University of Illinois Extension
Getting Started - Making Herb and Vegetable Containers - Successful Container Gardens - University of Illinois Extension

Making Herb and Vegetable Containers

Getting Started

Planting Vegetables or Herbs in Containers

  • Select the right varieties of vegetables or herbs you want to grow.
  • Get the seeds or transplants.
  • Select the right container.
  • Fill the container with potting mix, but not to brim.
  • Some potting mix does not contain fertilizers, so add recommended amounts of fertilizers.
  • Water the container until water drips from the hole in the bottom of the container.
  • Plant seeds (based on number of plants per container and planting depth depending on seed size). Water immediately after planting the seeds. Plant transplants the same way they are planted in a garden by spreading the roots and covering the roots with potting mix and firming potting mix around the roots. Water transplants immediately with starter fertilizer.
  • Transfer containers to the right location based on sunlight requirements of the plants (full sun - at least six hours of sunlight, and partial shade four to six hours of sunlight).
  • Ensure that plants get adequate moisture throughout the growing season.

Staking or Caging of Tomatoes and Other Vegetables Grown in Containers

Staking method depends on the growth habit of the plant. Some types of vegetables may need cages instead of staking due to their growth habit.


  • Place the stake (about two to four feet tall depending on plant height) in the container before filling it with potting mix.
  • Fill the container with potting mix.
  • Plant seeds or seedlings of the vegetables to be staked.
  • When the plant is about 12 inches tall, begin tying it to the stake using thin strips of fabric or sisal twine.
  • Tie plant on stake as it grows taller, and prune the unwanted shoots (suckers) to ensure leaves get full sunlight.


  • Select a wire cage that will fit in the container.
  • Immediately after transplanting, anchor the cage in the container around the seedling so that the seedling grows inside the cage.
  • Provide support to the cage when necessary.

Succession Planting of Leafy Vegetables in Containers

This can be achieved by planting leafy greens that take a shorter time to mature

  • Select leafy vegetables that you would like to grow (such as spinach, lettuce, collards, etc).
  • Select a container that will accommodate vegetables planted in succession
  • Plant seeds or transplant seedlings of the selected vegetable in a container and leaving a space for future plantings.
  • After one or two weeks, make a second planting of the vegetable in the vacant space.
  • After another week, make a third planting in the vacant space.
  • After harvesting the first planted vegetables, there will be enough space for a second and third planting of vegetables to grow.
  • At the end of the growing season, amend the soil media or discard and replace with new soil media.