Nearly every vegetable has at least one variety suitable for container gardening. These have less extensive root systems that can maximize the nutrients in the potting mix. Often, the plants are bred to be smaller than their heirloom counterparts, but some vegetables are adapted to containers no matter what variety. County Extension Offices are an excellent source of container gardening tips for novice vegetable gardeners looking for tested information on what varieties of vegetables grow in container gardens in their region.
Greens in a Vegetable Container Garden
Salad greens are a nearly foolproof in a vegetable container garden. They have shallow root systems, allowing them to be planted in shallower planters or as an accent plant in a larger vegetable container garden. Leaf lettuce or spinach can act as a mock groundcover or living mulch around other plants.
Vine Crops in a Vegetable Container Garden
Crops like squash and melon, known for their space-hogging long vines, have bush varieties that do well confined to containers. Even these require a container with at least a 5-gallon capacity. The vines can be left to run across a patio or deck, and shifted and rearranged as needed. With vines sprawled across a hard surface rather than the ground, squash and melon are less prone to premature rotting of the fruit.
Tall crops like pole beans, peas and cucumbers can thrive in a vegetable container garden if given a support to grow up. These can provide vertical interest in a larger container vegetable garden planted in a half-barrel or large tub. Containerized peas may stop producing sooner than ground-sown peas, as the soil in the container warms before the ground will.
Tomatoes and Other Nightshades in Vegetable Container Gardens
Several varieties of tomatoes are specifically bred for container gardening success. These include Patio and Window Box Roma, as well as smaller cherry tomatoes like Tumbling Tom. In a 5-gallon pot, nearly any type of tomato will grow and produce well, though the 1- to 2-pound beefsteak varieties may turn out smaller than their reputation suggests.
Eggplant and peppers both grow well in container vegetable gardens regardless of the variety, though they do require a container at least 12 inches wide and deep, per plant. Potatoes can be grown in a bushel basket or even a split-open bag of potting soil.
Root Vegetables in Container Gardens
Root vegetables require a deeper container than some other plants to give the edible root enough room to grow. Shorter types of carrots, like Thumbelina, can grow to full size in containers, and any variety of carrot can be harvested small for baby carrots from containers. Beets and globe radishes both grow well in containers.