How to successfully grow vegetables in containers

Last Updated on January 26, 2020 by Kimberly Crawford

Like all plants, vegetables need a lot of care if they are going to grow and reach their full potential. Vegetables will not produce flowers and will certainly not produce a meaningful harvest especially when they are attacked by pests and infected by diseases.

With vegetables, selecting the right compost, seed and position play a crucial role in the life of the vegetable in a container. Believe it or not, some vegetables are easy to grow in small gardens, so why not give it a go?

how to grow vegetables in containers

The right compost for vegetables

There are numerous plant mixtures available on the market. Most consist of peat, sand, loam and fertiliser. Some contain bark mixed with humus instead of peat purely for ecological reasons.

Planting compost

it has more volume of fertiliser than seeding compost and is used for planting young plants. Its referred to as potting compost.

This is particularly good for vegetables in containers as it as many nutrients and trace elements, allows water and air to move freely within it and gives the root of the vegetable adequate support. Special compost is available from most garden centers and nurseries but don’t forget your coffee grounds work great too!

vegetable compost

Compost containing controlled release fertilisers

the fertiliser in this compost release nutrients periodically over time. Release rates are mainly dependent on temperature and moisture content of the compost.

Is it possible to make my own planting compost?

Yes! It’s very possible to make compost by mixing three parts peat, two parts each of perfect garden soil and ripe garden compost and one part sand. If you are worried about using peat replace it with shreds or fibers.

Add to a 10 liter bucket of compost:

  • 30 g of an organic compound fertiliser
  • 20-40 g lime
  • Mix everything thoroughly
  • Selecting the right seed

The harvest can only be as good as the seed used you reap what you sow. If you use unhealthy seeds then the end results will be dismal. When selecting vegetables, it is necessary to take into account all traits of the variety such as:

  • The growing time
  • The colour
  • The shape and height

Varieties that experience a compact growth are ideal for tubs or balcony boxes. Seeds maintain their germinating ability for 4 years so it’s best to check the best before date before taking them home.

Quality seeds are normally packed in special germination proof packets that will be sealed. Do not buy seed packets that will be open and have cracks. Do not break the seal until shortly before using the seed.

Choose varieties that have a resistance against disease such as powdery or downy mildew and other malicious fungal infestations.

Only purchase young healthy strong and small plants. The plants must have a good root stock. Smaller seedlings grow much better than large ones.

The right size of container

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Vegetables plants require a lot of space for them to grow and as such it is advisable to select a large pot when purchasing. Large pots are more stable and will stop the pot from tipping over due to the weight of the soil and vegetable roots. Large containers hold more water and nutrients when compared to small containers.

Balcony boxes should not be too heavy and ideal length is between 75-80 cm. containers with a carrying capacity of 5-15 litres will be the right size for tomatoes, cucumbers or maize.

Buy a rolling palette to move your containers around.


It is essential for all plant containers to have drainage holes to allow extra water to run away and avoid water logging. Drainage holes should be covered with pot shards or large pieces of stone to prevent them from becoming clogged up with compost. Most vegetable containers have plant saucers to prevent the formation of water puddles around the pots.

Garden taps and watering

Vegetable gardens and flowerbeds will need watering during the warm summer months. It might be a very good idea to install taps on the opposite sides of the house and run one underground to the back of the garden. This will make watering your vegetables a breeze and far less likely to deter you. An automatic sprinkler system wouldn’t be a bad shout either.

Sowing vegetable plants

There is a difference between seed and plant vegetables. Seed vegetables such as radishes, lettuce and spinach must be sown directly into the container from which they are to be harvested when they are grown.

Plant vegetables such as tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and kohlrabi are planted initially as seed in trays, then latter pricked or thinned out to be planted in final containers.

Reap the benefits!

If you are consistent and keep working on your garden then you can expect a decent crop. Growing vegetables isn’t prize winning stuff and is achievable for almost every household. I would highly recommend having a go and if you have children then it’s a great way of introducing them to the benefits of a garden too.


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how to grow vegies in containers