Container gardening offers the perfect solution for growing a garden in a small space. Patios, balconies, decks, and stoops all usually offer at least enough room for a large pot or two—and that's all you need to start growing your own tasty, homegrown food.
To give you an idea of some easy ways to plant up a single large pot, we've got 5 different designs to share. For each, we used a deep container with a 20" diameter and drainage holes, filled with fluffy, lightweight Miracle-Gro® Potting Mix. As for what to put in the container, we chose strong young starter plants Bonnie Plants®, a company with over 100 years of growing experience. To keep your own plants well-fed and productive throughout the growing season, feed them regularly with Miracle-Gro® Water Soluble Plant Food for Vegetables and Herbs—that will ensure they have all the nutrients they need to grow big. (For more info on growing veggies in containers, check out our Container Gardening section.)
Container garden designers typically talk about "thrillers, fillers, and spillers": a tall, interesting plant serves as a "thriller," medium-sized "filler" plants surround the thriller and fill the container, and "spiller" plants drape prettily over the sides of the pot. In the container plant combinations below, we've included and labeled all 3 elements, which may help you when positioning the plants. Bonus: All 5 of these container designs look lovely, too!
1. Tasty Tomato Sauce Container Garden
Do you drool over a perfect plate of pasta? Then dust off your grandma's secret tomato sauce recipe, made even tastier by growing your own ingredients. The ingredients grown in this container make scrumptious bruschetta, too—perfect as a starter or light summer meal.
- 1 bush tomato plant, like Better Bush tomato (thriller)
- 5 sweet basil plants (filler)
- 3 marigold plants (filler)
- 2 Italian oregano plants (spiller)
Place the tomato plant in the back center of the container; be sure to plant it deeply for extra stability. Add an oregano plant on the left and right edges of the container. Place the basil plants in the center in a semicircle, and tuck in marigolds between the basil plants near the front of the pot. Water well after planting to settle the plants.
2. Spicy Salsa Container Garden
What's your heat tolerance: mild, a little kick, or 5-alarm-fire? No matter your preference, you can boost the flavor of your favorite salsa when you grow your own ingredients. If you prefer milder, sweeter salsa, try the mild jalapeno pepper. For a bit of heat, choose the Garden Salsa hot pepper. Or, if you're one of those brave salsa connoisseurs who prefer taste-bud-numbing heat, add a habanero pepper plant to your container combination. (Just be sure to handle with care!)
- 1 hot pepper plant (like one of those mentioned above) (thriller)
- 1 bush tomato plant, like Bush Goliath tomato (thriller)
- 4 marigold plants (filler)
- 4 cilantro plants (spiller)
Place the tomato plant in the rear of the pot and the pepper near the front so there's plenty of room between them. Plant the cilantro along the edge of the pot, allowing it to spill over the edge as it fills out. Tuck the marigolds between the pepper and cilantro to help repel pests and add bursts of color. Water well.
3. Herbes de Provence Culinary Herb Container Garden
Do you spend hours watching "Top Chef"? Do you love creating elaborate recipes or hosting elegant dinner parties? Impress your family and friends by growing your own herbes de Provence. This Mediterranean-based herb blend traditionally features dried rosemary, lavender, oregano, marjoram, and thyme (and sometimes summer savory and basil). The plants in this container plan prefer drier growing conditions than many vegetables and herbs, so they work especially well together in one pot. Make sure the container drains well, as these herbs dislike wet feet.
- 1 rosemary plant (thriller)
- 2 lavender plants (filler)
- 2 oregano plants (spiller)
- 2 sweet marjoram plants (spiller)
- 2 thyme plants (spiller)
Place the rosemary in the center of the container. Add one lavender plant on either side of, and slightly in front of, the rosemary. Add the oregano, sweet marjoram, and thyme plants along the edge of the container, alternating the plants to give a visual mix of textures. Water well, and be sure to let the container to dry out between waterings. (Not sure how to dry your herbs once you harvest them? Read How to Dry Your Harvest.)
4. Cool Greens Container Garden
The warmest months of the year aren't the only time for growing. You can nurture these tasty cool-season crops from fall all the way through to spring in mild climates, or enjoy them in the fall and plant again in spring in cooler areas. Swiss chard, lettuce, and parsley actually prefer cool temperatures and taste better both before the summer heat arrives and after it finally leaves for the season.
- 3 Bright Lights Swiss chard plants (thriller)
- 2 large Gourmet Salad Mix (2.32 qts.) (filler)
- 3 snapdragon plants (filler)
- 4 curled parsley plants (spiller)
Place the lettuce in the back of the container to serve as a backdrop for the other plants. Add the three Swiss chard plants to the center of the container in a triangle (2 plants slightly back and 1 forward.) Evenly space the 4 curled parsley plants along the edge of the container (but not behind the lettuce.) Add the snapdragons between the parsley plants for pops of color. Water well. When harvesting, pick just the outer lettuce, parsley, and Swiss chard leaves; this will allow the newer inner leaves to continue growing.
5. Spring Smoothie Container Garden
Smoothies are a tasty, terrific way to start your day—not to mention a healthy choice when the afternoon munchies hit. Instead of spending money on an expensive sipper from a café, make your own with ingredients from your very own spring container garden.
Place the 3 kale plants in the center of the container, spacing them several inches apart. (This is closer together than the plant tag recommends, but the plants will be fine since you'll be continually harvesting the outer leaves, leaving the inner ones to keep mature and keeping the overall plant size in check.) Add the strawberry plants along the edge of the container; as they grow, they'll spill over the edge of the pot. Tuck the viola plants—they're edible and make a wonderful garnish—between the kale and the strawberries to fill the container with color. Don't forget to water your new plants.
See? There's a lot you can grow in a little space! Rest assured, too, that you don't need any special knowledge to grow these container gardens. You'll find quick answers to your growing questions on our website. And if you're looking for more ideas for planting edibles in pots, check out our container planting plans. "Container gardening offers the perfect solution for growing a garden in a small space. Patios, balconies, decks, and stoops all usually offer at least enough room for a large pot or two—and that's all you need to start growing your own tasty, homegrown food.