Vegetable Container Gardening – Making Room for Homegrown Food


No Room For A Garden?  Try Vegetable Container Gardening!

I talked a lot on my About Me page about how, throughout my life, I’ve always found a way to grow food in not only backyard gardens and raised gardens – but I also did my share of vegetable container gardening.

vegetables in a ceramic container

If I had outdoor space, I always had diverse containers of veggies – tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, lettuce, herbs, etc. – sitting around a back porch or front porch – wherever I could get the most sunshine.  Visitors to my place would even see a few extra-large pots holding a Three Sisters combination of corn, squash, and green beans – which made for a great conversation piece.


Jim's clothes making room for his closet container garden.


Even in a cramped one bedroom apartment – with absolutely zero outside space – I loaded my clothes closet with containers full of healthy, nutritious vegetables flourishing under a network of grow lights.  It was my indoor garden – which meant that my clothes played second fiddle and had to hang on racks positioned someplace in the bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, or kitchen.



No More Excuses

Many of my friends over the years lamented that a lack of space prevented them from growing food.  They would say how lucky I am to have the space to furnish myself with homegrown veggies.

That’s when I go off on a tirade about several of the apartments I’ve lived in…  Those apartments were so small that when I ate in the kitchen, my elbows were in the bedroom – If I ordered a large pizza, I had to eat it outside!

And, I still had a container garden!

They got the message.


Pick a Container and Some Seeds – Let’s Get Crackin’

To me, anything that could hold the right amount of dirt was a functional vessel to grow plants in.  I had buckets, bags, bowls, jugs, mugs, glasses, pots, pans, pitchers, whisky barrels cut in half, and, a couple of times, something really out of the ordinary…

Container garden in an antique bathtub.Container garden in a vintage car.







When I could afford it, I used containers that were a little easier on the eyes like clay pots or planters.  I’ve even dabbled in pots made of ceramic, plastic, wood, metal, and concrete.  Concrete pots are extremely heavy and next to impossible to relocate so, I picked a very permanent and sunny spot for them.

Container garden using terracotta clay pots.Container garden using a plastic pot.







Container garden using metal buckets.Container garden using ceramic pots.







The trick is to match the size of the receptacle to the size of the plant – or group of plants – that you want to grow.


Size Matters

Pots that are too small will limit the potential of your plants.  They will be scrawny and they won’t offer up a good harvest.

Pots that are too large are overkill.  You don’t need a 50 gallon container to grow herbs.  Look at all that wasted potting soil and fertilizer.  Do you want to fritter away your money this way?

Shallow pots are good for shallow plants like lettuce.  Most veggies – squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, corn, etc. – enjoy living in a deeper home – at least 8 to 10 inches – so their roots can stretch out and relax.


A Good Rule of Thumb

Match the pot diameter to the plants.

herb container gardeningcontainer gardening - basil in a coffee mug







10 inches or less – Single plants such as herbs, lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach, and strawberries will be happy in these pots.  Some herbs can actually be grown in coffee mugs!  If you want to add several plants to the same pot, use a pot at least 50% to 75% bigger.

18 to 24 inches – You can grow so many things – tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, squash, corn (I did it.), broccoli, cauliflower – you name it, you can grow it!

container garden - bush tomato in a cage

NOTE:  Choose bush varieties of plants when available.  They will happily grow up as a potted plant – preferably inside a small cage.  Vining varieties like more room to stretch out and expand their fruit production.

Here’s a thought…get a gargantuan-sized pot and amaze your friends and relatives with a Three Sisters combo!  They’ll get a real kick out of it and give you a well-deserved patting you on the back – congratulating you on your resourcefulness and creativity.  Each Three Sisters arrangement you create will be an island unto itself!

Don’t forget to add some herbs and flowers to any extra space in the containers to take full advantage of them.  Check out Companion Planting for some ideas on plants that complement each other and grow well together.


The Keys to Container Gardening Success

Three words – good potting soil.  For container gardening, I honestly recommend Miracle Gro.  You can purchase cheaper brands – however, you get what you pay for and Miracle Gro lives up to its name!

Three more words – quality plant food.  You can never go wrong by using Osmocote plant food.  It will feed the plants for 4 months at a time!

Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Smart-Release Plant Food

All right – two more words – sun and water – lots of sun and the right amount of water are the final insurance for tasty veggie growing success!

That’s only 8 words total.  Eight words to give you all the keys you need for container gardening success!


Jed Says…

Jed never was a fan of my container gardening.  He divulged, “Container gardening for me is trouble-free.  I plant myself firmly in my favorite container – that would be my comfy reclining chair – and consume frequent doses of liquid refreshment!”

Jed planted in his favorite recliner.

Visit Homegrown Vegetables and Herbs for discussions on growing various plants – and my favorite varieties.

I’m here to help.  Comment below or shoot me an email,, with suggestions or questions.


Jim, the Lifelong Gardener

2 thoughts on “Vegetable Container Gardening – Making Room for Homegrown Food

  1. Wilkin Reply

    Hi Jim,
    This article is amazing and I never thought of the “three sister combo” ; kinda opens my eyes.
    Anyway, as a newbie gardener I wonder if plastic bottle is suitable for container gardening ?
    Please bear with me if I had asked a silly question …
    Any info will be appreciated, thanks

    • Jim Reply

      Hi Wilkin,

      The Three Sisters is without a doubt a unique and common sense approach to gardening – especially where space is limited.  Companion planting is also a must read – because, you would not believe which plants grow well with each other and offer mutual support.  Of course, you would also want to know which plants don’t like each other, too.  And, this page will tell you that.

      Any container can serve as a vessel in a container garden plan.  Just make sure to put some holes in the bottom of the plastic bottle for adequate drainage.  Roots that get too wet will rot and kill the plant.


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