When it comes to growing vegetables, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Some people have a lot of space and can set up elaborate gardens, while others must make do with a small balcony, porch, or even an indoor garden with grow lights.
If you’re in the latter group, don’t worry – you can still grow a bounty of your own vegetables by using shallow containers.
Growing vegetables in shallow containers is a wonderful way to conserve space, and it’s perfect for people who have limited space to grow vegetables.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss the benefits of growing vegetables in shallow pots, and we’ll provide tips regarding the best vegetables that grow in shallow containers, as well as how much soil depth you need for various shallow-rooted vegetables.
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Pro Tip: Before I get into all of the ins and outs of shallow root vegetables, I want to emphasize the importance of starting with good seeds. After experiencing some “dud seed” purchases, I’ve switched over to buying all of my seeds from True Leaf Market because of their top-quality seeds, good pricing, fast shipping, and excellent customer service.
Benefits of Growing Vegetables in Shallow Containers
Growing vegetables in shallow containers has many benefits. First, it makes it possible to grow vegetables in a small space. This is especially helpful for people who live in urban areas with limited outdoor space.
Second, shallow containers require less soil than large containers, which can save money. This matters because I’ve found that when it comes to container gardening, soil is one of my biggest expenses.
Third, shallow containers are lighter and therefore easier to move than large containers. This is especially helpful for people with limited strength, such as elderly or disabled people.
The bottom line is that while there are limitations with choosing vegetables that grow in shallow containers, the benefits by far outweigh any drawbacks.
Vegetables That Grow in Shallow Containers
Generally, the minimum soil depth recommended for successfully growing vegetables is 12 inches, but as with all generalizations, there are exceptions to this principle.
A soil depth of 12 inches or more provides the best option to grow a wider range of vegetables, but certain vegetables will grow well with a soil depth of 4 inches to 8 inches.
The best plants to choose are shallow-rooted vegetables for containers with limited depth. These vegetables do not need the same soil depth as other plants and can thrive in shallow pots.
Vegetables that Grow in 4 Inches to 6 Inches of Soil
There are obvious limitations when it comes to growing vegetables in only 4 inches to 6 inches of soil. But what I love about these super shallow-rooted vegetables is that there are so many different containers you can use that have a depth of 4 inches or more.
For example, you can even purchase food storage containers at your local grocery store or dollar store that are deep enough for the vegetables listed below.
- Radishes. Radishes can be grown in as little as 4 inches of soil. Focus on round radishes such as Cherry Belle rather than longer varieties
- Onions. A soil depth of a minimum of 4 inches is required to grow onions, both the full root onions and the smaller spring onion varieties.
- Strawberries. While not technically a vegetable, strawberries are a food crop that grows well in a minimum of 4 inches to 6 inches.
- Lettuce. Lettuce requires a minimum soil depth of 6 inches. Head lettuce or loose-leaf lettuce grow equally well with this soil depth.
- Chinese cabbage. Chinese cabbage can be grown in soil 6-inches deep. Traditional cabbage will not do well since it requires a minimum root depth of 18 inches
- Garlic. Garlic does not grow deep and does well in a container with a minimum of 6 inches of soil.
- Mustard greens. These spicy greens grow in as little as 4 inches of soil.
- Mint. Mint is a herb only needs 4 inches of soil to thrive.
- Thyme. You can grow thyme in a minimum soil depth of 4 inches.
- Chives. Chives are a shallow-rooted herb that only requires a minimum of 4 inches of soil depth. If you want chives with a bit of garlic flavor, I recommend planting garlic chives.
Pro tip: If you’re going to purchase containers that aren’t made for planting, such as these food storage containers, I recommend using a drill or even better, a soldering iron to poke some holes in the bottom of the container so there is proper drainage. You can get the containers and a soldering iron on Amazon. To keep water from dripping on your countertop, table, or shelf, put the container on a plate.
Vegetables that Grow in 8 Inches of Soil
The next step up when it comes to shallow container vegetables are vegetables that require 8 inches of soil.
Here are some vegetables that grow well in shallow pots that have a minimum depth of eight inches.
- Swiss chard and spinach. I love growing Swiss chard and spinach because it grows so fast and only requires a minimum planter depth of 8 inches.
- Kale. Plant kale in at least 8 inches of soil. The dwarf varieties do especially well in shallow containers.
- Arugula or rocket. This popular salad-green requires a minimum of 8 inches of soil depth to grow well.
- Oregano. A popular herb partnered with meat dishes; You can grow oregano in soil with a minimum depth of 8 inches.
- Basil. Basil is another popular herb with many varieties that only require a minimum soil depth of 8 inches.
Vegetables that Grow in 10 Inches to 12 Inches of Soil
These are the best shallow container vegetables, but if you have slightly deeper planters or pots, you can successfully grow some deeper rooting vegetables and even some root crops.
You can grow the following vegetables in slightly deeper planters of 10 inches to 12 inches deep.
- Carrots. Carrots are a favorite root crop that you can grow in a minimum soil depth of 10 inches.
- Tomatoes. You can grow tomatoes in a minimum of 12 inches of soil, but you will need to support the tomato plants as they grow to get the best harvest.
- Beans. Bush beans and runner beans can be grown in a soil depth of 12 inches, but bush beans are the most popular for shallow container growing because they require less vertical support.
- Sweet peppers and chili peppers. These flavorful and spicy vegetables can be grown successfully in 12 inches of soil.
- Beets. This healthy root crop only needs a minimum of 12 inches of soil depth to produce a good harvest.
- Parsley and rosemary. Parsley and rosemary are two herbs require a deeper soil with a minimum depth of 12 inches.
We have discussed the best vegetables to grow in shallow containers, but there are some other factors that need consideration for growing in shallow planters.
Challenges For Growing Vegetables in Shallow Containers
It’s a wonderful thing to be able to grow vegetables in shallow containers, but there are a few challenges that you need to be aware of if you plan to grow vegetables in shallow pots.
Over-watering is one of the main problems in shallow container growing. If the planter does not offer sufficient drainage, the plants’ roots can become waterlogged, and root rot will set in.
The flip side of that is that insufficient watering is the second biggest challenge for growing vegetables in shallow pots. The soil in shallow pots dries out faster than in a deeper planter.
You must water more frequently in shallow planters to prevent the soil from drying out too much.
It’s also important not to overcrowd plants in shallow growing containers. Be sure to space the plants evenly to provide sufficient space for the roots to spread laterally in the container.
Follow the recommended minimum spacing between plants for best results in growing vegetables in shallow pots.
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