No Space to Grow Vegetables? Try Container Gardening as a Frugal Alternative

by Gina Blitstein · 0 comments

Growing your own vegetables can be a rewarding and economical way to have the freshest produce this summer. But vegetable gardening may not seem feasible to you if you:

  • have no yard at all
  • have a very small garden area
  • have garden space that’s not suitable for growing vegetables

There is a solution: You can grow vegetables in containers! Yes, container gardening allows you the opportunity to grow produce without an entire “vegetable patch.” Containers can be located in ideal growing locations (on a deck or patio, along a sunny wall or strategically spaced around your yard), allowing you to garden almost anywhere.

Benefits of container gardens

In some ways, containers are preferable to gardens in the ground. Container gardens are less prone to insect and other pest problems because they aren’t at ground level. They’re also more physically convenient to tend because they sit higher, minimizing stooping and bending.

Important considerations for container gardening

  • Choose a container that’s large enough to accommodate the root system of the vegetable planted. If the container is too small, plant growth may be stifled, causing small fruits and minimal production.
  • Plants that grow tall (like tomatoes and peppers) should be planted in deeper containers so as to avoid becoming top-heavy.
  • Herbs and salad greens can be planted in shallower containers.

Containers for growing vegetables

Other than choosing one of an appropriate size, the sky’s the limit when choosing planters! Whatever container you choose should allow for proper drainage so the roots won’t rot; if it doesn’t have holes to let excess water escape, punch or drill some. Vegetables can be planted in such creative and inexpensive vessels as:

  • galvanized or plastic buckets
  • child’s wagon
  • repurposed desk drawers
  • wheelbarrow
  • child’s wading pool
  • recycling bin, trash/garbage can
  • a heavy-duty plastic bag inside a milk crate
  • bathtubs, sinks and toilet bowls
  • storage bins
  • canvas shopping bags

Potting mix for container-grown vegetables

It is advised that you plant vegetables in a potting mix rather than garden soil. Garden soil alone is too dense and compact for the close-confines of a container. It may also be too alkaline or acidic, contain fungus, diseases, weed seeds or insects that could hinder vegetable growth. A light, well-aerated potting mix containing peat moss and/or vermiculite or perlite will drain easily and provide the ideal growing medium for your plants. Soil and soilless mixtures are commercially available for container growing. Seeds and seedlings can be planted directly in containers at the same time planting in the ground is recommended.

Container garden placement

Locate containers properly for best growth and vegetable production. South, west or east exposures are the sunniest; most plants need a minimum of six hours of sun daily. Northern exposure will be shadier but may work for leafy vegetables that prefer cooler growing conditions.

Watering container-grown vegetables

Proper watering is crucial to the health of container-grown plants. Poke a stick into the soil to gauge when watering is necessary. If soil sticks to it, watering isn’t necessary; if the stick comes out clean, water immediately. Watering container gardens twice per day could be necessary in the hottest temperatures, but over watering can wash away nutrients.


A fertilizing strategy should be employed for container gardens. Add a slow-release fertilizer at planting time to get plants off to a strong start. Then, when plants begin to produce, add a water-soluble fertilizer to replace nutrients lost during their vigorous growth and alleviate the stress of contained roots.

With container growing, almost anyone, anywhere, can grow vegetables, conveniently and affordably.

Have you grown vegetables in a container?

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