What to plant: Various herbs can share the same pot, but make sure they are compatible by reading the care tags. Water-loving basil and curly parsley (shown, near left) make good partners, whereas rosemary, sage, and oregano (rear) all prefer a slightly drier environment. Or try different varieties of one plant, such as common, lemon, and silver thyme (front).
Which pots to use: Classic terra-cotta pots are an excellent choice for container plantings because their porosity allows air and water to move through the walls, which is healthy for root development.
How to maintain: Most herbs are naturally low-maintenance―regular harvesting will keep the plants productive. But in the summer heat, your pots might need a drink almost every day if Mother Nature isn’t obliging.
What to plant: Maximize your growing space by planting varieties that are bred to be compact. Look for words like bush, baby, dwarf, tiny, midget, and patio in the plant names and descriptions. Throw in nasturtiums for color. The edible, peppery flowers and leaves are great in salads.
Which pots to use: You’ll need relatively large containers for vegetables like tomatoes, which require at least five gallons of soil to develop a root system large enough to support a productive plant. Galvanized metal tubs and buckets make terrific planters―just drill holes in the bottom for drainage.
How to maintain: Stake and tie tall growers right away, and adjust the stakes as the plants gain height. Never let the soil dry out more than an inch below the surface, make sure the container gets six hours of sun a day, and harvest regularly so the plants don’t go to seed.
What to plant: It’s best to go with annuals, which blossom all season long. Especially good are showy types, including floss flowers (far left), zinnias (near left), and rudbeckia (center). For faster blooms, buy six-packs of seedlings (or slightly more developed plants in four-inch-diameter plastic pots) at your local garden center instead of starting from seed. When planting them, mix in a time-release all-purpose fertilizer to encourage continuous blooming.
Which pots to use: If you want a lightweight, unbreakable alternative to terra-cotta, opt for plastic pots shaped and finished to look like the real deal (see Planters for Any Garden). They also retain moisture well and―bonus―are more weather-resistant.
How to maintain: It’s easy―frequently cutting blossoms for the table stimulates plants to produce more flowers. And if your plants look wilted in the early morning, that means they need a drink.