An Herb Garden
How to maintain: Herbs are relatively self-sufficient, so water about once a week―more often during dry spells and less during rainy periods. Make sure to direct the water gently toward the base of the plants, which prevents runoff and allows the moisture to percolate down to the roots.
What to plant: A gallon-size rosemary plant and a quart-size sage plant form the foundation of this 4?-by-3-foot herb garden. Oregano, thyme, parsley, and basil add visual contrast.
Other options: Anything goes, depending on your palate. Consider a themed garden, such as one planted with lemon thyme, lemon basil, lemongrass, and lemon balm.
A Salad Garden
What to plant: Here, a Better Bush tomato and a Spacemaster cucumber share a four-foot-square plot with three kinds of bell peppers (yellow, orange, and red), four varieties of red and green lettuce, and a thriving nasturtium.
How to maintain: Till in plenty of organic compost at planting time for maximum output. Be aware that as plants put out more foliage and start to bear fruit, they require more water.
Other options: If your best planting spot gets only four hours or so of direct sun, forget the tomatoes and try leafy vegetables, like spinach, lettuce, and Swiss chard. Root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, and radishes, also require less light.
A Cutting Garden
What to plant: Tall, showy dahlias and gloriosa daisies (such as those pictured in this eight-foot-square plot) make lovely arrangements. Dwarf cosmos and salvia round out the mix.
How to maintain: After planting, put down a two-inch layer of bark mulch to suppress weeds and slow evaporation of moisture from the soil. Any blossoms that aren’t cut for bouquets should be deadheaded (snipped off) when they fade.
Other options: Planting combinations are almost endless. Consider a scheme from one color family, like pinks or purples. Reliable, productive, long-lasting bloomers include snapdragons, China asters, lisianthus, mallow, and larkspur.