Hints for a Complete GOURMET GARDEN, on the Cheap!





Introduction: Hints for a Complete GOURMET GARDEN, on the Cheap!

Hello there plant lovers and green fellows! Here I'll be posting some tips, tricks and hints related to having a garden which:

  • Smells good and fills your house with colors.
  • Provides species to cook with, as well as vegetables and fruits.
  • Combines plants in direct soil as well as in pots.
  • Provides a nice outdoors space where to have meals on sunny days.
  • Produces its own humus from organic wastes.
  • Runs on the cheap.

Note 1: There are many tips for propagation of plants on step 4.

Note 2: Much of the information is contained inside the pictures themselves, so check them out!

Note 3: Start by check these 2 introductory photos with a few examples of what I have (and you can grow too!) at home.

Let me say that all the photos were taken in my garden, and all the plants and fruits shown belong to this garden (unless otherwise stated).

Step 1: Balconies and Pots

You don't need a big area of soil in order to set up a gourmet garden. Even if you have a park, you may want to set up small plants in pots so as to leave the bigger spaces for your trees, as I do.

If you have a balcony with enough sunlight, then it's perfectly possible to grow aromatic plants as well as strawberries and cherry tomatoes. Check the photos where I show plants of tomato, strawberry, mint, oregano, ciboulette, rosemary, thyme, salvia, etc., all of them in pots.

Moisture in pots

Note that soil from the pots will lose lots of water during summer and in dry, windy days, even if it's not that hot, so you'll probably have to water the plants more often than you'd do in an outside garden.

One way to protect plants from excesive sun and wind is to set up a number of combined plants in the same pot, and/or to arrange many pots together. This creates a region with buffered humidity, and also helps protect plants from some plagues.

Size of pots

Strawberries, red cherry tomatoes, ciboulete, tomatoes, and small plants can be grown in rather small pots, may be 10 to 15 cm deep. Many plants can be grown in the same pot, even different varieties. Bigger plants like rosemary or thyme may fit well in such a small pot when they are small, but they will eventually require there own big pot (20 to 30 cm deep, 20 to 30 cm in diameter).

Look at the labels in the pictures for more tips on pots.

Arranging pots

You can use wooden or metal scaffolds in order to put some pots above others, thus making better use of the available space. Such scaffolds may also serve as tutors for those plant which require tutors (like some tomatoes).

Step 2: Outside Gardens: Small Parks

If you have a small park (this is my case) you can set up:

  • your own "raspberry forest", which we'll need a good amount of sunlight but no hot days.
  • big edible bushes like rosemary, oregano, Garden Nasturtium (aka Indian Cress, from which the seed can be eaten and whose flower is sais to be afrodisiac), etc.
  • big fragant bushes like lavender, jasmines, etc.
  • may be small fruit trees like citrus trees, mango trees, etc.
  • tomato plants which don't fit well in pots, like yellow cherry or ordinary tomatoes.
  • small areas with lettuce, basil, and mint.

Of course these are just ideas, you'll have to adapt your garden to your tastes, needs, climate, and possibilities!

The photos below show some of the plants and trees which I grow directly in the soil of the park.

Step 3: Outside Gardens: Medium-sized and Big Parks

If you have a big park you can set up, of course, the same plants that you can use in a small park. However, each of this parts may be larger (for example, the parts dedicated to lettuce and tomatoes) so that you can really produce the amounts that you need for everyday life. You may also have a bigger raspberry forest. On the contrary, it's not necessary to increase the area dedicated to species, as they are usually used in low amounts so they can be kekp in pots or as a few plants in direct soil.

Bigger trees
According to your climate you may put different kinds of medium-sized trees like citrus, apples, peaches, etc, or even bigger trees like avocado or loquat.

Always that you plant a tree take into account what will happen in the future, when it becomes big, specially make sure that no other big trees will compete with it and that it won't take too much sunlight from a part of the garden which needs direct light.

Constant yields

If you have a big park, you may have different plants of the same kind growing at different stages, so that you can have a constant, high yield of edible parts. This could be particularly useful with, for example, lettuce.

You could even build a green house where to grow plants out of season.

Step 4: Hints 1: Producing Plants

You'll find these ways to get plants the easiest ones:

Buy / find / collect seeds or bulbs and plant them:
Check in the package for information about when to plant them, how much water they'll need, how deep they need to be buried, how many days they'll need to germinate, etc. In fact you should do this step before buying the seeds, as you may find that some plants are not good for the conditions in your place.

I get the seeds for tomatoes, alisum, indian cress, and many other plants directly from my own plants. In this way, every year I grow the offspring of the plants which lived the previous year. And when you collect fruits, remember to save a few seeds for the next season!

As a general rule for growing seeds and bulbs, most of them need to be covered by a layer of soil similar in (thickness) to the diameter of the seed or bulb. The best conditions for germination include high humidity and a warm environment. Small plastic bags or cut bottles can be used as greenhouses that store moisture and protect from cold. Most seeds and bulbs will germinate within 5 to 20 days if the conditions are appropriate. I generally put them all together, to high density, and then separate them to small pots when they are between 5 and 10 cm tall. After growing a few more centimeters in the pot, I move them to their definitive place (either direct soil or a bigger pot).

You'll find that most species can be more or less adapted to the conditions of template climates. For example, I live in a template region of South America and I can grow a variety of fruits from Mango (tipically tropical) to strawberries (typical from colder regions). However my raspberries (original from cold regions) were never very good here.

Buy / find plants:
Some seeds are hard to grow, as in the case of most berries; while other seeds can't produce appropriate plants and will need proper injertion with another plant (this is the case of most citrus). In such complex cases, the easiest thing to do is to buy the plants. Later on, you may reproduce them asexually (yeah, cloning at home!).

In particular, buying plants is the prefered choice for citrus trees and your first copies of plants which you can multiply later on, like strawberries, ciboulette or raspberries.

If you want to know about planting trees, check this instructable: How to Plant a Tree

Asexual reproduction (cloning your plants): Several plants are very easy to reproduce by cloning. This results in plants which are identical (regarding their genomics) to their parents. There several ways to achieve asexual reproduction, depending of each plant:

Strawberries produce a specialized branch at the end of summer, which usually contains rooting cells at their endings (see photo). This cells can develop roots as soon as they touch soil. So you can take this endings, bury them, and after 2 or 3 weeks cut the reproducing branch so that the new plant becomes independent. In this way, besides having more plants, you will have better fruits, because young plants give bigger, tastier fruits.

Bulbs like ciboulette give away new small bulbs each year. So, every 1 or 2 years you have to remove the bulbs from the soil (taking care not to brake them nor the leaves), separate the bulbs, and re-plant them in separate places. This procedure not only gives you more plants, but also makes the new plants grow faster. You'll notice it.

Mint, geraniums, and some species like oregano, rosemary and thyme can be reproduced by cutting green branches and putting them directly in humid soil, or first in water and then transfered to soil after they have developed some roots. In some cases the plant may need external help from synthetic hormones. Check this instructable for further info on using hormones: Rooting plant cuttings

Step 5: Hints 2: Water, Light, Soil and Nutrients

Water, light, and a good, nutritious soil are the most important factors that contribute to nice plants:

Water is essential, of course. The quantity used will depend on each plant.

Plants like aloe vera will need little water; other like allisum or tomatoes will need plenty of it, to be provided during the evening and/or the morning. Strawberries also require much water.

Medium-sized and big trees can take water from deep regions of the soil crust, which ussually retains water, so such trees may not require watering (except in some specific dry seasons).

The application of water to pots, as said in step 1, will usually be increased in windy and/or hot days.

If you want to be greener and not spend so much money in water, you can make rain collectors connected to tanks where you store water for later use Instructables on rainwater collectors here

Light is another important factor, which comes together with temperature. Some plants require much sunlight, others prefer sunlight only in the morning and afternoon, and others may not like direct sunlight at all.

The plants we'll tipically use in a gourmet garden, as well as most plants with flowers, are in the medium-to-lots region of optimum sunlight. So make sure where you put the trees so as to avoid projecting shadows on your tomatoes, allisum, strawberries, lettuce, etc.

Soil is the material which gives the plants support and supplies it with nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorous, pottasium, minor elements and trace elements) dissolved in water. As such, it has to be stable but not hard, it must contain the required nutrients each in its correct amount, and it must be able of buffering pH and changes in water content.

Again, the optimum soil will be different for each type of plant. But a standard soil in which most plants grow well can be made by mixing about 70% humus (or compost) and 30% sand. Just make sure that the humus or compost is well done, since any fermenting material will be bad for your plants. Also make sure that when you use your own humus for a pot, you are not putting worms inside of it (worms will start eating your plants' roots when they run off organic material).

There are a number of instructables on producing compost. In my case, I have an area of 1 x 3 m where I let cut grass, leaves, and other organic materials to decompose into humus under the action of naturally-occuring worms, fungui, and bacteria. Every 6 or more months, I rotate all that compost extracting the part which has formed well, and I store that separately.

Step 6: Use, Consume, Enjoy!

Enjoy summer with the taste of your own mangos and strawberries, and preparing salads with your own tomatoes and lettuce.

Combine tomatoes with basil and chese, or with ciboulette, or with oregan.

Open up your own avocados and fill them with tuna to prepare quick and delicious antipastos.

Take the vitamin C of citrus by drinking grapefruit juices in winter.

Use your own thyme and rosemary to prepare meat and chicken when cooking.

Add the fresh smell of mint and salvia to preparations of meats and fruit salads.

Give colors and a fresh aroma to your house with allisum, lemmon thyme, lavender.

Enjoy having meals outdoors, in you private gourmet garden.



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    Janainsa. I make raised garden beds out of old discarded motor car tyres. Cut one side just inside the tread area with a stanly knife. Place uncut side down on plastic on the ground ( I use dog pellet bags) to prevent weeds growing up inside the tyre. Put drainage in: building rubble/ rocks and stones/ pottery shards - anything like that to about third of the height of the tyre. Fill with a mixture of third good weed-free soil, old manure (chicken is best but it must be well sweated out to get rid of the ammonia), and compost. Leafy veg doesn't need deep soil, they use about the top 6 inches(15 cm) but need to be kept moist. If you are in an area of severe sun, high temps and little rain, noonday shade is necessary. 50% shade cloth works well and shelters somewhat from hail. (Here on the highveld around Johannesburg South Africa, we can get severe to devestating hail - stones the size of tennis balls). Crushed egg shells do a wonderful job keeping slugs and snails off your plants as well as adding protein to the soil. Busy teaching "previously underprivileged". primary school children the art of growing food!

    Janainsa. I make raised garden beds out of old discarded motor car tyres. Cut one side just inside the tread area with a stanly knife. Place uncut side down on plastic on the ground ( I use dog pellet bags) to prevent weeds growing up inside the tyre. Put drainage in: building rubble/ rocks and stones/ pottery shards - anything like that to about third of the height of the tyre. Fill with a mixture of third good weed-free soil, old manure (chicken is best but it must be well sweated out to get rid of the ammonia), and compost. Leafy veg doesn't need deep soil, they use about the top 6 inches(15 cm) but need to be kept moist. If you are in an area of severe sun, high temps and little rain, noonday shade is necessary. 50% shade cloth works well and shelters somewhat from hail. (Here on the highveld around Johannesburg South Africa, we can get severe to devestating hail - stones the size of tennis balls). Crushed egg shells do a wonderful job keeping slugs and snails off your plants as well as adding protein to the soil. Busy teaching "previously underprivileged". primary school children the art of growing food!

    those flowers next to ur red lettuce are edible too they are marigolds

    what u call Indian Cress we call nastrushums(sp?) the whole plant is edible

    Wow. Thanks for the tips. I plan on planting some veggies and herbs and putting them in 18 inch pots. I have a pot for Roma tomatoes (my favorite) I will put two plants on one pot. One for Peppers including jalapeno, anaheim, cayanne and bell. The other for zucchini and brocolli. And one final one for oregano, mint and peppermint (for my teas!). This is going in a very urban area on a drive way that gets morning and afternoon sun. I'm going for looks as I have purchased 4 pots and I want it to look nice. But my question to you is if 4 pots is enough for all those veggies? I think I might be putting too much pepper plants in one pot or does it matter? In centimeters these pots measure 46. I hope you can help.

    6 replies

    You will need to separate your sweet bell peppers from your hot ones by at least 50 feet or they will cross pollinate and you will end up with neither hot nor sweet peppers. Better to keep your hot peppers separated too so that you get true flavors. Plant them with your tomatoes, if you like. Add a marigold to your tomato pot too, to help keep bugs away.

    I grow zuchinni in a large pot with great success, usually 2 or 3 plants pwr 18" pot. Direct sun aaaallll day long, I had them in a giant cast iron ornamental frog which did cast some shade on half of it, but the plant itself started growing out and away (so it looked like a giant hairy moss backed angry guard frog) and I had some zukes that got as big as my HEAD! NOO exageration! All and all Zukes in pots do well.

    hmm. At this point my Zucchini plants are long gone! They dried up completely. They got full sun all day with no shade. I think full sun is what killed them. You mentioned that your plants got some shade and you had success with that. I think I know what I need to do next year. Zucchini is one of my favs!! specially grilled! my summer is ruined :(. I will post pics of my successes soon! :D

    Oh I know I love them sautéed with garlic to, mmmmmmMmm!

    Hey thanks for the comments. I'll answer your question pot-by-pot:

    • "a pot for Roma tomatoes": I don't know this species of tomato, however 46 cm is deep enough for any kind of tomato! In fact, if the plant of Roma tomato is small, you may put more than 2 plants in such a big pot!
    • "one for Peppers including jalapeno, anaheim, cayanne and bell"... I'm sorry but I don't know much about peppers... indeed the size of pepper plants varies a lot from species to species (I think, not sure)
    • "other for zucchini and brocolli"... well since you pot is very big, this may work; however, zucchini plants are usually very big and have big leaves, which may give to much shadow to the smaller brocolli plant.
    • "final one for oregano, mint and peppermint" Mint and peppermint are very invasive plants, so I suggest that you don't mix them with oregano, unless you put an oregano plant which is well grown.

    Well, good luck with those pots!

    Gracias Luciano. I appreciate your feedback. I'm off to plant. I will post some pics to show you how it goes. Wish me luck. Saludos!!

    I live in Arizona wish I could have a mango tree! I love your garden so much I have been inspired to start my own. I think it's great how you made use of old paint containers as pots. Great idea. Thanks.

    2 replies

    Mango is a tropical plant, It would not survive Arizona winters, let alone produce fruit. Maybe the genetics boffins will overcome this limitation, or a serious heated greenhouse (a BIG one!) will get you a home-grown mango supply...  Let me know how it goes, I'd like a mango-tree, but at 25°S and 1500ft, mango trees grow fairly well, but do not produce fruit. This despite the fact we do not experience frost, let alone snow or blizzard.

    Je you are welcome. Post some photos of your garden!

    Well it's been about 3 and a half weeks since I planted my veggies. And so far here are the results: The pots with the peppers started out with quite a boom! They began giving off peppers but they started falling off within days after they appeared. They were doing this a week after I planted them. After the peppers dropped new leaves started growing and now the plants are attempting to grow peppers again but this time they are staying and the biggest pepper so far is a bell pepper that is about half inch round. My roma tomato pot is a little slow. In the first week and a half they pretty much didn't do anything but wither in the bottom branches. I cut them off and now new stuff is growing at the top. It's moving quiet fast now but still no fruit growing. My broccoli and zucchini pot is giving mixed results. At first the zucchini plants were growing large flowers and their leaves were getting really big. All of a sudden the flowers wilted dry and the leaves have seized to grow. It appears as though new flowers and leaves are coming soon. The broccoli has been doing consistently well. It's slowly growing and some leaves have become massive in comparison to what they were when I first planted them. One problem with the broccoli leaves is that they are begining to get holes and I've noticed two intruders in the form of caterpillars munching on it's leaves. I took them off the leaves and put them on some weeds. But now the leaves on the broccoli are all eaten up. Should I spray any kind of pesticide on them? or what can I do to keep intruders out? Seems like the broccoli is the only one with this problem. And finally the mints are doing fine. I've grown them before and they are really low maintenance for me. I'm just waiting for bigger plants and bigger leaves before I start using them. I didn't plant my Oregano because I couldn't find it anywhere. Maybe next year. I will post pictures soon! Thanks for all your help.

    4 replies

    Caterpillars getting you down??? Go to the beach! But no really, if you get a good number of sea shells and break them crush them, etc and sprinkle a good amount around the entire plant area it should deter slugs. bugs and more. See on their tiny level the edges are SHARP and PAINFUL. They'd probably rather be hungry than dead. There's also a type of sand/crushed rock that I have read about that on the bug level is very painful but fine for us people. Look up organic ways to get rid of fleas (that's how I found the rock dust or whatever it's called). Also, be carefull with the mints, if you put them into the ground, make sure they have a barrier or else you'll be sorry, thos things take over like WEEDS and will get into all your other beds! I'm in zone 5 with -20 degree winters (most everything gets killed off to the ground) and these mint buggers come back two fold in little armies every year. But it's a good thing I like mint.

    hmm. That's good to know. But how is this sand on the base of the plant going to help my problem when the caterpillars are on the leaves themselves?

    Hi, I know you posted this 2 years ago, but I thought I'll write with a few thoughts just in case it still helps.
    The average caterpillar does not get to your plant by 'walking on over' but its Mama the butterfly sticks her little eggs on the underside (most of the time) of a leaf and when they hatch, dinner is already served! So AubreeMarie's ideas of using a barrier around the base unfortunately don't work here - they never have to cross it.

    For a small to medium garden I find the best and non chemical way is to check regularly and pick the eggs off and squish them (check on line what they look like) or if you already have caterpillars, pick them off and feed them to your chicken - if you have them. Or to a pet frog/lizzard/goldfish, or have a bird feeding table somewhere away from the vegetables and put them on there - the birds will love you.
    If you have none of those caterpillar recycle options, have an old jam jar with lid ready, fill 1/3 with water and half a teaspoon of dishwash liquid. The caterpillars will drown very quickly. Once a week empty the jar into the rubbish on rubbish day.

    Warm water with a bit of dishwash liquid (about half teaspoon for one litre, go for biodegradable if possible) also makes a great non toxic contact spray for aphids, spittle bugs, spider mites etc. only spray directly onto the bugs you want to kill and repeat after a few days/a week/etc. and then only when they re-appear. It does not prevent them from coming back, just kills them when they are there.

    Oh and for slugs and snails: the night before rubbish day scrunch up some newspaper and place those lightly scrunched up balls around or inbetween those plants that get eaten by slugs and snails. Then spray the newspaper balls with water until they are fairly wet (but not collapsing). Slugs and snails tend to come out at night and they love moisture. So after their nights meal they look for a handy, moist, dark spot - your wet newspaper is just the thing! And the next morning before your rubbish collection, just pick up all the paper balls with their slimy guests inside and throw them in the rubbish. :)

    This turned out a far longer reply that I anticipated. Oh well, I hope it helps someone.

    Slugs and snails LOVE beer! Settle a saucer down to ground-level to make it easy for the little blighters to drop in for a drink, donate a few ounces of your Bud, and next morning, round up the carousing enemy. You can eat them (well-cooked, some nasty parasites/diseases can be lurking in wild animals!), or just throw them in the trash.