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The best container garden vegetables for beginners have three things in common: They’re easy to grow, they produce well in average conditions, and they thrive in small spaces.

I started my first container garden almost 20 years ago with a few herbs and a tomato plant.

Herbs are great first plants for a new gardener, but don’t count out vegetables either. So many grocery store staples can be grown at home. And luckily there are some great options that love containers!

If you did start with herbs and want to try adding your favorite vegetable, good news! Some of the easiest vegetables to grow actually don’t require a big traditional garden.

Read on for my recommendations!

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Easiest container vegetables for beginning gardeners

While many different types of vegetables are suitable for container gardening, some are easier than others for new gardeners.

A few quick tips:

  • Be sure the size of your container matches the needs of your veggie. A crowded plant won’t produce as well. You also want to be sure your containers have at least 1-2 drainage holes. Good drainage is the best way to avoid root rot.
  • The growing medium you use is also important, as container veggies have limited access to nutrients and need good soil to thrive. I recommend using a high-quality potting soil mix like Miracle-GRO or Fox Farm. Be sure to avoid using anything labeled “garden soil” or “topsoil” in pots, as it isn’t designed for the kind of drainage you need in a container to avoid soggy roots. It can also harbor pests and bacteria.
  • Along with the container and soil, sunlight is another key factor. Veggies generally need at least 6 hours of sun per day (except some leafy greens like kale that can handle some shade).
  • Learn more about the essentials in my posts about Potting Soil 101, Fertilizer 101 and Compost 101!

Now that you have some basics in mind … here are some of the easiest plants for beginners to try this season!

Dark green kale and light green lettuce grow in a black container on a deck
Kale and leaf lettuce happily growing in a fabric grow pot on my deck last summer.

Leafy greens

If you’re new to container gardening, some of the easiest and most satisfying vegetables to grow fall into the category of “leafy greens.” or “salad greens.” This includes plants like leaf lettuce, spinach, kale and Swiss chard, all of which are fast to grow and don’t need much space to thrive.

Leafy greens should be planted in a well-draining container at least 5 gallons in size; however, depending on the greens you decide to grow, you can usually fit several plants per container. 

As cold-season vegetables, most leafy greens do best when sown in early spring or autumn when temperatures are not too high. If you want to grow greens during the hot summer, try growing bolt-resistant varieties like New Fire Red leaf lettuce, keep your containers well-watered, and locate your plants in partial shade to help prevent bolting. 

Most lettuces are fast-growing, germinating in five to eight days and reach full maturity in as little as 30 days after planting!

To keep your leafy greens growing strong, be sure to fertilize them every few weeks with a nitrogen-rich liquid fertilizer. 

To harvest, simply remove the outer leaves and allow the center to continue growing new leaves for future salads. For the smaller plants like leaf lettuce, it’s a good idea to plant several so you have enough for salads!

Snap Beans

Snap beans, also known as string beans or green beans, are very productive plants and super easy to grow too. Choose at least a 5 gallon planter, which can fit three to four bean plants, and opt for bush bean varieties, which remain compact and don’t need trellising. If you choose to grow vining beans or pole beans, be sure to add a trellis or some bamboo poles to support your plants.

After planting, your beans should germinate within five to eight days and reach full maturity within 45 to 65 days, depending on the variety. Keep your bean plants well-watered throughout the growing season and fertilize them every few weeks with a diluted organic liquid fertilizer. Once your bean plants start producing, harvest frequently to encourage your plants to produce more beans.

While there are a number of bush bean varieties that work well in container gardens, Blue Lake snap beans, Gold Rush wax beans and Jade bush beans are popular choices that grow reliably well.

green cucumber growing in container garden


While you may not think cucumbers are container-friendly, bush variety cucumbers grow very compactly, do not need trellising and can happily grow in a 5 to 7 gallon container. While they don’t require a very large pot, I grow mine in a 15-gallon fabric grow bag, which easily holds 2-3 cucumber plants.

Bush variety cucumbers, such as Bush Pickle and Bush Slicer, have small vines that rarely reach longer than 3’ long and trail charmingly out of patio pots or hanging baskets.

They’re heavy feeders, however, so be sure to fertilize your cucumbers with a well-balanced liquid veggie fertilizer every three to four weeks — be sure to avoid nitrogen-heavy fertilizer once flowers start to appear. Nitrogen encourages foliage growth vs. fruit production (so it’s great for leafy greens but not great for veggies once they flower!)

Harvest fruits frequently to encourage ongoing production.

red jalapenos growing on a plant with green leaves and stems


If you like making homemade salsa, try growing your own peppers on your patio for that extra kick of fresh spice! Peppers grow well in 3 to 5 gallon containers and love heat, so make sure you locate your pepper plants in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of bright sunlight.

Peppers will fruit all season long, so for best results, harvest frequently to increase your yield. While green peppers can be eaten at any point after they reach full size, try letting your peppers develop a bit more color for added flavor and heat. 

For an optimal harvest, fertilize your pepper plants with a low nitrogen fertilizer ever two to three weeks and consider adding a bamboo pole to your containers if your peppers look like they could use some extra support.

While most peppers will grow well in containers, some excellent choices to begin with are bell peppers, jalapeño peppers, other hot peppers, and Bulgarian carrot peppers. Check your seed packet for specific sowing and growing instructions for each variety.

tomatoes growing on vine in containers


No garden is complete without a few tomato plants, and that holds true for container gardens too. When choosing tomatoes for your container garden, opt for determinate or bush varieties that will grow about three to four feet tall. Choose containers that are between at least 5 and 10 gallons in size and add supports for your plants, such as bamboo poles, tomato cages or ladders.

As heavy feeders, tomatoes should be lightly fertilized every two weeks during the growing season with a low-nitrogen tomato fertilizer, and try companion planting your tomatoes with some basil or marigolds for natural pest control.

Tomatoes can take up to 100 days to mature from seed, so if you live in a cooler area, consider starting with seedlings from a garden store or farmers market for an earlier harvest.

Some of the best tomato varieties for small spaces include Italian Roma tomatoes, Red Pride tomatoes and, for cherry tomatoes, Cherry Falls.

More container gardening tips and ideas:

You really can grow your own vegetables with limited space. As long as you have full sun, the right container and high-quality potting soil, you’ll have a miniature version of an in-ground garden right on your patio or deck. It’s satisfying to grow your own food, and a container garden is a great way to do it! Now that you know the best container garden vegetables for beginners, what are you going to try? Let us know in the comments!

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