Container vegetable gardening for beginners

There’s nothing like the smell of soil, the feeling of cool dirt between your fingers, or the crunch of a carrot freshly pulled from the garden. Growing your own food is one of life’s most satisfying activities. And in the hectic pace of today’s world, slowing down to enjoy the complex flavors of an heirloom tomato you’ve lovingly grown puts everything into perspective.

Not everyone has the privilege of land or massive amounts of time to tend a garden. For folks in urban areas, or just finding your way into gardening, container gardens are a great way to begin. They’re simple to manage, relatively low maintenance (no weeding!) and extremely versatile.

Before you begin...

There are about a million options when it comes to container gardening, so it can be helpful to narrow down a few variables. Let’s start with the basics: space, sun and water. By understanding those requirements, you can group plants with similar needs closely together.


First, determine what space is available for your garden. How many containers will you be able to include? Will your garden be indoors or outside? Will everything be in one spot, or will you have multiple areas?


How much sun is available?

  • Full sun (6+ hours of direct sun per day)
  • Partial sun / partial shade (4-6 hours of direct sun per day)
  • Full shade (less than 4 hours of direct sun per day)


Veggies take more water than your average house plant, and take more water than even the same plant in a traditional garden. Potting soil tends to dry faster than garden soil, so watering frequently is important. Hotter climates will need more water than cooler ones.

In general, if you stick your finger in the soil and the top inch is dry to the touch, it’s time to water. Figuring out a consistent schedule is important, as frequent changes in moisture can cause things like tomato blossom-end rot.


vegetable garden radish

Our guide to container gardening

Where you live will determine which plants will thrive in your garden. For folks in the US, it can be helpful to see which zone you’re in on the USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map.


Pot Size


Salad greens

2+ gallon, space plants 6” apart

Partial sun


2+ gallon, space plants 2-4” apart

Full sun to partial shade


5+ gallon, minimum 5” deep, space plants 2” apart

Full sun to partial shade


1 seed potato per 5 gallon pot

Full sun to partial shade


5+ gallon, space plants 4” apart

Full sun


2+ gallon, space plants 6” apart

Full sun

Snap peas

5+ gallon, needs trellis, space plants 2-4” apart

Full sun


1 plant per 5 gallon pot

Full sun


1 plant per 5 gallon pot

Full sun


1 plant per 5 gallon pot

Full sun


1 plant per 5 gallon pot

Full sun


1 plant per 5 gallon pot, or DIY hanging planter

Full sun

gardening soil

Container gardening in 5 steps

1. Map it out

Determine whether you want a summer of home-grown salads or a stockpile of root veggies. What type of harvest will you enjoy most? Decide how many pots you’ll need and what will be planted in each.

2. Seeds or starts?

Figure out whether you’d like to start from seeds or nursery starts (tiny plants that have already begun growing). There are pros and cons to each. To learn about specifics for your area, we recommend talking to your local nursery.

3. Soil & drainage

As you prep your garden, make sure all of your containers have holes in the bottom for adequate drainage. You may also want to add gravel or rocks to the bottom of your pot prior to adding in soil. Potting soil is best for container gardens, as it allows for better drainage than garden soil.

4. Create & tend to your garden

Planting your garden is a special time. Give yourself ample time to enjoy getting your hands dirty, mark the beginning of spring growing season and connect to the earth.

5. Learn & grow

If this is your first time trying your (green-thumbed) hand at gardening, be patient with yourself. You’ll likely grow just as much as whatever you plant. Getting to know your space and your food on an intimate level is both an art and a that evolves over a lifetime.