Plant a one-pot vegetable garden

Get 3 classic dishes from a single planter
Johanna Silver

Not everyone has the room for a big edible garden. But even if you’re limited to a lone container, you can still enjoy a summer’s worth of homegrown produce—especially if you keep a few favorite dishes in mind while you’re planning.

Pick popular ingredients: When we tried this in Sunset’s test garden, we knew we’d want three summer standbys: pasta with tomatoes and basil, gazpacho, and Bloody Marys.

So we planted a galvanized water trough (purchased at a livestock feed store) with tomatoes, chile peppers, chives, and basil.

For more tips on choosing vegetables for your home garden, see our gallery of the 21 best crops to grow at home.

Leave enough space: Giving each plant enough room to grow is key. Use a large container with drainage holes, or drill your own; our trough measured roughly 2 feet tall by 2 feet wide by 3 feet long.

Get a good start: Set it in a location that gets six to eight hours of sun a day, and fill it with fresh potting mix.

After any chance of frost has passed, start plants from seedlings in 4-inch pots—we grew one tomato, one chile, three chives, and four basil plants—and keep soil evenly moist.

In just a few months, you’ll have enough produce for an endless combination of dishes.

Easy ways to enjoy your crops:

  • Gazpacho: Mix 3 puréed ripe tomatoes with 1 chopped tomato. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped cucumber, 1/4 cup finely chopped bell pepper, 2 tsp. lemon juice, and salt to taste. Top with 1 tbsp. slivered purple basil, 2 tsp. chopped chives, and 1 tbsp. minced jalapeño. Ladle into bowls. Serves 3 or 4.
  • Pasta:  Roast 1 lb. tomatoes, 1 jalapeño, and 3 unpeeled garlic cloves. Peel garlic; chop vegetables and toss with 8 oz. cooked pappardelle. Sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped purple basil, 2 tbsp. chopped chives, and salt and pepper. Serves 2 or 3.
  • Bloody Mary: Purée a couple of ripe tomatoes with a pinch of salt. Add 2 tbsp. chopped chives, 6 chopped purple basil leaves, and half a jalapeño; blend until smooth (strain if you like). Fill 2 glasses with ice; pour 1/4 cup vodka into each and add tomato mixture. Serves 2.

See more small-space kitchen gardening ideas in our small garden section.