Grow vegetables in pots on your deck or front steps. Shutterstock

Growing vegetables in containers makes sense for a lot of people, and not only those who live in condominium or apartment complexes without much yard space.

For years, we have grown tomato plants, usually with bite-size rather than slicing tomatoes, on our front steps. Not only was that the part of our property that got the most sun, but the brick steps hold onto the heat, and tomatoes do better if they are a bit warmer than Maine temperatures typically get – especially considering the drizzly weather of last year and early this year. And native Mainers do not use their front steps to enter their homes.

Doing some research, it is also possible to grow slicers, but you might have to give them support. And determinate tomato plants, which are more bush-like and produce fruit for a few weeks, are better for pots than indeterminate ones, which are vines and produce for a longer time.

But there are many more vegetables that can be grown in containers.

Fedco seeds, the cooperative based in Clinton, is offering new this year a collection of potatoes for containers. It includes two pounds each of Katahdin, Dark Red Norland and Upstate Abundance.

The first two are common varieties that we have grown with success in the garden, but Upstate Abundance is new to me. The catalogue says it grows golf-ball-sized potatoes with buff skin and creamy flesh. The potatoes fill up the soil vertically, and tubers set right up to the surface, so the soil should be mulched to keep them in the dark. Potatoes turn green in sunlight, and the green parts are somewhat poisonous.


Fabric pots for growing potatoes are available from several companies, but regular plastic plant pots with drain holes also work, especially if you have the bigger 5-gallon pots to use. Fedco recommends three seed potatoes (or 2-ounce sections if starting with a large potato) for a 5-gallon pot, and seven pieces for a 20-gallon fabric pot.

Nancy and I had two fabric grow bags we used for potatoes for about three seasons. They worked well and allowed for an easier harvest. They had openings at the bottom where you were supposed to be able to reach in and harvest new potatoes, but I didn’t have much luck with that. I just dumped the bags at the end of the season. They took little storage space because you could fold them up and put them away for the winter. I can’t remember where they went.

Peppers are another popular plant for growing in containers, and any plastic pot that once contained a garden shrub or flowering perennial will do. Peppers are not only tasty but attractive for their flowers, fruit and leaves.

One of the peppers that Fine Gardening magazine recommends for pots is Escamillo, an orange variety that was a 2016 All America Selections winner for Johnny’s Selected Seeds in Winslow. Escamillo’s red counterpart is Carmen, also an AAS winner for Johnny’s.

I wrote about peas last week and mentioned that most varieties require a trellis or other support. There is a way to avoid that step.

Plant your peas in a hanging basket, off a porch roof or maybe a lightpost, and let the vines hang down and blow in the breeze rather than climbing a support. The peas will need full sun.


The same method can be used for cucumbers, and the fruits will be better than ones growing in the garden. When cukes rest on the ground, the skin of bottom part often is yellow because it doesn’t get enough sun.

Several leafy vegetables are suitable for containers. I’ve grown Bright Lights Swiss chard for years and rarely eaten it. It’s another Johnny’s AAS winner and is beautiful spot of color in the garden – and would also be attractive as a potted patio or porch plant.

The same is true for lettuce. We use a variety called Red Salad Bowl that we buy from Allen, Sterling & Lothrop in Falmouth, and it is attractive in the garden and in pots, as well as being tasty and crisp.

These are just a few suggestions. Use your imagination. Think outside of the box – which reminds me that a box-shaped raised bed is really just a large container.

Tom Atwell is a freelance writer gardening in Cape Elizabeth. He can be contacted at:

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