3 gardeners share their design secrets

Great Western gardeners show how to grow food in gardens of any size

  • Justin Wiener with girlfriend Johanna Silver and their potted garden

    Justin Wiener

    Marion Brenner

    Click to Enlarge

Justin's favorites

  • Cherry tomatoes

    • Bell peppers
    • ‘Sweet 100’ cherry tomatoes
    • Lemon thyme
    • Mint
    • Rosemary
    • Strawberries
    • Sweet basil 

You might say that Justin Wiener is an accidental gardener. While clearing 4-foot-tall weeds from a small yard behind his San Francisco apartment, the multimedia specialist discovered a 5- by 12-foot concrete pad.

While some might have torn out the pad and used the space to grow flowers or, with proper neglect, even more weeds, Wiener had a different idea: to harvest veggies fresher than those offered by his CSA (community-supported agriculture) membership. So he planted seedlings of veggies and herbs in pots ― a mobile solution for a city dweller.

“I started with a few plants the first weekend, and each weekend I would acquire a few more,” he explains. The collection took on a life of its own. Potted herbs, peppers, tomatoes, and squash fill almost every available spot, with just enough space left over for an alfresco situation: a cafe table, a chair, and a lantern. And, of course, produce fresh off the vine.


Use the right pots Select pots at least a foot in diameter for growing herbs. For larger crops, use pots at least 16 inches wide and deep, and preferably larger, so roots have room to spread. Wiener shopped yard sales to get a large collection of pots for little money. Use fresh potting soil every year.

Grow vertically To keep tomatoes from sprawling, Wiener trains them on bamboo spiral stakes. Strawberries dangle from a wire basket that hangs on the fence. Video: How to stake a tomato.

Choose easy crops  Cherry tomatoes are among the easiest tomatoes to grow and are prolific producers. Herbs such as basil, rosemary, and thyme are other foolproof crops.

Harvest regularly Instead of admiring your crops laden with fruit, pick regularly to promote new growth. Snip herbs and dry for later use by bunching them with rubber bands, then hanging indoors.

Problem-solver To maximize sun exposure ― an issue especially in fog-prone San Francisco ― Wiener raises his containers on tables and moves them around as needed. – Julie Chai

Next: The guru



Insider Guides

Places We Love!
Enchantment Resort
For a most soothing Sedona experience, tuck yourself...