Sunday, March 21, 2021

Growing Vegetables In Outdoor Containers Reviewed.


growing vegetables in containers

Can You Grow Vegetables If You Only Have A Patio Or Balcony?

Many people would like to grow vegetables but either do not have a garden at all or just a small garden. I do not have a huge garden, it is not small but not really big enough for me to grow all the lovely decorative plants I like to grow and also everything I like to have for nature and grow vegetables. Really I need acres! 

For the past few years, I have become increasingly interested in growing vegetables and so three years ago we started. As there is no space left in the garden, it had to all be in pots. 

The first year we only decided to grow veg in March and so had to get on with it really quickly as many seeds need to be sown in March or April. So I did not have time to do research or much reading before I started planting.

In some ways, this was a good thing as I did not get a chance to be worried about it though I could have done with some basic advice. However, to my amazement, most of the crops were a success! 

Beautiful Home Grown Beans
Beautiful Home Grown Beans

Is It Possible To Grow Vegetables In Outdoor Containers?

Last year I grew the same vegetables and improved upon my skill after reading some good books which helped me to understand vegetable growing in containers and what I was doing.

This year I have just started growing my container vegetable garden again and even branched out to some other seeds to try.

I think you just have to give it a go and see what happens. After all, plants always want to grow. If we give them the right conditions they will do their best to grow as big and strong as they can. 

This book "Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet" is one I used to get me going with vegetable growing. It covers how to grow a range of vegetables in a limited space in pots, windowboxes, various containers and how to organise raised beds. I found it easy to navigate and I liked the pictures to give me inspiration. A decent book especially if you are new to vegetable container gardening. 


You may have a small garden, or it might already be filled with your decorative plants and flowers and you do not wish to turn over a section to vegetable growing. Or maybe you do not have a garden but perhaps you have a balcony or a courtyard or even space outside your door. Even people who have large gardens may not have soil conditions suitable for all vegetable growing. So yes I would say it is possible to grow veg in pots with just a few conditions.

 Below are a few tips and suggestions from my own experience for starting to grow vegetables and salads in a container garden. 

Tips For Growing Vegetables In Containers Outdoors

1. It is advisable to use good quality compost to fill your containers. I try to always get a high-quality peat-free garden compost that is a good all-rounder. If you can't get compost each year you can use garden soil but this depends on your garden soil, of course, if you have a garden. Ours is heavy claggy clay and while strong plants do very well in it, seeds always suffer and rarely germinate well. 

So I have to buy good vegetable growing compost and this year I have also bought specific seed compost for starting off the seeds that I will then transplant into bigger pots. You will need to feed your veg throughout the year as well. I find a tomato feed or vegetable feed liquid is good.  

2. For vegetables that are remaining where they are sown choose the largest containers you can. This makes sowing easier and you will not have to water quite so much. Soil always dries out quicker in a container. 

I do start off many of my bigger vegetables in small pots first then transplant them to the large pots. However, the smaller the pot the more watering you will need to do.

Containers of metal while they look great will heat up too much and your veg will suffer. If possible try not to have black containers which will also heat up more quickly.

However, I do have black plastic containers which are Ok if I  shade them with other plants or keep them in semi-shade. Choose containers of clay or plastic and if terracotta do line with a plastic bag or old compost bag and make drainage holes, to help prevent it drying out so fast. 

You can theoretically use any container for veg growing and I have been known to use large yogurt pots and even old washing up bowls with drainage holes punched through!

There are containers to avoid though and that is any that have ever held any poison or chemicals and avoid old tyres which may leach chemicals to your veg. You do not want to be eating any form of chemical! 

Vegetables And Flowers Started Off In Small Pots
Vegetables And Flowers Started Off In Small Pots

3. Get a watering can with a rose attachment or a hosepipe with a gentle spray or mist setting for watering the young plants and seeds. You do not want to wash away seeds or destroy young seedlings with a harsh blast of water.

4. Always water the compost first then sow the seeds. This means for the initial stages you will not wash away the seeds into a clump while watering. Then read the instructions carefully, some seeds require a light covering of compost or vermiculite, others need light to germinate and should not be covered. 

5. Try to place your pots in the best position for the specific seeds - for most vegetables they need a sunny spot but for some they will cope well or need semi-shade. The huge advantage of pots is that they can be moved if needed. 

6. When you have sown your seeds do label the containers with the name of the seeds and the date! I forgot to do this with many of the pots in the first year and I thought I would remember what I had sown in each pot, but how wrong I was!


7. Put a few sticks in the compost to dissuade the neighbourhood cats, local foxes, or other wildlife from using your nice soft compost as a toilet until the plants grow up.  

8. Do not have a monoculture of vegetables. Either place your containers amongst other plants that are in the ground or pot up some flowering plants, wildflowers and herbs and place them in amongst the vegetables. That way not only will you attract more beneficial pollinators to help but will also attract predators to deal with any pests that will lay eggs or eat your vegetables.

The carrot fly for example is attracted by the scent of the carrot so if we plant other strong scents nearby like mint or chives,  it confuses the carrot fly who cannot find the carrots! I do not use any pesticides or chemicals at all in our garden and that goes for the vegetables as well. So it is important to me to work with nature on this and attract all the wildlife I possibly can into our garden. Yes, I do lose some vegetables to pests but I gain so much more in terms of healthy food and beneficial wildlife. 

Flowers Planted Near Container Vegetable Garden   

Which Vegetables Can We Grow In Outdoor Containers?

It is always best if you simply grow what you love to eat! You can try anything given a big enough pot. However, some crops like asparagus take a long time to reach maturity and are not so suitable for growing in pots.

Crops like squashes generally take up a lot of space and need more than most containers, though it might be possible with a small variety if you really wanted to try. Especially if you are starting out it is advisable to stick with easier growing varieties. Success breeds success and as we get more confident we can try more difficult veg. 

You can try anything you like. Here are just a few suggestions from my own experience. Probably the easiest crops to grow in containers outside are the Salad Varieties then vegetables like Beetroot, Rocket, Radish,  Broad beans, Baby Carrots, Potatoes and Runner Beans. You can easily buy a wide variety of seeds online. 

1. Rocket is very quick and easy to grow and I have had success growing it in a wide variety of containers. Sow a little every week for a good supply.

2. Onions-I buy setting onions rather than seeds as they are so much easier. I simply place them in the container at the required distance and depth. 

3.Potatoes in a bag. This is my most successful way of growing potatoes. I choose potatoes that say they do well in containers. It is important to exclude light from the developing tubers so I simply use 2 compost bags turned inside out and punch drainage holes in the bottom and sides with scissors/ Then a layer of compost and put 2 maybe 3 potatoes in then cover deeply with more compost as they grow. Simply empty the bag out for harvesting. So much easier than digging in heavy soil! 

4.Radish is very easy to grow and does well in pretty much any container. Sow a few, then do succession sowing every couple of weeks for a crop all summer. 

home grown radish
Beautiful Home Grown Radish

5. Carrots but I would advise you to use a tall container and also try a baby carrot variety so they do not need the depth that a garden soil can provide.

I do find carrots take up a container for a long time and are small so sometimes wonder if they are worth it but they are my fave vegetable so deserve a place here. 

They are a vegetable I would always struggle to grow in my heavy soil anyway as soon as they hit a block they will fork and grow distorted so a container or raised bed will always be the way I will grow carrots. Do be aware that carrots must not dry out as again they will grow distorted. One big advantage of growing in a container is that you can easily protect it from carrot fly by placing it high up or by covering it with a light layer of fleece. 

6.Leafy salads from lettuce to oriental mixes and mustards I grow in shallow containers as they are generally a quick-growing crop. I also sow them in between other vegetables like the slower-growing onions.

7.Runner Beans usually require a really big deep pot and supporting canes. I make the canes out of our Cornus or thinner tree branch cuttings.  

8.Broad beans are easy to grow and need well-drained soil and if a taller variety, will need staking. Smaller varieties may not need much support. 

vegetable garden in containers
Our Container Vegetable Garden!

So if you do not have a garden and need or want to grow vegetables do gather together some containers and give it a go! You may have some failures, but you will have many successes.

There is nothing like eating vegetables and salads you have grown from seed and nurtured. You have just picked it and minutes later it is on your plate. You know absolutely what is in it and that it is free from chemicals and has not traveled miles to reach you. 

In my opinion, homegrown vegetables always taste better than anything you buy, they are fun to grow and you will feel so proud of yourself. So garden or no garden, in my experience you certainly can grow your own vegetables as a container garden.

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  1. What a wonderful guide to container gardening. I would have never thought about the heat using metal or black containers. Last year our daughter planted in containers and was very successful, she moved to a place with a small yard and wanted to plant. Thanks for the informative review Jasmine.

    1. Thank you so much Sam. Good to hear your daughter had success with her container garden. It really is a great way to enable gardening for veg or flowers in a small space.

  2. I would love to grow my own tomatoes, but as I have a rental property, I don't feel I can dig up the yard. This yard is also home to multiple squirrels and many rabbits, so wonder if even a container garden would survive. Do appreciate your helpful advice for growing vegetables, Jasmine.

    1. Yes you can certainly grow tomatoes in containers as well, give it a try! The beauty of containers is that if you move you can just take them with you and you don't have to leave your plants behind. We don't get rabbits here but we do have squirrel visitors. So far they have not really bothered with the veg I have grown. You can really only see how it goes and you could try keeping the containers close to where there is lots of human activity to dissuade them a bit. Otherwise if you cannot stop the wildlife eating your produce you can certainly grow lots of salads, mustards, microgreens etc indoors.

  3. I love this guide. I want to have a garden, but tried it the critters get everything. I am thinking of trying a small indoor one.

    1. Thank you Brenda I appreciate that! Yes if its difficult to avoid produce getting eaten by the wildlife, the best thing may well be an indoor garden which can also be very productive on sunny or semi shade window sills.

  4. Thank you for all of your useful tips. There is nothing quite like fresh home grown vegetables 🌶

    1. Thank you so much I am glad you find the gardening tips useful. As I was planting seeds today I was thinking of the lovely home grown veg to come !:)

  5. Jasmine, what a wonderful guide to growing vegetables in outdoor containers! We, too, have lots of rabbits and squirrels, as well as cats and birds, that could make outdoor veggie growing a challenge. However, since my sister (she of the uber-green thumb) manages to grow some outdoor containers of vegetables on her sunny deck, I suppose we might be able to, too, if we only had some flat, easily accessible, south-facing land on our property. I may yet try to figure out how to give this a try! You're right, no vegetable tastes as good a homegrown variety! Thanks for the wonderful tips, as usual.

    1. Thank you Margaret I am so happy you liked my container veg growing guide! Yes it would be worth giving growing some veg a try. Start off small perhaps with quick growing crops like rocket, salads,radish and see how it goes. You may not need a south facing plot. I have and am growing veg in east and west facing places as well.

  6. Great great great advice here Jasmine. I love that you tried and learned by trial and error. Those are the lessons that really stay with me. Looking forward to a new season of growing my veggies in containers! I will take some of your tips to heart and hopefully boost my outcomes.

    1. I appreciate your kind words. You are right Olivia trial and error lessons do really stay with me as well.You are an excellent gardener and I am sure will have a lovely crop of veggies :)

  7. Wow! I am really impressed!!! You are quite the vegetable gardener Jasmine. I always thought I would need a greenhouse (which is not permitted in our subdivision) to grow a variety of vegetables. My parents have been very successful with tomato vines in our area and my husband has grown basil and mint, but we have never ventured into other vegetables. I do have a son-in-law who has been very successful with his vegetable garden, but has trouble with his friendly wildlife which he will not harm. Honestly, I think he enjoys sharing with his little outdoor creatures.

    I have come to prefer container gardening for my flowers, even rose bushes. I can move them around as needed when seasons and weather changes, plus I don't have to contend with grass or weeds in my containers. Therefore, I could easily see the benefit of container vegetable gardening. You make me want to try my hand with vegetables now by providing this excellent information and encouragement.

    1. Oh thank you so much! You are very kind. I grow most of my veg in containers in the open. I do have a tiny greenhouse for the most delicate plants I grow but most tough it outdoors! Wonderful that you grow basil and mint and your parents grow tomatoes!I tend to agree with your brother in law re the wildlife, I too do get some losses but I don't mind sharing with them. Yes the huge advantage of container gardening is that as you say you can move them around and any weeds are a lot easier to deal with.

  8. I love, love, LOVE this post and the photos of your plants! I had hoped to be able to start some serious vegetable gardens up on my land this year but with the continued construction I won't be able to start the beds where I had wanted. At least not this spring. So just today, I planted asparagus and carrots in containers on my apartment balcony! I have never been able to grow those two things and I am feeling adventurous and better informed. I have almost purchased the Grow All You Can Eat in 3 Square Feet many times. But have held off for a variety of reasons. Based on your recommendation, I'm going to go ahead and buy it. (Thank you for including the link to my book review of The First Time Gardener.)

    1. Thank you so much Dawn, so happy you love my gardening article! Oh yes if you are doing construction work it will be so much better to keep your veg in containers this year. I wish you every success with them! I do hope you find the book useful as well.

  9. Thanks so much, what a thorough article. Creating a garden, in-ground, or in containers is something I have yet to try. It's on my list of things to do at some point. It's apparent you know what you're doing. It's great to have this article to reference if I ever attempt a garden. A raised garden is what I've been considering for the past two years - one of these years I'll tackle it. I'm so impressed with people who take the time to do this. It has to be very rewarding to grow your food. My brother created his first garden last year and it was incredible!

    1. You will know when the time is right for you to try a vegetable garden or any gardening. For years I just concentrated on flowers and shrubs, only in the last few years have I become really interested in growing veg and I am glad I did. I love creating and maintaining a garden and I am happy that you liked my article, thank you so much!

  10. I love container gardening, but I'm being challenged at the moment in my new place with the strange weather and my new pots not being set up well with mature soil and compost etc.
    This was a great read and it inspires me to get out there again and keep persevering with my container garden vege growing.

    1. Great to hear you love container gardening! I can see if you are in a new place it all takes getting used to again and to see how the conditions may influence how you garden. Perhaps grow you faves this year and gradually expand as you become familiar with the weather patterns etc. I wish you every success!:)

  11. Great tips! Am working on expanding my container garden this year! Thank you!

    1. Thank you I am glad you enjoyed the article. Fantastic to hear you are expanding your container garden. Wishing you happy gardening :)


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