Vegetable and Herb Container Garden Checklist

A container garden is easy to grow if you follow these how-tos. (For full information, see 8 Steps to a Vegetable and Herb Container Garden.)

  1. Check Pick your pot.

    Make sure the container is at least 24 inches in diameter. There should be room for the plants to develop strong roots and grow. Terra-cotta containers are good options, or consider repurposing a plastic trash can or bin and poking drainage holes in the bottom.

  2. Check Plan your arrangement.

    A 24-inch container can fit five to seven seedlings of varying sizes. Choose an anchor—a large plant like a tomato, a pepper, a blueberry, or an eggplant. Add a plant with height—a tall graceful fennel, an okra, or a dill. Then fill in around the edges with lettuces, spinach, or smaller herbs like parsley, basil, or rosemary. Try to include a plant that will dangle over the edge like nasturtium, strawberries, or even a small squash.

  3. Check Buy the best varieties.

    Pick up the seedlings at a nursery or farmers’ market. Select varieties of vegetables that are bred to be compact. Pay attention to leaf colors and textures when choosing vegetables and herbs, and look for edible flowers, too. Check the care tags to make sure the seedlings are compatible and can grow in the same pot.

  4. Check Prepare your container.

    Plant after the last frost (usually in April or May, depending on where you live). You’ll need only a trowel and gloves. Layer gravel or shards of broken terra-cotta pots in the bottom of the container; top with a bag or two of regular potting soil. Pat the soil down lightly to get rid of air pockets, and soak with water.

  5. Check Plant.

    Dig holes about four to six inches apart. Plant seedlings, making sure the stem is completely above the surface. Leave about an inch between the soil surface and the rim of the pot. Water lightly.

  6. Check Support the plants.

    Stake and tie climbing green beans and lanky plants like tomatoes.

  7. Check Maintain.

    Make sure the pot gets at least six hours of sun a day. Water it whenever the soil is dry to the touch two inches below the surface. Feed the plants an organic plant food every couple of weeks.

  8. Check Harvest your crops.

    As soon as plants bear fruit, harvest; cutting will stimulate them to produce more. Snip off any stem that looks like it’s about to bloom—if it flowers, the plant will die early after going to seed. Lettuces and herb leaves can be snipped at their bases leaf by leaf while the plant continues to grow.