If you want to grow your own fruit and veg, but only have a windowsill or a tiny patio for outdoor space, we've got some good news. Lots of fruit and vegetables grow very well in containers, so don't let a lack of space prevent you from growing your own. Planting seeds in containers and then nurturing them, watching them grow and eating the finished products is also a great activity for children of all ages.
Growing edible plants in containers is also a great way to eat more organic produce, since you'll be able to control the whole growing process. We've rounded up the easiest edible plants that even a complete beginner can grow.
For more advice, see our container gardening tips and ideas.
- Organic gardening: how to grow organic fruit and vegetables
Best places to buy fruit and veg for containers
All of the following offer seeds and saplings to get your started, plus the containers if you don't have anything to grow them in already.
Herbs are the easiest edible plants to grow and deserve a spot in any container garden. You can grow thyme, chives, mint, sage, parsley, coriander, oregano and rosemary outdoors, and basil will prefer being in your kitchen. Choose herbs that you love to cook with and then keep them near the back door so you can maximum use out of them.
When to plant container herbs
Sow herb seeds indoors in spring and then move everything apart from basil and coriander outdoors once there's no chance of frost.
Find out how to grow a herb garden in our guide.
There's a reason why tomatoes are one of the most popular plants to grow – they'll thrive anywhere from pots to hanging baskets. You'll find that bush or trailing varieties are the best for growing in containers. Keep them evenly watered and feed regularly with a high-potash fertiliser for the best results.
When to plant container tomatoes
You should plant young tomato plants in containers in May once all risk of frost has passed.
Find more tips on planting tomatoes in our guide.
Perfect for adding a kick to your cooking, chilli plants grow best under glass, which means they'll thrive just as well on your windowsill as they will in a greenhouse. They can also survive outdoors if you have a south-facing garden and sheltered spot for them. Interesting fact: the warmer the conditions, the spicier the chilli.
When to plant container chillies
Sow your chilli seeds indoors and then, if you need to, move outdoors from May onwards.
4. Lettuce and salad leaves
Impress your guests (when they're allowed back over) with home-grown lettuce as the perfect accompaniment to any barbecue. Almost all lettuce varieties grow well in containers, thanks to their shallow roots. They do best in wide containers and need rich soil and adequate drainage, so make sure your pots have holes in. They're ready to cut when a firm heart has formed in the centre.
When to plant container lettuce
For a summer crop, sow lettuce outdoors from late March to late July.
Find out how to grow lettuce in our guide.
Like potatoes, carrots usually need deep soil to grow well, but there are varieties you can grow in containers. Opt for short-rooted varieties like Early Nantes or Chantenay Red Cored for the best chance of success. Top tip: It's important not to damage the foliage that grows at the top of carrots as this releases a small that attracts carrot flies, which will ruin your crop.
When to plant container carrots
Sow seeds 2–3cm apart from late March to July. Only water during dry periods.
Get more advice on how to grow carrots in our guide.
Peppery radishes are great in salads and a good vegetable for newbies to grow. They're easy to look after and ready to harvest in as little as a month, so you'll see quick results. As with lettuce, you'll need a wide, shallow pot with drainage holes, and you need to invest in some rich compost.
When to plant container radishes
Sow seeds about 1cm deep and at least 2.5cm apart between March and August. Harvest after about a month before they become woody.
When it comes to comfort food, chips, wedges and mash are right at the top of the list. Luckily, potatoes are really easy to grow in the UK. They do need relatively deep soil, but you can still grow them in containers such as barrels, plastic dustbins or even stacked tyres. Choose salad varieties, like Charlotte, or easy-to-grow varieties like Red Duke of York or Rocket.
When to plant container potatoes
Put up to three tubers in a 40L container. They'll be ready soon after the plant flowers – about 10-12 weeks.
More about planting potatoes in our guide.
8. Spring onions
Spring or salad onions are a great crop for containers because they don’t need deep soil. They are also really easy to grow and are ready in just eight weeks. You can grow them outdoors in a sunny spot or even on a windowsill. Spring onion plants need to be watered in dry weather, but other than that you can leave them to it.
When to plant container spring onions
Sow about 1.5cm deep into containers every couple of weeks from March onwards for a lasting supply.
Growing beetroot is a double win as you not only get the deep burgundy roots we're used to seeing in supermarkets, you can also eat the leaves, which are similar in taste to spinach. Beetroot will grow in any pot that's at least 20cm wide and 20cm deep. You'll need to water the plants in dry weather and they're ready to harvest once they are the size of golf balls. Top tip: Soak the seeds in warm water for a few hours before sowing to speed up germination.
When to plant container beetroot
To avoid having loads at once, sow a few seeds every couple of weeks from March to July.
A close relation of beetroot (and spinach), is chard. It's becoming more popular in the UK as its colourful stems make it look as good as it tastes. You'll need a container at least 25cm deep that's placed in a sunny spot and to remember to water the plants regularly. Harvest the leaves regularly, starting with the outer leaves, to encourage regrowth.
When to plant container chard
Sow seeds about 2.5cm apart from March to July.
Cucumbers will grow well in deep containers at least 25 centimetres deep, in a frost-free area such as a greenhouse or against a sunny wall during the summer. Cucumbers are climbers and will need supports, and if you're growing them in a conservatory or greenhouse, you'll need to pick the right variety.
When to plant container cucumbers:
March if growing indoors, and late May onwards if you're planting them outside or transplanting seedlings into bigger pots on your patio.
Find out more about how to grow cucumbers in our guide.
Peppers happily grow in containers or even deep troughs – all they really need is plenty of heat, sunlight, and water, so always choose the sunniest spot your can find for them. If your garden or patio isn't south-facing, you can still grow peppers in containers, but you'll need to choose a thinner variety such as the banana pepper, which won't need as much sun to fully develop.
When to plant container peppers:
Plant seeds in seedling tray from February to April; transplant into containers where they are to mature when the shoots are about three inches tall, and only put them outside from mid-May onwards.
Learn more about growing peppers in our guide.
13. Runner beans
The humble runner bean does very well in patio containers, provided you water the plants often. Like other edible plants, runner beans prefer a sunny, sheltered spot; they will give you a continuous harvest from July onwards, if you pick them regularly.
When to plant container runner beans
Between February to April, where they are to grow. Only put the container outside when it's really warm, ideally from late May onwards.
Strawberries are one of the most satisfying edible plants for containers, and will thrive in pots or hanging baskets, provided they're given lots of water and sunlight. They don't like being waterlogged, so will need goo drainage. Choose a trailing or climbing variety such as 'Mount Everest' for a pretty display plant.
When to plant container strawberries
If you've bought bare root runners, plant them in March, when the weather's no longer too cold. Plug plants will need to be planted in containers in May.
Find out more about how to grow strawberries in our guide.
One of the easiest edible plants to grow if you're a beginner, onions are also a fun gardening project to do with the kids. Onions do very well in large containers and are harvested in the autumn.
When to plant container onions
Between February and April in seedling trays. Keep well watered and transplant when shoots are about three inches taller.
Learn more about growing onions in our guide.