Container gardens can be an oasis of beauty on a deck, balcony or patio. Even container vegetable gardens can be beautiful. But most gardeners who grow vegetables in containers don’t do it for the beauty. They’re in it for the tasty vine-ripened tomatoes, the spicy hot peppers, the crunchy radishes and the tender salad greens.
If you’ve never tried container gardening before, you’re missing out on a great way to learn about gardening. And if you have grown vegetables in containers, you might be surprised at the new varieties of veggies that have recently been introduced with container gardening in mind.
Whether you are a newbie to gardening or a Master Gardener, now is a great time to grow a container garden full of edible plants. My list of the Top 10 Container Garden Vegetables is below, along with descriptions, photos and a link to where you can buy the seeds. If you want to read more about container gardening, read Tips for Growing Successful Container Gardens.
Start growing fresh and vegetables in your own container garden and start spending less money on produce at the local grocery store.
Top Container Gardening Vegetables: Tomatoes
Big Yummy Tomato
The name “Big Yummy” pretty much says it all. Pull a ripe Big Yummy Hybrid Tomato off the plant and take a bite. The taste is a perfect blend of sugary sweetness and fresh tomato tang that store-bought tomatoes just can’t match.
Big Yummy Tomato produces deep red, smooth fruits weighing in at 8 to 10 ounces. This is a great all-purpose size, ideal for slicing, canning, freezing, and saucing. The plant habit is determinate, meaning that that plant stays compact. That makes this tomato variety a great choice for container gardening.
A determinate tomato plant also produces its entire crop within just a few weeks, instead of bearing small amounts continuously all season. This is ideal if you like to can or freeze your crop, because you can do it all at once.
Big Yummy Tomato is a hybrid with superb disease resistance, making it a great choice for first-time gardeners as well as those who have had problems growing tomatoes in the past. To get a jump on the growing season, start seeds indoors. The fruit will be ready to harvest 69 days after setting out transplants. Buy Big Yummy Hybrid Tomato seeds or starter plants from www.parkseed.com.
‘Atlas’ Hybrid Tomato
Beefsteak tomatoes are always a popular choice for backyard gardens. These large, meaty tomatoes deliver excellent taste and lots of deep-red fruits. ‘Atlas’ Hybrid is a new beefsteak variety that was specifically bred to grow as a container gardening plant on porches, patios, decks and other small spaces. That means gardeners can grow tasty beefsteak tomatoes in a container right outside their kitchen door.
The bushy, compact ‘Atlas’ tomato plants produce a bountiful harvest of one-pound tomatoes in any sunny spot. These ripe tomatoes deliver delicious homegrown flavor with a nice balance of sweetness and acidity. Seeds and starter plants are available from www.burpee.com.
Top Container Gardening Vegetables: Cucumbers and Corn
Tasty Green Hybrid Slicing Cucumber
Cucumbers may not be an obvious choice for container garden vegetables. That’s because cucumber is a vining plant that can easily cover 10 or 20 square feet of space in a garden plot.
There are two keys to growing cucumbers in containers. First, choose a large enough container, at least 12 inches wide and 12 inches deep. A GrowBox self-irrigated planter is a good choice for cucumbers. Second, provide a trellis so your container-grown plants can grow vertically.
The Tasty Green Hybrid Slicing Cucumber from www.gurneys.com is a great variety that produces ripe cucumbers that have a sweet flavor and fewer seeds than most cucumber varieties. This Japanese slicing type of cucumber is a dependable producer of high yields, and the slender, dark green fruits are 8-9 inches long. These burpless cucumbers are crisp and juicy, with a pleasantly mild and sweet flavor. A ripe Tasty Green Hybrid Slicing Cucumber is perfect for eating fresh and slicing into salads. Another plus is it is resistant to cucumber vein yellowing virus and powdery mildew.
On Deck Sweet Corn
Corn has never been a container garden vegetable. Until now. On Deck Sweet Corn was introduced a few years ago. This variety made it possible to grow sweet corn in even the smallest of gardens—including container gardens.
Most corn varieties are difficult to grow in small gardens because the kernels are wind pollinated. As a result, a large stand of corn is needed to get uniform pollination. But On Deck Sweet Corn pollinates so well that it’s now possible to grow corn tiny gardens. Yes, you can even grow it in containers.
On Deck Sweet Corn sets two to three ears per plant, and this variety stays nicely compact. This variety reaches a maximum of just 5 feet tall—making it the perfect size for container gardening. It can also make a nice little windscreen on a porch or in the back of a garden.
The 8-inch long bi-color ears are delectably sweet, and they have a great crispy kernel set. Imagine sowing just nine seeds in a 24-inch diameter pot and producing 27 ears of corn! On Deck Sweet Corn won a Green Thumb Award from the Direct Gardening Association as one of the best new plant varieties of the year. Seeds are available from www.burpee.com.
Top Container Gardening Vegetables: Salad Greens
Spinach is one of the best container vegetables ever. Never grown spinach? The fresh taste and quality of homegrown spinach will win you over after just one bite. Spinach is a small plant (just 6-8 inches tall), so it is well suited for contain gardening.
A classic spinach variety called ‘Bloomsdale’ is one of the most popular varieties. Since the 1800s it has been a dependable, delicious and productive open-pollinated variety. Bloomsdale Spinach is a nutritious, leafy green that boasts plenty of Vitamin A, Vitamin C and iron. The leaves are curly and very dark green.
One of the reasons that spinach is a great container plant is because it can be harvested a few leaves at a time, so the plant keeps growing and keeps producing. And Bloomsdale Spinach is slow to bolt (which means it is slow to set seeds). That makes for a nice, long growing season. Buy packets of organic Bloomsdale Spinach seeds from www.BotanicalInterests.com.
Four Seasons Lettuce
Lettuce is a cool-season crop that can be successfully grown in a container garden as long as you plant the seeds early or late in the growing season. One of the best varieties for container gardening is called Four Seasons lettuce.
Four Seasons lettuce is a classic butterhead that produces ruffled red leaves that turn green toward the base. This heirloom variety is known for a long growing season, and it can tolerate light frosts. But the name is a bit misleading, because Four Seasons doesn’t produce well in the heat of the summer.
If you plant the seeds in early spring and autumn, Four Seasons will grow well in containers during much of the year. Sow seeds just ¼ inch deep in potting soil and you will have fresh lettuce in 55 days or less. Seeds are available from www.nicholsgardennursery.com.
Top Container Gardening Vegetables: Squash and Eggplant
‘Cupcake’ Summer Squash
Summer squash is a longtime vegetable garden favorite because of its dependable production in almost any growing conditions. Cupcake Hybrid Summer Squash is a new variety that gets its name from its cupcake shape. The delectable fruits are 2-5 inches across and boast a flavor that is somewhat sweet and somewhat savory.
Cupcake Hybrid Summer Squash is a great choice for roasting, slicing, grilling, boiling and stuffing. ‘Cupcake’ combines patty-pan squash’s rich, sweet flavor and zucchini’s soft skin. This large, trailing plant yields dozens of round, green squash. Seeds are available from www.burpee.com.
Eggplants are prized for their meaty, savory fruit. ‘Meatball’ is the first sweet-tasting eggplant variety that features a dense, meaty flesh that is flavorful and free of bitterness.
This new variety is a heavy-yielding eggplant hybrid that produces hefty 5-inch dark, round fruit all summer long. The flesh of ‘Meatball’ eggplant is moist and very versatile. The eggplant can be sliced and grilled, or the flesh can be cooked and shaped into meatballs.
‘Meatball’ hybrid seeds can be planted indoors in late winter and transplanted outdoors after the threat of frost has passed. The eggplants will be ready for harvest 50-60 days later. Seeds are available from www.burpee.com.
Top Container Gardening Vegetables: Grow Something Different
Starburst Hybrid Radish
Radishes are a great choice for container gardening because they are easy to grow and quickly produce a delicious crop. They are also perfect for containers because they are the speed demons of the garden—maturing more quickly than almost any other vegetable.
Starburst Hybrid Radish Seeds bring a unique color and taste to the world of radishes. This variety is a Chinese type of radish that grows edible roots that are as big as tangerines, with insides as bright red as watermelons. Expect Starburst globes to reach 2 to 2½ inches in diameter, with a white outside rind that’s tinged with green, red flesh, and pale green shoots.
These radishes mature steadily, and they taste as good as they look. Starburst Hybrid Radishes are great for pickling as well as fresh eating. The ripe radishes are round, crisp and flavorful, making them an excellent addition to any garden.
Like most radish varieties, Starburst Hybrid grows best in moist, well-drained soil. The radishes will be ready to harvest 60 days after sowing seeds. Seeds are available from www.parkseed.com.
Mini Love Watermelon
Everyone knows that watermelons are huge fruits, and growing watermelons takes a large garden plot. But a new watermelon called Mini Love changes all of that. Mini Love Hybrid Watermelon is small enough to grow in a container garden.
Mini Love Watermelon is an All American Selection-winning hybrid that’s super-compact, so instead of the usual sprawling vines, each plant is a compact 3-foot by 3-foot spread. On each relatively small plant grows up to half a dozen delicious fruits.
The mini size is just the beginning, because this new hybrid also boasts impressive disease resistance. Mini Love Watermelon stands up to anthracnose—a scourge of many other watermelon varieties—and the fruit has a thin rind that is strong enough to resist cracking and splitting. Best of all is the taste, because the dark red flesh is juicy, sweet, aromatic and deliciously mouthwatering.
Each ripe Mini Love melon weighs between 7 and 9 pounds, with a shape that varies from oval to round. For planting in containers, sow several seeds in a raised hill at the center of the container, then thin to one plant per pot. For earlier fruit, seeds may be started indoors. Buy packets of seed from www.parkseed.com.