Intermix small veggies and herbs in your landscape and containers

By Mary Fran McClure
WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener
May 3, 2022

Image of leaf letuce paired with marigolds and lobelia.
Delicious leaf lettuce is beautiful paired with marigolds, lobelia or other flowers. Expand your food production by adding them to your landscape.
Provided photo/Mary Fran McClure

Mary Fran McClure
Mary Fran McClure – WSU Chelan/Douglas County Master Gardener – photo by Don Seabrook, Wenatchee World

Seeing rising sky-high prices of food, maybe it’s time to step up and grow some of your own produce this year. You don’t need raised beds (although they’re great), as many smaller varieties of vegetables and herbs fit nicely in containers or tucked into your landscape.
These smaller vegetables and herbs are popular, with new ones coming out every year. Before running out and buying some little starts, here are a few basics to consider.

First, most need good soil and drainage, space to grow, proper fertilization, required watering and at least six hours of sunshine. Whether in a container or in the ground, good planning and preparation equals success.

Herbs generally take drier conditions and less fertile soil, while tomatoes need very constant moisture and fertile soil. Leaf lettuce will take more shade this time of year and are fast growing — you can begin harvesting a few leaves from each plant within a month of planting and they’ll keep producing. They do best in cooler months and don’t take baking in the heat of mid-summer.

Master Gardener columnist Connie Mehmel says, “I’ve planted lettuce as late as the end of June, but it gets tricky when the weather warms. I start it indoors where I can keep it out of the heat and put shade cloth over the bed. I love salad greens. There have been years when that was the only vegetable I grew.”

An outstanding little basil is Finissimo Verde a Palla, originally from Italy and grows into a perfect globe shape about 10 inches in diameter. Also known as Greek basil, leaves are very thin and small yet pack a strong scent. A nice fit in a window box, container or in your landscape handy to the kitchen. Give it 12 to 18 inches of growing space.

For compact tomato plants, consider Bush Early Girl. Fruit has excellent flavor, globe shaped with about 4 inches in diameter. This hybrid grows about 18 inches high and needs spacing of 24 to 36 inches. Harvest is estimated 63 days from planting.

Another compact and early producing tomato is Bush Champion II. This slicer produces big, meaty fruits. Plants reach about 24 inches high and need spacing 24-36 inches apart. Plants may do best with staking or in a cage. Harvest is rated 65 days from planting.

If grape tomatoes are a favorite, consider Fantastico Grape, an early maturing, high-yielding winner. Seed catalogs say up to 12 pounds of little fruit, each up to an inch in size. With a mounded, spreading habit, space plants 36 inches apart. This early maturing fruit is 50 days to harvest.

For beefsteak tomato lovers, consider Summerpick, with large fruits averaging about 11 ounces. This vigorous hybrid adapts well to containers and produces ripe tomatoes in 70-75 days, needing 24 inch spacing.

Other compact plants include Patio Baby eggplant; a dwarf hybrid with a 45 day harvest time. Find a sunny spot and tuck in Italian flat parsley, oregano, chives or rosemary for picking a few fresh sprigs when cooking.

In addition to proudly harvesting your own fresh-picked produce, I predict you’ll enjoy getting outside, spending less on groceries, and adding a bit more beauty and interest to your landscape.

More from Mary Fran