Little Garden, Big Flavor

Our small self-watering planter fits right inside the frame of an old metal table. We also used broken pieces of terracotta as mulch.

Our small self-watering planter fits right inside the frame of an old metal table. We also used broken pieces of terracotta as mulch.

Herbs and veggies that can be grown in a planter.

By Charlie Thigpen 

You don’t have to have a large backyard, a tractor, or even a tiller to grow great summer flavors. Cindy and I work long hours, leaving us little time to care for a large vegetable or herb garden, but we love to cook and enjoy using fresh herbs and vegetables. This year we decided to see how much we could grow in a small planter that would fit on most any deck or patio.

Our little self-watering garden is 31 inches long by 20 ½ inches wide, yet we’re growing basil, chives, Ichiban eggplant, lemon thyme, sweet banana peppers, orange thyme, Italian parsley, plus three orange marigolds for color. Ichiban eggplant and sweet banana peppers don’t grow too big and are super productive. We will be photographing our herb and veggie trough each week to see how it fills out. Hopefully we will be pinching herbs and picking vegetables in a few short weeks.

Herbs and Veggies in Containers

All herbs and vegetables need at least four to five hours of full sun to be productive. The smaller type of herbs such as chives, oregano, parsley, Spicy Globe basil, thyme, and Texas tarragon perform well in containers. For vegetables, select smaller growing plants such as peppers, eggplant, and the Tiny Tim tomato. I have also grown some of the dwarf okra varieties in planters. Avoid planting melon or squash plants since they take up too much space.

Think Small Tomatoes 

Tiny Tim tomato plants only grow to be about 2 feet tall. In larger containers you can grow some of the cherry or grape tomatoes. Larger tomato selections such as Park’s Whopper and Cherokee Purple can be grown in planters, but it will need to be a very large container. As the larger tomatoes grow, their roots can quickly fill a planter and require constant watering.


By growing veggies and herbs in containers, the gardening can get intense in the smaller spaces. The veggies will need to be staked and picked often to keep them productive. The herbs will need to be shaped and clipped frequently to keep them in bounds and from encroaching on other plants. Herbs such as basil benefit greatly from being clipped and removing their flowers and seed heads.


You might have to water only once or twice weekly the first month or two, but as the plants grow and become pot-bound, they might need to be watered multiple times weekly and possibly daily around August and September. The self-watering planters can help with the watering woes. The black self-watering trough we planted wicks water from a lower reservoir to keep the planter evenly moist.

Just a Little Work for Lots of Flavor

Although it does take a little effort to grow your own herbs and veggies, it is so rewarding as you actually get the opportunity to taste your success. Even a can of tomato paste comes to life when you add fresh basil, thyme, and parsley.

This summer, why not get a taste of success—even if it’s in a couple of planters.

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