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How to Select Containers for Your Vegetable Garden

Selecting the correct container for your vegetable garden can depend upon a variety of factors. What is the correct size container for your plant? Will you need to be able to move the container after it is planted? What material will work best for your environment? What color and style will best match your decor? Let’s take a look at some of the main factors to consider when choosing planters for your vegetable garden.

Plant Spacing

The plant spacing can determine the size of the container you choose or how many plants you place in each container. Plants with closer spacing like radishes and carrots can easily be planted several per container, while larger plants like tomatoes and summer squash are best grown individually or across a long, deep container.

Radishes1 – 2″
Leaf Lettuce6″
Swiss Chard6″
Jerusalem Artichokes6″
Head Lettuce10″
Cherry Tomatoes12″
Summer Squash18″
Tomatoes (standard)18″

Root Depth

Container depth varies depending upon the characteristics of the vegetables that you’re growing. Proper root depth will ensure the plant can absorb the moisture and nutrients it needs while also providing the plant with stability. Plants with a shallow root depth are better suited for smaller planter boxes, while plants with deep roots need a deep planter box, 5-gallon bucket, or grow bag.

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Shallow (9 – 12″)Moderate (12 – 16″)Deep (16 – 18″)
OnionsCarrots *Jerusalem Artichokes
SpinachCherry TomatoesSummer Squash
Swiss ChardEggplantTomatoes (standard)

*Carrots may require 9 – 18″ of soil depth, depending upon variety

Read: 10 Best Planters for Your Container Garden

Container Diameter

As a general rule of thumb, a container’s width or diameter should be half as wide as the mature height of the plant. The plant should also have at least half of it’s plant spacing from the edge of the container. This will give visual appeal, as well as ensuring adequate space for root development. A container that is too small may stunt plant growth and dry out more quickly. Likewise, a container that is too large may cause the soil to hold excess water, which could lead to root rot.

Read: Keep Your Containers Looking Great with These 6 Simple Tricks

Planter Material

  • Fabric Fabric grow bags have increased in popularity in recent years. They drain better than containers with drainage holes only on the bottom, which makes them ideal for plants that are prone to fungal root issues. The breathable bags naturally air prune roots, which also prevents plants from becoming root bound. Grow bags are available in a wide variety of sizes, so you can have a bag for one tomato plant or an entire raised bed garden made from fabric. Because the grow bags do drain so well, they are best paired with
    a plastic saucer to keep water runoff contained.
  • Wood – wood containers can be made inexpensively at home, are slow to dry out, and look great in a variety of settings. The biggest drawback is that wood tends to rot over time, and will need to be replaced. Treated wood is slower to rot, but its safety with growing edible plants is questionable. Redwoods like cedar and cypress are rot resistant varieties that may be available in your are, but they will be more expensive than other varieties.
  • Ceramic – ceramic planters are very attractive and commonly available. Thick ceramic will be more tolerant of temperature fluctuations and less likely to crack. Be careful to ensure you select a container that already has drainage holes. Large ceramic containers can be quite heavy when filled, so you will want to invest in a plant caddie.
  • Terracotta – terracotta pots can be an inexpensive option for your container garden; however, care should be taken to ensure their longevity. Thinner pots tend to crack in cold weather, so should be brought indoors in the winter. The pots will also absorb moisture from the soil, so plants should be watered more frequently.
  • Plastic – Plastic containers are widely available and can be made to look like natural materials. Even thicker plastic containers are lightweight, and will stand up to a variety of environments. Dark colors will absorb heat in full sun, while light colors can reflect light and keep roots cool.
  • Fiberglass – Fiberglass containers are slightly more expensive than plastic, but they tend to look more natural and will stand up better to direct sunlight. They are also lightweight, which makes them a more favorable choice than natural materials.
  • Metal – Metal containers are increasing in popularity in recent years. Aluminum containers are lightweight and won’t rust or need painted, while iron planters will be heavy and give your garden an aged look. The downside is that they will heat roots in full sun.
  • Concrete – Concrete planters can add a lot of variety to your garden. Well made cast concrete planters come in a variety of styles and colors, plus they will last for years. You can also make them yourself. They are extremely heavy, so you will probably want to choose a permanent location for them, or keep them on a plant caddie so they can be moved. You may also want to consider using a cachepot system to make replanting easy.

Read: Cachepot: How To Double Pot And Display Plants Without Repotting

Read: Choosing a Container for Planting

How to select containers for your vegetable garden. Choose the best container for growing vegetables with these tips. Select planters based upon size, root depth, and watering needs of your plants. #containergardening #vegetablegardening #gardening #growsomethinggreen
How to Select Containers for Your Vegetable Garden
How to Select Containers for Your Vegetable Garden
How to Select the Best Containers for Your Vegetable Garden

Lynn Hertel-Mackmin

Monday 20th of May 2019

Really appreciate the great information. I've been all over the internet looking for the information you provided. Thank you!


Wednesday 22nd of May 2019

I'm glad I could help. :)

AnnMarie Lewellyn

Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

What an informative post! I love planting in containers but I always seem to crowd the plants. Your post was very helpful! Thanks for sharing this!


Wednesday 3rd of April 2019

I'm glad you enjoyed it! I think a lot more people could be growing their own food if they understood how to make containers work for them.

Thanks for stopping by.