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Vegetable Varieties for Container Growing

Container barrel1

Container barrelPlanting a container vegetable garden is not much different than planting your in-ground vegetable or kitchen garden. The same seasonal requirements apply–plant cool-season crops in early spring or late summer; plant warm-season crops in spring and summer.

Because your container garden space is limited in size–including the depth of the soil for root growth–first, select a container that is big enough for the crop you want to grow, next choose crop varieties or cultivars that will grow well in containers. You will have success with vegetables that are described as “compact,” “bush,” or “dwarf.”

The advantages to container gardening are many:

  • All you need to start is a trowel, premixed soil, and container.
  • Care is easier: container gardens rarely get weeds; diseased soil is easily tossed; water is almost always close by since most container gardens are on patios, porches, or balconies
  • Containers are mobile: you can take advantage of sun and seasonal changes; plants are more easily sheltered from cold.
  • Harvest is quick: place your containers near the kitchen.
  • Almost every plant that grows in your in-ground garden will grow in your container garden provided the container is large enough.

Because container gardens offer so much freedom, add to the adventure by growing gourmet varieties that you do not commonly find at the farm market or produce store. Here are a few suggestions: snap peas (round, fat, and crunchy), Mizuna (frilly salad leaves), winter purslane (small succulent leaves); salad burnet (salad green tastes like cucumber), spice basil (tastes like its name), garlic chives (on potatoes or in salsa), fava beans (try them fresh), beets (how about red-swirled), purple tomatillos (enough said), miniature sweet peppers (try Jingle Bells).

Check out seed catalogs–most will recommend varieties for container growing. Here is a list of kitchen garden vegetable and herb varieties and cultivars that you can try and a suggested minimum container size for growing one plant. If you want to grow more than one plant in container add three-quarters again the width to the container.

Vegetable  Varieties for Container Growing:

Vegetable Variety or Cultivar Container Size: minimum for one plant
Artichoke Green Globe, Imperial Star, Violetto 24″ deep
Beans, Lima Bush Baby, Bush Lima, Fordhook, Fordhook 242 12″ wide x 8-10″ deep
Beans, Snap Bush Blue Lake, Bush Romano, Contender, Provider, Rushmore, Tendercrop Stringless 1′ wide x 1′ deep
Beets Baby Canning, Burpee Golden, Little Ball, Red Ace Hybrid, Ruby Queen 6″ wide x 6-12″ deep
Broccoli Arcadia, Green Comet, Munchkin, Small Miracle 8-12″ wide x 20″ deep
Brussels sprouts Jade Cross, Oliver, Rubine 12″ wide x 18-20″ deep
Cabbage Baby Head, Dwarf Morden, Earliball, Fast Ball, Flash, Minicole 8-12″ wide x 1′ deep
Carrots Amini, Baby Fingers Nantes, Baby Spike, Best of the Bunch, Danver’s Half Long, Early Horn, Gold Nugget,  Kinko, Nantes Half Long,  Little Finger, Round Baby, Short & Sweet, Thumbelina, Tiny Sweet, 10″ wide x 10″ deep
Cauliflower Snow Cross, Violet Queen 18″ wide x 2-3′ deep
Celery Conquistador, Early Snowball, Redventure, Ventura 8-10″ wide x 10″ deep
Chard Bright Lights, Fordhook, Fordhook Giant, Lucullus, Ruby Red 12-18″ wide x 1′ deep
Chinese cabbage Bok Choy, Michihli, Wong Bok 1′ wide x 20″ deep
Collards Any variety 12″ deep
Corn F-M Cross, Golden Bantam, Kandy Korn, Luther Hill, Precocious 3′ wide x 1′ deep; 3 per container to insure pollination.
Cress Curly Cress, Upland Cress 8″ wide x 6-8″ deep
Cucumber Burpee Hybrid II, Burpee Pickler, Bush Baby, Bush Champion, Bush Crop, Bush Pickle, Fanfare, Patio Pik, Pickalot, Picklebush, Pot Luck, Salad Bush, Spacemaster. Pickling: Lucky Strike 1′ wide x 16″ deep
Edible Flowers Bachelor’s Button, Calendula, Dianthus, Marigold, Nasturtium, Sunflower, Violas 8-10″ deep
Eggplant Bambino, Black Beauty, Dusky, Easter Egg, Florida Market, Long Tom, Millionaire, Morden Midget 16″ deep x 18″ deep
Endive, Escarole Bianca Riccia, Nataly, Neos 8″ wide x 6-8″ deep
Garlic German Extra Hardy 10-12″ deep
Herbs Basil, Borage, Chamomile, Chives, Cilantro, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lemongrass, Lemon Verbena, Marjoram, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Savory, Shiso, Tarragon, Thyme 8-10″ deep
Horseradish Maliner Kren 5 gallon or larger
Kale Any variety 8″ wide x 8″ deep
Kohlrabi Grand Duke 12″ deep
Leeks King Richard, Lincoln 10-12″ deep
Lettuce Black-Seeded Simpson, Buttercrunch, Cos, Green Ice, Green Looseleaf, Little Gem, Mignonette, Oakleaf Red Sails, Red Fire, Red Looseleaf, Salad Bowl, Tom Thumb 8″ wide x 6-8″ deep
Mustard Green Wave, Osaka Purple, Red Giant 8-12″ deep
Onion Bunching types: Beltsville Bunching, Crystal Wad Pickling, Japanese Bunching, White Bunching, White Pear. Standards: Copra, Early Yellow Globe, South Redport 10-12″ deep
Parsley Dark Moss Curled, Paramount 8″ deep
Peas Burpee’s Blue Bantam, Early Patio, Laxton’s Progress, Little Marvel, Melting Sugar, Snowbird, Sugar Ann, Sugar Bon, Sugar Daddy, Sugar Mel, Sugar Rae. Snow Peas: Little Sweetie 1′ deep x 1′ wide
Peppers All varieties: Canapé, Jalapeno, Jingle Bells, Keystone, Peppery Pot, Pimento, Resistant Giant, Red Cherry, Yolo Wonder 16″ deep x 18″ deep
Potatoes Charlotte, Cobbler, Irish, Epicure, Kennebec, Red Pontiac, Rose Finn Apple, Russian Banana, Yukon Gold 20 gallon
Pumpkins Autumn Gold Hybrid, Baby Boo, Baby Bear, Bushkin, Jack Be Little, Small Sugar, Sweetie Pie 5 gallon tub – 3′ deep
Radicchio Chioggia Red Preco, Fiero, Indigo, Pall de Fuoco Rossa; Daikon 8″ wide x 6-8″ deep
Radish Burpee White, Champion, Cherry Belle, Comet, Icicle, Early Scarlet Globe, French Breakfast, Red Boy, Sparkler 5″ wide x 4-6 inches deep
Spinach Any variety: American Viking, Long Standing Bloomsdale, Melody 6-8″ wide x 4-6″ deep
Squash, summer Crookneck, Early Yellow Summer, Eightball, Gold Rush, Goldberg, Park’s Creamy Hybrid, Peter Pan Scalloping, Pic-N-Pic Hybrid, Richgreen Hybrid, Straightneck, Sunburst, Zephyr 24″ deep
Squash, winter Butterbush, Bush Acorn, Bush Delicata, Bush Table, Cream of the Crop, Table King, Queen Heart of Gold 24″ deep
Strawberries Alpine, Sarian, Tristar 8-12″ deep
Sweet Potato Beauregard, Georgia Jet, Vardaman 20 gallon
Tomatoes Basket Pak, Container Choice, Gardener’s Delight, Husky Gold, Husky Red, Lunch Box, Micro Tom, Patio VF, Pixie, Red Cherry, Rutgers, Saladette, Small Fry VFN, Spring Giant, Sundrop, Super Bush, Sweet 100, Tiny Tim, Toy Boy, Tumbling Tom, Yellow Canary, Yellow Pear, Whippersnapper Dwarf cultivars: 6-8″ wide x 1′ deep. Standard cultivars: 2′ wide x 2-3′ deep.
Turnips Hakurei, Purple Top White Globe 10-12″ wide x 12″ dee

This is Part II of a three part series on Container Gardening.

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

How To Grow Tips

How To Grow Tomatoes

How To Grow Peppers

How To Grow Broccoli

How To Grow Carrots

How To Grow Beans

How To Grow Corn

How To Grow Peas

How To Grow Lettuce

How To Grow Cucumbers

How To Grow Zucchini and Summer Squash

How To Grow Onions

How To Grow Potatoes

Cabbage four heads

Thanks Readers!

Container vegetable garden1

Dwarf and Miniature Vegetables for Containers