Container Vegetable Gardening for Beginners

Creating a vegetable garden is an awesome endeavor and can be super rewarding nutritionally, mentally, and emotionally. The best part is that your are about to begin growing your own delicious veggies the difficult part is that you’ve got some decisions to make. Container vegetable gardening for beginners can be a scary thing to start, however it doesn’t have to be. Once you get a grasp of some of the basic ideas and the right starting place the rest becomes relaxing, tranquil work. So here are some things to think about before you start your gardening journey.


Picking A Container

The size, shape, and design of your garden container are going to be some f the first deciding factors your choose when beginning a new container vegetable garden. The size and shape of your container will have a large impact on the varieties of vegetables your can grow. I like to break containers into 4 main categories: small 8-10 inches, medium 12-14 inches, large 16-18 inches, and extra-large at 20-24 inches.

  • Small – (8″-10″): chives, lettuce, radishes, other salad greens, basil, coriander
  • Medium – (12″-14″): bush beans, collards, garlic, spinach, kohlrabi, onions, Asian greens, peas, mint, thyme
  • Large – (16″-18″): pole beans, cauliflower, carrots, chard, small eggplant, fennel, leeks, peppers, spinach, parsley, rosemary
  • Extra – (20″-14″): Large beets, cucumber, broccoli, artichoke, okra, potatoes, sweet corn, summer squash, dill, lemongrass

As your increase the size of your pot your create more room for the root system of your vegetables. This increase in spaces allows for the growth of some larger scale vegetables.



Suggested Containers

Garden PotsSelf watering containers tend to allow your to grow a healthy plant in a pot than is one size lower than suggested which makes them a perfect choice for anyone with limited space like myself. Beyond that it becomes a choice of style.

There are a number of different styles of pots all with specific advantages and disadvantages. You can see My Top 5 Containers Here with reasons and explinations for each pick.



Picking a Location

The location of your container is going to strongly impact the type of vegetables your can grow. It will affect your garden so strongly because location will dictate the temperature, light duration, light strength, and air flow than your plants will receive.


  • Certain vegetables cannot thrive in temperatures than are too hot or cold. These shifts in temperature can be as small as 10-15 degrees between optimal growth and stunted growth so knowing your overall temperature range for a given location is important.

Light Duration

  • Many vegetables need as much as 17 hours of sunlight per day in order to grow and develop at their optimal rate. For the most part vegetables are broken down into three main groups.
    • Short Day Plants – These are plants than need less than half a day (12 Hours) of light to thrive. These tend to be the more cold hardy plants as well due to shorter day length corresponding with colder weather. There are fewer vegetables than thrive in this setting but a few are: sweet potatoes, soy beans, black-eyed peas, and mung beans.
    • Long Day Plants – This is where most vegetables reside. These plants need between 14 and 18 hours of sunlight per day. These also tend to be warmer temperature plants as more sun means more heat. Some vegetables your might consider growing in a long day scenario are: artichoke, lettuce, beets, onions, carrots, peas, potatoes, radishes, spinach, and turnips.
    • Day Neutral Plants – These plants aren’t bothered by long or short days. As long as they are getting a minimum of 10 hours of light per day they will grow just fine. Some even say your can grow day neutral plants under a 24-hour light setting but i have seen mixed results with this method. There are many day neutral vegetables which will thrive in a container setting like: Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cucumbers, kale, and tomatoes.
  • Depending on where your live and the availability of direct sunlight your may need to supplement your container garden with artificial grow lights.

Air Flow

  • While most plants do not need an excessive or regulated amount of airflow to thrive there is the need for circulation.
  • Air flow will help prevent the build up and development of mold on the potting media
  • It will also help reduce the amount of garden pests that can live in and on your plants.



Picking Your Vegetables

When you have narrowed your possibilities due to light availability and container size you are now ready to begin choosing the plants you can grow. Depending one the size of the container you are using you may consider growing two or more companion plants together in one pot. Some plants actually grow and develop more rapidly when paired with complimentary species. These plants generally share commonalities such as the amount of water needed, the duration and intensity of light, and optimal temperature.

Good Companions:

  • Carrots, beans, and squash
  • Eggplants and beans
  • Tomatoes, basil, and onions (Salsa)
  • Lettuce and herbs
  • Spinach, chard, and onions

Be aware that while some plants thrive together there are combinations that will delay deveolopment and stunt growth of the plants. These combinations generally have conflicting nutrient needs and ofhter unfortunate interactions. it is best to keep these plants seperate.

Combinations to Avoid:

  • Beans with onions and garlic
  • Carrots with dill or fennel
  • Tomatoes or squash with potatoes
  • Onions with beans and peas


Suggested Veggies

Some of the best veggies to start your garden with are tomatoes, basil, cucumbers lettuce onion, squash, radish and carrots are great quick growing plants that are extremely satisfying to watch quickly develop.

I would personally suggest starting with an herb combo of some sort. The herb section will grow quickly and provide a satisfying harvest that will rejuvenate your gardening spirit as you await your larger veggies.

Some other great plants that are super satisfying to grow are peppers, eggplants, summer squash, green beans, and lettuce.



Please leave me a comment below if:

  • you have any experience with any of these products
  • you agree or disagree with any of my recommendations
  • you know of any superior products that I should try out next
  • you have any extra information you would like to share with the Apartment Growers Community



Atlas Tupper


  1. Wow, great informative article. Can you please help me with the compost, soil mixture for my plants. I love the way you inform me on the sizes of the pots, that’s alwaus been a struggle for me to know what size pots to use for what. I would also love to get inspired for some DIY pots, with pots being so pricy and all.

    • Hey Leche,

      Pot size has created issues for me in the past as well. Knowing how large a container each variety will eventually require can save you a lot of work later on down the growth road. 

      I have been thinking about how to create a DIY post for creating self watering gardening containers for some time now and I keep running into the same issue: the materials I have used for each pot have varied greatly. Essentially it all comes down to the same basic pieces but how you go about creating these pieces depends on the materials you are using. No matter what your using you will need one large pot for the reservoir, one slightly smaller pot with cutouts I the bottom to hold the growing media and allow wicking, and lastly you will need a base media that will allow water wicking.

      As for your soil request, I am currently reasearching and evaluating the best organic soil to use for vegetable gardening and I will let you know as soon as I have finished all of my work.

      I hope this helps,


  2. Hello Atlas! Great article on container gardening! I started container gardening on the back porch in my house because I preferred that over digging into the backyard clay soil. When I got distracted with other life obligations, my edible plants suffered. I saw you mentioned about self-watering options, and I wanted to ask how long do the self-watering containers sustain a plant for? My weather is typically very hot here and the moisture would fry out of my poor plants quite quickly and easily. What would you recommend that could give me a more hands- off container gardening experience?

    • Hey Tiffany,

      The self watering container operate on a wicking principle. Basically what happenes is the planter has a water reservoir in the base that the plant can access through its roots. Depending on the amount of water your plant requires and the size of the reservoir some containers my only need water every 1-2 weeks. Considering that you stated that you live in a very arid location I would expect you to need to water you plant so in the medium sized planter once a week. 

      Considering they are outside and on your porch you may also want to look into using a drip irrigation system. This method will decrease the amount of water that evaporates from the soil before your plants get to utilize it. 

      I hope this helps,


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