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Dark tomatoes in container
Many vegetables can be grown in pots or containers. This is ideal if you have a patio, balcony, or small space. Discover more.

Helpful information

Timing: All year around (some vegetables will grow through winter)

Where to do it: Outdoors

Garden space: Small garden, balcony

  • Growing vegetables in pots or containers gives great flexibility. You can have the satisfaction of your own produce even if you have a small or no garden
  • If you have difficulty with mobility, containers at the right height can make growing more comfortable and accessible
  • Engage your nurturing instincts while growing vegetables, then enjoy the health benefits from eating the produce
Lettuce in pot pixabay
Lettuce growing in a pot

Not all of us have large gardens with space for a vegetable patch, or access to an allotment for growing our own crops. Even so, you can still grow your own vegetables at home. There are many varieties that can be grown in pots in your garden, on your patio or on a small balcony.

Here are some top tips before we look at veg to try.

Choosing containers

There are lots of different containers, pots, grow bags or buckets that you could use for your vegetables.

In general, the deeper it is the better as this will help get water and nutrients to your vegetables. Aim for containers at least 23cm wide and deep, so they don’t dry out too quickly.

Plastic containers are better at holding moisture than clay ones.

Growing fruit and veg in containers at home unlocked something. I was quickly entranced by the growing process.

Annabelle Padwick, Founder Life at No 27

Drainage

Your container must have drainage holes at the bottom, or excess water can’t escape. Before adding compost, put a layer of material at the bottom of the container, such as broken clay pots (‘crocks’) or large stones. This will help drainage.

Make it easier

You could use sticks as drainage material instead of crocks or stones. This will make the container lighter to move.

Working position

If you garden from a seated position, think about the height you will be working at. Ideally your elbows and shoulders should be at right angles so you are not overreaching. Sometimes, putting containers on a chair may make them a more comfortable height than on a table.

Pot placement

Container plants need more watering and feeding than plants in the ground. Group them together to make watering easier.

Creative idea

You could paint your pots and containers, if they are a suitable material. Read our guide to painting pots for advice on clay and terracotta pots.

There are a great variety of vegetables you can grow in pots and containers. Ones that grow upwards (beans, peas, tomatoes) or dwarf varieties can be a good idea if you are short on space.

Here are five of our favourite veg to try in pots and containers.

1. Radishes

Freshly harvested radishes held in a hand
Freshly harvested radishes held in a hand

Best time to grow: spring and autumn

Radishes are easy to grow, but are often under-rated. They come in a wide range of sizes and colours, from purple and pink to rainbow, and all of them can grow in pots.

  • Container size: Radishes don’t need a huge container. A 30cm pot can hold up to 12 radishes
  • Soil: Radishes aren’t too fussy. Any good quality, well-draining soil will do
  • Sun: Ideally place pots somewhere very sunny (6-8 hours of sun each day). If they get less, they will take longer to mature
  • Sowing seeds: Plant radish seeds 1cm deep and 2cm apart. Once the plants have germinated, thin the seedlings if needed. Space plants 5cm apart
  • Care: Water well. If the soil dries out too often, radishes can become less tasty
  • Harvesting: Radishes are fast growers. Some varieties mature in 23 days

2. Sugar snap peas

Bright green sugar snap peas
Bright green sugar snap peas

Best time to grow: spring

Most varieties of sugar snap peas can be grown in pots or containers. They don’t spread too wide or grow too high, so are good for balconies.

  • Container size: at least 30cm wide and equally deep, with good drainage. The plants climb as they grow, so you will need support. You can buy pea trellises from garden centres. You could also use an upside-down tomato cage if your pot fits inside it
  • Soil: Any good quality multi-purpose compost
  • Sun: Sugar snap peas like plenty of sun
  • Sowing seeds: plant in a circle around the edge of the container. Space 4–5cm apart and about 2cm deep. Cover gently with soil and water generously
  • Care: Water consistently and generously, so the soil is almost always moist
  • Harvesting: Peas can start to sprout in about 10 to 14 days. They take about two months to be ready to harvest. You know they are ready when the pea inside is the same width as the pod

3. Beetroot

Harvested beetroot
Harvested beetroot

Best time to grow: spring and early summer

Growing your own beetroot can be a revelation compared to shop-bought. They are straightforward and make great container crops, especially if you choose a quick-growing variety.

  • Container size: Your container or window box should be at least 30cm wide with plenty of drainage holes
  • Soil: Any good quality multi-purpose compost
  • Sun: Ideally choose a sunny spot. A little bit of shade is ok, but not a lot
  • Sowing seeds: Push seeds about 2cm down into the compost using your finger. Space seeds around 6cm apart. Once they’ve germinated and are around 2cm tall, thin so they are 10-12cm apart
  • Care: Water regularly so you get steady growth
  • Harvesting: It can be tricky to tell when to harvest your beetroot. Gently ease one plant out. If it’s the size of a golf ball, you could start harvesting. This may take two months or more. You may want to harvest some plants and leave the others to grow bigger

4. Tomatoes

Ripe red tomatoes on the vine
Ripe red tomatoes on the vine

Best time to grow: late spring and early summer

Juicy ripe tomatoes, picked straight from the plant, can be enjoyed by anyone who has room for a pot in a sunny sheltered spot. Cherry tomatoes are the easiest to grow.

  • Container size: Tomatoes need space to grow. Each plant needs at least a 30cm pot. If using a trough or window box, space plants 35cm – 45cm apart
  • Soil: Good quality multi-purpose compost
  • Sun: Most varieties of tomatoes need lots of sun
  • Sowing seeds: You can grow tomatoes from seed from early spring if you have somewhere warm to keep them. Or, grow from a small plant instead.
  • Care: Tomatoes are thirsty, so keep watering consistently. You can also give them a liquid tomato feed as the fruits start to form
  • Harvesting: Delicious ripe tomatoes should start to appear from mid to late summer. You may keep getting fruit well into the autumn

Read our guide to growing tomatoes for more advice.

5. Potatoes

Nikki compost potatoes 1
Growing potatoes in a compost bag

Best time to grow: mid spring. Some varieties can be planted in early autumn in time for Christmas

Potatoes are top of the list of easy vegetables to grow in a large container, pot or deep grow bag. First early and second early varieties are ideal for pots or containers as you harvest them sooner, when they are smaller.

  • Container size: Potatoes need space. Each seed potato / potato plant needs a 20-litre pot or container to grow in. Avoid black or dark containers if possible as they keep in heat and dry out quickly
  • Sun: Potatoes do best in a spot in full sun (6-8 hours a day)
  • Sowing seeds: Potatoes are grown from ‘seed potato.’ This looks very different to your usual seeds – more like a small potato! Read our guide to chitting potatoes for advice on getting them going. You gradually add more compost to the container over time as the potato plant grows
  • Care: Potatoes need plenty of water. Make sure your container has good drainage, so the soil doesn’t get too soggy
  • Harvesting: It can be tricky to know when potatoes are ready to harvest. Some might be ready after the first flowers appear, so may not. Gently feel the soil around the plant and see if you can tell how big the potatoes are. You can harvest a few at a time this way

Growing veg and bringing it into the kitchen is great … it's satisfying to produce my own food.

Lizzie, gardener

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