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12 Best Container Garden Ideas That Will Inspire You to Create Your Own

Over the past few weeks, you've baked your own bread, cut your own hair, and maybe even given embroidery a try. Now it's time to consider another trend: growing a rainbow's worth of vegetables and fruits at home. (It's easier than you think!)

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planetsvia (2), via

Your little slice of paradise

It’s true: Vegetables and fruits straight from the garden really do taste better than their store-bought counterparts. But if physical limitations, a lack of outdoor space, or the needs of a big, hungry family have kept you from attempting to grow your own, you might want to consider container gardening. (Another great option? Vertical gardens.) It’s contained, just as its name implies, so you don’t have to worry about tending to a sprawling garden, and anyone can do it. Really, anyone. In fact, it’s now easier than ever, thanks to a bevy of innovative products like super light vessels, self-watering systems, and all-in-one kits.

You might not realize this, but you can grow a lot of different foods in containers—something that’s extra handy right now, since we’re trying to limit our trips to the grocery store and produce has become harder to find. Landscape architect Pamela Crawford, author of Easy Container Combos: Vegetables & Flowers, says that she was surprised at the variety of vegetables that flourished in pots. “I was able to grow everything from tomatoes and peppers to okra and eggplant,” she says. “The more you pick, the more they produce.” Not sure where to start? We rounded up the best container garden ideas for every type of gardener and every budget, as well as the 12 easiest foods to grow at home during quarantine.

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Castlecreek Planter Box with Trellisvia

Castlecreek Planter Box with Trellis


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The ideal container for your mini garden depends on two things: what your space is like and what you want to plant. Buying something with a trellis, like this modern-looking Castlecreek Planter Box, can come in particularly handy for a variety of reasons. Not only will it offer visual interest and make harvesting a breeze, but by sending trailing plants like cucumbers, beans, and peas skyward instead of across your deck, you’ll save valuable space. Crawford adds that a support will keep plants (including tomatoes and eggplant) healthier, too, by allowing for better air circulation, which can keep diseases like downy mildew in check.

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CreativeWare Party Tubvia

CreativeWare Party Tub


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If you have a big family and want your plants to produce lots of vegetables, you’ll need to use the largest container you can find. “A big container gives plants the space to develop a root system large enough to support them,” explains Crawford. Providing all that real estate doesn’t have to cost a lot, either. One of Crawford’s best budget ideas for container gardens is to repurpose bright beverage party tubs as planters. “They come in lots of colors and are very inexpensive,” she says. “Just be sure to drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage.” If space is an issue—or bending over makes you uncomfortable—tall, narrow pots are a great alternative. “In some cases, they can actually increase yields,” Crawford adds.

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Citrus Fruit Tree with Potvia

Citrus fruit tree with pot


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You can grow fruit in pots just as easily as you can vegetables, says Marc Thoma, author of Urban Gardening for Beginners. Thoma has successfully grown strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, rhubarb, lemons, grapes, watermelon, and currants in his urban garden. For a shortcut, you can even buy a citrus tree in its own container, all ready to go, like this one from Lowe’s.

No matter which route you take, you can optimize growing potential with some smart, all-natural tricks. One of Thoma’s favorite container garden ideas is to use uncooked food scraps to improve the soil and deter pests. “A sprinkle of coffee grounds will repel cats, and well-washed crushed eggshells add calcium and other trace minerals, which helps tomatoes avoid blossom-end rot,” he says. “Bury citrus and banana peels near your plants to deter aphids, ants, and cats.”

In addition to creating some amazing dishes, here are 12 things you really should be cleaning with lemons.

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Yaheetech 3-Tier Raised Garden Bedvia

Yaheetech 3-Tier Raised Garden Bed


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If you want to plant a variety of veggies, try this raised, tiered garden bed from Yaheetech. Each section can be used for different plants or growing methods, but it can all be contained in a single section of your yard. Note that this is on the bigger side (49″ x 49″ x 29.1″), so you will need a yard for it, as opposed to a deck or balcony. Made from 100 percent fir wood, it’s non-toxic and naturally resistant to rot and pests.

Got kids? Get them involved in your new gardening project and give them some regular responsibilities. Not only will it keep them occupied, but it can also help them establish better long-term eating habits. Planting a vegetable garden and watching it grow can encourage kids to eat more vegetables, according to the American Dietary Association. To keep their attention, choose fast producers like cherry tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, and strawberries, all of which they can pluck straight from the garden and pop right into their mouths. This might turn out to be the quarantine hobby your family never gives up.

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Best Choice Products Mobile Raised Garden Bedvia

Best Choice Products Mobile Raised Garden Bed


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To add some flair to your space, Crawford has the perfect container garden idea for you: Combine edibles with flowers and greenery to create pot-scapes that are both pretty and productive. “Vegetable plants can be unattractive,” she says. “Surrounding them with flowers hides the not-so-pretty parts.” To get this to work, you can’t throw everything in all at once, Crawford adds. Give your vegetables a head start by planting them a few weeks before you add the flowers.

Opting for a simple yet stylish container, like this one from Best Choice Products, will do the trick—offering plenty of room for showy blooms without sacrificing the space you need for your vegetables. The handy shelf is large enough for fertilizer, trimmers, and an extra pot or two, and wheels make it easy to park your garden in the sunniest spot available. Since it’s raised, it will also save your back.

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Five-Tier Strawberry and Herb Plantervia

Five-Tier Strawberry and Herb Planter


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Apartment dwellers with outdoor space as small as a fire escape can still grow a veritable bounty of greens thanks to this brilliant container garden idea that incorporates 20 separate pots in a single column. One caveat: Since all your plants will be massed together, be sure to choose crops with similar temperature and light requirements. And to keep pests at bay, Thoma suggests interspersing your plants with marigolds, lavender, mint, and/or rosemary, all of which are natural deterrents. These are the 10 best herbs for a home garden.

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Nature's Blossom Microgreen Sprouting Kitvia

Nature’s Blossom Microgreen Sprouting Kit


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Are you really tight on space, or do want instant gratification without a whole lot of work? We have an option for you, too. Even the most commitment-phobic and impatient veggie lovers will love these petite pots that transform four different seed varieties—basil, beet, chard, and arugula—into edible microgreens in just ten days. Though delicate, these greens aren’t divas; keep it moist and it’ll grow equally well indoors and outdoors. When it’s ready, just clip the greens, and then toss the biodegradable pots into the trash. Yep, it’s that easy!

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Lechuza Trio Cottage Plantervia

Lechuza Trio Cottage Planter


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Once we can travel again, the last thing we’ll want to worry about is finding someone to water our new garden. These attractive self-watering planters take care of that problem in style by utilizing three large, easy-to-fill reservoirs that will keep your plants happily hydrated for weeks at a time. Yes, weeks. Vegetables like tomatoes are especially well suited to self-watering planter since it prefers to draw water from below, according to Crawford.

And here’s an idea to turn your container garden full of veggies into a statement piece. “To dress up your planters,” Crawford suggests, “surround your tomatoes with a border of flowers such as trailing verbena, which will also drape prettily down the side of the container.”

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Emsco Group Root Vegetable Raised Bed Grow Boxvia

Emsco Group Root Vegetable Raised Bed Grow Box


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When planted with carrots, radishes, and beets during the summer, and potatoes, yams, and turnips during the cooler months, this root vegetable grower can help you feed your family all year long. A unique container garden idea, the self-watering grow box also aerates the soil, moves easily on casters, and, with a depth of 18 inches, will allow you to produce monster-sized veggies that your kids will love to unearth like a treasure. Besides being fun to harvest, root vegetables are the unsung heroes of the pantry. Store it in a cool place and it’ll wait patiently for months to be roasted, mashed, scalloped, or added to winter soups or stews.

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Pri Gardens Upside Down Tomato Plantervia

Pri Gardens Upside Down Tomato Planter


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Whether you’ve got zero space for a planter or a back that protests when you bend over, you can still grow a load of tasty tomatoes with these ingenious Pri Gardens hanging planters, which require no tying or staking and a minimum of soil. And you’ll feel great about your bounty. There’s a reason why tomatoes are most popular vegetable grown by home gardeners. Hundreds of varieties come in all shapes (round, pear, oblong), sizes (marble to melon-sized), and colors (yellow, red, green, orange, purple). Not only is it delicious and nutritious—but you’ll also get tons of tomatoes from a single harvest.

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SuperThinker Three Pack of Planter Bagsvia

SuperThinker Three Pack of Planter Bags


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Talk about versatile: These portable fabric planters are just as productive hanging from a balcony as it is adorning a deck or patio. It can grow a surprising variety of edibles, too, including strawberries, salad greens, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and flowers—all in pockets that allow plants to grow to a size that crowds out weeds before it can take root. But its real superpower becomes evident at the end of the season, when it can be folded flat and stashed out of sight, even in the tiniest of apartments.

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Versailles Sunburst Raised Garden Bedvia

Versailles Sunburst Raised Garden Bed


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For those who have a bit of space and who love a bit of style, a raised garden bed is a container garden idea that’s the best of both worlds. You can have a sprawling garden in your backyard, but without having to do any digging. Simply assemble the bed, fill it with potting mix, and get growing. Combining nine separate, terraced beds, this stylish Versailles Sunburst receptacle transforms your garden into a living mosaic composed of varying colors, textures, and heights. And since each compartment is walled off from its neighbor, your work of art can comprise a huge variety of plants.

Katie McElveen
Katie McElveen is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer covering destinations across the globe as well as food, pets, home solutions and gardens. In addition to Reader’s Digest, her work has appeared in Southern Living, Afar, Global Traveler, Virtuoso Life, AAA Traveler, Real Simple, Sherman’s Travel, Fodor’s and other outlets.