Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers

An important part of the planning of the garden is the choice of containers for the urban garden or growing containers. The first step before choosing the containers and deciding on one container or another is to know where it will be located and the space available.

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers

Cultivation containers

We do not have to choose only one type of container for the installation of our vegetable garden, but we can combine several types of pots or containers playing with the aesthetics and functionality of each one of them.

There are endless options: many types of pots and crates of different sizes and materials are commercialized, and many other containers or recycled growing containers that we can improvise ourselves by recycling containers, boxes, bottles… as long as they meet some requirements.

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers
Vertical vegetable gardens with recycled containers

Characteristics of containers or containers for the vegetable garden

Next we will see what are the appropriate characteristics that the containers for planting should have.

  1. Lightweight and easy to handle

To facilitate installation, use and transport and not to overload the structure of the building. Growing tables are one of the most widely used containers for urban gardens. They allow us to work very comfortably and, due to their height, they are very practical for the elderly or people with reduced mobility.

  1. Good drainage of the substrate

 It is essential that the containers are provided with holes for the elimination of excess water, since if this is not the case, rotting or suffocation of the roots can occur. To facilitate drainage, it is also important to have a drainage layer of a few centimeters – depending on the total depth of the container – composed of gravel poured over a fine mesh or permeable textile that prevents the gravel from escaping through the holes in the container.

  1. Sufficient soil volume (size)

 Even if the depth is not very great (10-20 cm), the plants will be able to develop perfectly if the total volume of the culture container is sufficient, since the roots will extend horizontally. For example, eggplants can be grown without problems in 15 cm deep containers and the roots will extend laterally up to one meter. (But… take note: it is very important if we use elongated containers to leave enough space between plants, so that their roots can develop well).

The choice of growing containers will also be influenced by the type of plant that will grow in them, as some crops require more space than others for the development of the roots or root system. In general, as can be expected, smaller plants need less volume than larger ones:

SHORTER RADICULAR SYSTEM (less than 30 cm): celery, onion, endive, lettuce, potato, radish.
INTERMEDIATE RADICULAR SYSTEM (30-60 cm): Eggplant, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, melon, cucumber, tomato, carrot.
DEEP RADICULAR SYSTEM: Artichoke, pumpkin, asparagus, red cabbage, melon, watermelon.

To give you an idea, the space needed by the roots should be equivalent to that occupied by the aerial part (what we see outside the soil). So if we have little space, a few planters on the balcony, for example, it is best to opt for vegetables that do not reach much volume: lettuce, carrots, spinach, garlic, arugula, radishes, strawberries, herbs…

Crop depth is also a criterion that can be taken into account when choosing the appropriate crop association of some vegetables with others in the different cultivation containers.

  1. Adequate thermal insulation

The temperature of the substrate should be kept relatively homogeneous throughout the year, otherwise the roots can be damaged, especially by frost or, in summer, if the container gets too hot in the sun.

In large containers, as there is a large volume of substrate, the amount of heat transmitted by the container is not significant so there is not much concern for the material. However, for small or medium sizes, and if we are in areas with large thermal oscillations between seasons, it is advisable to use planters and pots made of materials such as wood or ceramic, which are more insulating than plastic or metal.

  1. Use of light

The planters of several floors or shelves can be useful to save space but they are not very advisable because the planters of the inferior floors will be shaded by the shade of the ones above them.

If you want to take advantage of the space vertically, opt for walls with vertical planters, hanging pots or “homemade” vertical gardens made with boxes or pallets.

Growing Containers: Types of containers for the vegetable garden

There are many types of containers for the vegetable garden, of different shapes and sizes, as well as an infinite number of recycled containers that can be used for growing crops.

Here are some of the most common growing containers for urban gardens.

Pots and planters

Pots and planters are the containers par excellence, and are also used to plant vegetables and other garden plants (see post on how to make a vegetable garden).

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers

Their main advantages are that they weigh very little (in the case of plastic pots) and are cheap. If, in addition, we choose ceramic pots or planters, we will have better thermal insulation.

Biodegradable pots for the organic vegetable garden 

Biodegradable pots are special containers for making seedlings. When the plants have grown enough, these containers are buried in the soil or in the containers of the garden without the need for transplanting.

Wooden containers

The advantage of these containers for the vegetable garden is that they do not weigh too much and have good thermal insulation. In addition, some of them have wheels for easy transport.

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers
Concrete pots

You can also grow garden plants in concrete pots or containers, which are very aesthetic and can withstand any temperature.

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers
Concrete containers for cultivation

The disadvantage is their weight, which prevents us from moving them easily once they are filled with the growing medium.

Growing tables

There are many advantages of the cultivation tables. They can be moved from one place to another since they are usually equipped with wheels and, due to their height, they make cultivation tasks more comfortable, making them ideal containers for the elderly or people with reduced mobility.

In the post on types of growing tables we saw in more detail different materials and sizes of tables for growing vegetables.

Growing boxes or beds for the vegetable garden

Growing boxes are very versatile containers: they can be assembled to any size and height by adding parts.

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers
Growing crates

If they are not on natural soil, they must be provided with adequate drainage at the bottom: place them on pallets for example, so that the water can drain away). More about this in the post How to make recycled terraces.

Geotextile bags

They are beautiful, easy to transport, breathable and lightweight.

Vertical planters

Vertical planters are suitable growing containers for patios with little sun because, being taller, they can receive light for a longer period of time.

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers

It also has advantages in terms of space utilization (they occupy less horizontal surface than a vegetable garden on the ground).

Recycled containers

Containers for Urban Gardening | Types of Growing Containers

The main advantage is that they are more economical, made “to measure” according to our needs, such as these recycled growing containers made with concrete blocks.

As we mentioned before, we can build many types of recycled garden pots and planters: with plastic bottles, pallets, fruit crates, stacked tires, garbage containers… Let your imagination run wild!