enough moisture or nutrients. Water deeply once a week. Place tray under pots in very dry weeks of summer to hold water. Fertilize one scoop of vegie fertilzer tossed onto the soil then ‘water it in’, on the days you deep water. Once or twice a month. To keep the weight down, put large chunks of broke pottery and or thick rigid packing foam in bottom 1/3 of large pots. It also helps with drainage. Good luck this year!

      1. We are trying container gardening for the first time. With our age and health problems we just can’t do the garden we used to. Thanks for the tips. Any advice on growing potatoes in bags?

        1. My friend had great results using a large (open bottom) tub. All the potato ‘seeds’ went in the bottom with good loose planting mix. When the plants came growing towards the top, she added more loose planting mix part way, & let plants grow again… until she got to the top. She pulled up the tub to take potatoes off the bottom. Buried in layers gave her higher yield. Open bottom tub made it easy to harvest. I was thinking I’d try her method. You have to use straight sided tub or use the wider side down, if you plan lifting tub to remove the potatoes.

          1. I am 79 years old and my son is 55. He has had ,5 back surgeries so we garden only in containers. We are fortunate to have a small sawmill so lumber is no problem. We use what we call garden boxes. They are about 6ft. By 4ft. By 3 ft. We fill them with soil from our woods and add sawdust and compost. We have 10 of them and we grow potatoes, cucumbers, corn, beans, onions, chard, spinach, lettuce, beets, carrots, tomatoes, peppers , strawberries, blackberries, squash, winter and summer, and okra. This requires little weeding and conserves water. We have gardened this way for 8 years.

    2. Maybe the seeds were not good quality, or the soil was not properly watered. But don’t loose faith this year will be better than the last one keep trying

  19. I grow all my herbs: rosemary, thyme, oregano, parsley and basil in containers on my S-SW exposure terrace and they thrive!