How to Grow a Late Summer Vegetable Garden in Containers

By Sourav - Jul-01-2023

Growing a late summer vegetable garden in containers offers an excellent opportunity to enjoy fresh, homegrown produce. Container gardening provides several advantages during late summers, such as:

  • Space efficiency for small gardens or balconies
  • Flexibility to move plants for optimal sunlight or shade
  • Easier management of soil quality and pests
  • Extended growing season through better temperature control

This article aims to guide you through the process of establishing a successful late summer container garden. You will learn about selecting suitable vegetables, container preparation, soil management, planting and care tips, and ways to extend the growing season.

Choosing the Right Vegetables

Selecting suitable vegetables for late summer container gardening is crucial to ensure your plants thrive and produce a bountiful harvest. Some vegetables are more heat-tolerant and can withstand the hot temperatures while others require some shade to grow well.

Vegetables that thrive in late summer conditions:

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Swiss chard
  • Kale

To maximize your gardening success, consider the following tips for choosing the right container sizes for different vegetable varieties:

  1. Tomatoes - Opt for a 5-gallon (18.9 L) container or larger. Ensure it has adequate drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
  2. Peppers - A 2-gallon (7.6 L) pot is sufficient for most pepper varieties. Ensure proper drainage to avoid root rot.
  3. Cucumbers - Use a container with a minimum size of 5 gallons (18.9 L) and include a trellis or cage for support.
  4. Zucchini - Plant in a 5-gallon (18.9 L) pot or larger, as zucchini requires ample space to grow.
  5. Eggplant - Choose a 3-gallon (11.4 L) pot or larger, providing enough space for the plant's extensive root system.
  6. Swiss chard - Plant in a 2-gallon (7.6 L) container, making sure to provide ample space between plants to prevent overcrowding.
  7. Kale - A 1-gallon (3.8 L) pot is sufficient for kale; however, using a larger container will result in bigger plants.

Remember that proper drainage is essential for all vegetable containers, so make sure you choose pots with drainage holes. Additionally, consider using saucers to catch excess water and prevent potential damage to your deck or patio surface.

In the next section, we will explore heat-tolerant vegetables in more detail, including their specific characteristics and requirements for successful growth.

Heat-Tolerant Vegetables

For a successful late summer container garden, it's essential to choose heat-tolerant vegetables that can withstand the warm temperatures. Here are some excellent options for your late summer container garden:

  1. Tomatoes: These classic summer vegetables thrive in heat and grow well in containers. Choose compact varieties like 'Patio' or 'Sweet Million' for best results. Ensure they receive at least six hours of full sun each day.
  2. Peppers: Both sweet and hot peppers adapt well to container gardening and high temperatures. Plant varieties like 'Bell,' 'Jalapeno,' or 'Cayenne' in well-draining soil and place them in a location with full sun exposure.
  3. Eggplants: Compact eggplant varieties such as 'Little Prince' or 'Ichiban' are perfect for container gardens. They require full sun and even moisture levels to produce an abundant harvest.
  4. Cucumbers: Opt for bush-type cucumber plants like 'Bush Slicer' or 'Fanfare' that have a compact growth habit perfect for containers. Provide ample sunlight, consistent watering, and proper support for healthy growth.
  5. Okra: This heat-loving vegetable is ideal for late summer container gardens, particularly dwarf varieties like 'Baby Bubba.' Okra requires full sun and consistently moist soil for optimal growth.

To ensure successful growth of these heat-tolerant vegetables, follow these planting and care tips:

  • Use a high-quality potting mix designed for containers, which ensures proper drainage and nutrient retention.
  • Water the plants regularly, ensuring the soil remains evenly moist but not waterlogged.
  • Apply a slow-release fertilizer at planting time, followed by regular applications of a liquid fertilizer throughout the growing season.
  • Monitor your plants for pests and diseases, taking prompt action if any issues arise.

Shade-Loving Vegetables

For gardeners seeking to grow vegetables in containers during late summer, shade-loving vegetables can be an excellent choice. These vegetables thrive in cooler temperatures and lower light conditions. Some popular options include:

  • Lettuce: This leafy green thrives in cooler temperatures and prefers partial shade. Choose varieties such as romaine, butterhead, or loose-leaf for best results in container gardens.
  • Spinach: A versatile and nutritious green, spinach grows well in partial shade and is suitable for container gardening.
  • Kale: Another nutrient-dense leafy green, kale can tolerate some shade and is perfect for late summer container gardens.
  • Arugula: This peppery green requires less sunlight than other salad greens, making it a great option for gardeners with limited sun exposure.

Each of these shade-loving vegetable options has specific characteristics and requirements. Consider the following planting and care tips:

  • Spacing: Ensure proper spacing when planting seeds or seedlings. Overcrowding can lead to decreased yields and increased risk of pests or diseases.
  • Soil: Use a high-quality potting mix that is rich in organic matter and well-draining. Adding compost or well-aged manure can help improve fertility and moisture retention.
  • Watering: Consistent moisture is essential for these vegetables. Water regularly to maintain even soil moisture, but be careful not to overwater or allow the soil to become soggy.

By incorporating these shade-loving vegetables into your late summer container garden, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest even with limited sunlight.

Container Selection and Preparation

Selecting the right containers is crucial for the success of your late summer vegetable garden. Containers play a significant role in providing adequate space, drainage, and support for your plants. Here are some tips on container selection and preparation to ensure a thriving late summer garden.

Choose the right material: Containers made from materials such as plastic, terra cotta, and wood are popular choices. Consider the following when selecting your container material:

  • Plastic: Lightweight, affordable, and retains moisture well. However, it may not be as durable as other materials.
  • Terra cotta: Offers a classic look and is porous, allowing for good air circulation. Keep in mind that it can be heavy and fragile.
  • Wood: Durable and provides good insulation for plant roots. Ensure that the wood is untreated to avoid chemical leaching into the soil.

Size matters: Selecting the right container size is essential to provide enough room for root growth. The container size will depend on the type of vegetable you plan to grow:

  • Small vegetables (e.g., radishes, lettuce): At least 6 inches deep
  • Medium vegetables (e.g., peppers, dwarf tomatoes): At least 12 inches deep
  • Large vegetables (e.g., full-sized tomatoes, cucumbers): At least 18 inches deep

Proper drainage: Adequate drainage is critical to prevent root rot and promote healthy plant growth. Ensure that your chosen container has holes at the bottom or sides to allow excess water to escape. If necessary, drill additional holes for improved drainage.

Soil considerations: It's essential to use high-quality potting mix in your containers rather than garden soil. Potting mixes are designed to provide nutrients, retain moisture, and allow proper air circulation in a container setting.

By carefully selecting and preparing your containers for late summer vegetable gardening, you'll create an environment that supports healthy plant growth and ultimately, a bountiful harvest.

Preparing the Soil

Proper soil preparation is essential for a successful late summer container garden. The right soil mix provides the necessary nutrients, moisture retention, and drainage for your vegetables. Follow these step-by-step instructions to prepare the soil for planting:

  1. Choose a high-quality potting mix: For container gardening, it is crucial to use a potting mix that promotes good drainage and moisture retention. Look for mixes containing ingredients like peat moss, perlite, or vermiculite.
  2. Add organic matter: Improve soil fertility by mixing in well-rotted compost or aged manure. This will provide essential nutrients for your vegetables and help maintain soil structure.
  3. Moisten the potting mix: Before filling your containers, moisten the potting mix to ensure even water distribution throughout the soil. Add water gradually while stirring until it reaches a consistency like damp sponge.
  4. Fill containers: Fill your containers with the prepared potting mix, leaving about an inch of space from the top rim to allow room for watering.

To maintain healthy soil conditions in your late summer container garden, consider these tips:

  • Feed your plants: Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks during the growing season to replenish nutrients in the soil.
  • Monitor moisture levels: Check the soil's moisture regularly by sticking your finger an inch into the soil; if it feels dry, water your plants.
  • Avoid overwatering: Ensure proper drainage by using pots with drainage holes and avoid letting containers sit in standing water.
  • Rotate crops: Prevent nutrient depletion and reduce pest problems by rotating different vegetable types in the same container each year.

Planting and Care Tips

Successful late summer container gardening requires proper planting techniques and ongoing care. In this section, we'll cover general planting guidelines and provide specific care tips to maintain healthy plants throughout the season.

General Planting Guidelines

When planting your late summer container garden, follow these simple steps:

  1. Choose healthy plants or seeds: Opt for seedlings with strong roots and vibrant foliage, or select high-quality seeds from a reputable source.
  2. Plant at the right depth: Follow the recommended planting depth for each vegetable variety to encourage proper root development.
  3. Space plants appropriately: Allow enough space between plants in the container to prevent overcrowding and promote good air circulation.

Care Tips for Healthy Plants

To keep your late summer container vegetables thriving, consider these essential care tips:

  • Watering: Regularly check the soil moisture in your containers and water as needed. Aim to keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged. Using a mulch layer can help retain moisture in the soil.
  • Fertilizing: Apply a balanced liquid fertilizer every 2-4 weeks to ensure your plants receive adequate nutrients for growth. Always follow product instructions regarding dilution rates and application frequency.
  • Pest control: Inspect your plants regularly for signs of pests or disease. Address issues promptly using organic or chemical controls as needed, following label directions carefully.
  • Harvesting: Pick ripe vegetables when they reach their ideal size and color to encourage continuous production throughout the season.

By following these planting tips and care practices, you can enjoy a bountiful late summer harvest from your container garden. The next section will explore ways to extend the growing season, ensuring even more fresh produce from your containers.

Extending the Growing Season

Extending the growing season in late summer container gardens allows gardeners to enjoy an extended harvest. To achieve this, consider implementing several techniques that protect plants from cooler temperatures and frost.

Techniques for Extending the Growing Season

  • Cold frames: These structures consist of a transparent cover on a wooden or metal frame. Place your containers inside the cold frame to shield plants from cold weather while allowing sunlight to enter.
  • Floating row covers: These lightweight fabric covers can be draped over plants to provide additional insulation without obstructing light or air circulation.
  • Cloches: A cloche is a bell-shaped cover made of glass or plastic, which can be placed over individual plants or containers to protect them from frost and cold winds.

Protecting Plants from Cooler Temperatures and Frost

By employing the techniques mentioned above, gardeners can effectively safeguard their vegetables from colder temperatures. However, it is also important to:

  1. Monitor weather forecasts closely and act accordingly by covering plants when frost is predicted.
  2. Move containers closer to the house or other structures that radiate warmth during cold nights.
  3. Bring smaller containers indoors during periods of extreme cold.

Utilizing Coverings and Other Methods to Prolong Harvest

Apart from using cold frames, floating row covers, and cloches, other methods can help extend the harvest period in late summer container gardens:

  • Succession planting: Plant vegetables with differing maturity dates to ensure continuous harvesting throughout the season.
  • Interplanting: Mix fast-growing vegetables with slow-growing ones to maximize space utilization and extend harvest times.
  • Opt for cold-tolerant varieties: Some vegetable varieties are more resistant to colder temperatures, making them suitable for late-season planting.

By incorporating these strategies into your late summer container gardening routine, you can effectively extend the growing season and enjoy a bountiful harvest even as colder temperatures set in.


Late summer vegetable garden in containers offers numerous advantages, such as:

  • Maximizing space
  • Adapting to changing weather conditions
  • Growing a variety of vegetables in a small area

The key steps to success include:

  1. Choosing suitable vegetables for late summer
  2. Selecting appropriate containers and preparing them
  3. Preparing the soil for optimal growth
  4. Following planting and care guidelines specific to late summer conditions
  5. Extending the growing season when possible

With these tips, anyone can enjoy a bountiful late summer harvest from their container garden. For more gardening advice and resources, be sure to visit the Yardener blog regularly. Happy gardening!