You don't need acres of land to bring garden-to-table freshness to your recipes. In fact, with our garden plans, you don't even need a yard. Try our supereasy, DIY options—perfect for small plots and petite porches—and you'll have delicious, hyperlocal produce at your fingertips all year long.
It doesn't matter whether you're a beginner or a green-thumbed veteran: These season-specific plans—tested in the Cooking Light Garden—will help you get started and introduce you to new varieties that will up your growing game. Flexible raised-bed and container-based plans will also fit your space and taste buds, making it easy for fresh food lovers from Boise to Brooklyn to grow a green patch.
2 of 16Photo: Randy Mayor
Supply List: Containers
First, you need the right supplies. There's a variety of materials to suit your space and style; just ensure they have drainage holes and that you're not over-crowding plants.
3 of 16Photo: Oxmoor House
Supply List: Soil
The health of your plant starts here. For containers, use fresh potting soil that's lightweight and drains well. Replace after one or two seasons.
4 of 16Photo: Oxmoor House
Supply List: Plant Food
Plants require nutritious food to thrive. Choose an organic liquid or granular feed, and apply regularly, per instructions.
5 of 16Photo: Oxmoor House
Supply List: Water and Irrigation
Water is a key component to any thriving garden. Unless you relish hand-watering every few days, install a simple drip irrigation system to do the work for you. Delivering hydration at the base of plants near the roots conserves water and looks clean at the soil surface. Kits found at garden centers make it a snap to connect tubes to an outdoor spigot, while adding a timer makes it worry-free for forgetful folks.
6 of 16Photo: Oxmoor House
Supply List: Sun
Aim for at least six hours of direct sun each day. Less light? Grow plants harvested for foliage (vs. fruit), such as lettuces.
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Supply List: Seeds & Plants
Sprouted plants give a healthy head start. Browse seed catalogs for unique varieties.
8 of 16Photo: Caleb Chancey
When to Plant
Weather almanacs and years of data help predict two important dates: the last freeze of spring and the first freeze in fall. Plants, like recipes, yield ideal results at varying temperatures. Most instructions will reference this (e.g., "start seeds six weeks before last spring frost" or "plant after danger of frost has passed"). We like the data at davesgarden.com. For example, according to the site, if you live in Austin, it's almost guaranteed that you won't get a frost after March 15, so it's safe to plant cold-sensitive plants after that date.
9 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Garden Designs: Cole Crops
Choose plants based on your taste and space. Plant raised beds for a well-rounded harvest, or pick pots from 14 to 24 inches in diameter (large enough for the type of plant) for the patio.
Planting together keeps it all in the family, as these cole crops all love cool weather and frequently applied high-nitrogen fertilizer.
10 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Potted: Cole Crops
Maximize space: Sow lettuce seeds around young transplants and harvest within 40 days, before broccoli or kale grows taller.
11 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Garden Designs: Greens & Peas
For the freshest, most flavorful salads, grow your own greens.
12 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Potted: Greens & Peas
By sowing many varieties of lettuces and arugula at 2-week intervals, you'll be eating better than the Easter bunny. Add a 6-foot twig or iron trellis for climbing peas.
13 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Garden Designs: Herbs
Using a tree-form or standard bay laurel saves space and looks elegant.
14 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Many of these herbs produce month after month, but you'll want to switch out annual favorites like cool-loving cilantro and parsley later on.
15 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Garden Designs: Roots and Shoots
The beet family (Swiss chard, beets, spinach) grows well with other underground dwellers. Sow radish seeds between carrots. For style, use dwarf blueberry plants as evergreen corner shrubs and a colorful 18-inch container in the middle for chard.
16 of 16Illustration: Felicita Sala
Plant now for fresh fruit to nibble on this summer. The "Raspberry Shortcake" thornless raspberry is a good variety for containers, as is the "Sunshine Blue" blueberry. Dot strawberry plants at the border, and the fruit will cascade down.