Theme Gardens – How to Cultivate Fun, Flavor & ‘Buzz’

A Theme Garden is a great way to add a bit of fun to an ordinary garden. It also adds flavor to your meals with homegrown vegetables and herbs.  And, if it is done right, it can also create quite a ‘buzz’ about your new venture.  Not sure what a Theme Garden is?

A Theme Garden is simply a narrower focus on what you want to plant. This focus allows a gardener who only has a very small space to garden to zero in on specific plants that fit the theme. For instance, if the focus is pasta sauce, the plants that would be chosen are paste tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil and oregano.

The best part about theme gardens is that one theme could actually work for several different meals. That same Spaghetti Sauce Garden could also provide most of the ingredients for Tomato Soup. Add some pine nuts and Parmesan cheese to your grocery list, and you can make pesto from the excess basil. If you also incorporate a pot of Cilantro, this theme will expand to making Salsa.

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      Theme Garden Options

Options for Theme Gardens

Theme Gardens don’t have to be planted with a food focus. Other themes include planting flowers for a Cottage or Cutting Garden. You may want to increase the bee and butterfly population to your yard. Or you could focus an Herb Garden on culinary, crafting or medicinal herbs.

A Theme Garden is limited only to your space and imagination. To create one, the first thing you want to do is find your focus. Food? Bees and Butterflies? Once you decide on a focus, from there you just need to determine where you will plant.

Most gardens need a sunny location. Look around and find the sunniest spot you have. If you live in an apartment, measure the area on your balcony or outdoor space that is best for a garden. Determine how many pots will fit into that space.

Clawfoot bathtub as garden theme

If you can find one, try planting in an old claw foot bathtub. Half of an old metal drum, or whiskey barrel is also ideal for container planting. It is large enough to hold at least two, if not three, different types of plants.

With the Pasta Sauce example, you can place a tomato plant in the center. Around the edges, you can add garlic and/or onions. If there is room around the base of the barrel, put a few pots that will hold your herbs.  You can also use shelving to add more pots to a small area.

If you have more space, you can choose to have several different Theme Gardens. On the sunniest side of your yard, you can plant a Soup Garden. If the other side gets a bit more shade, choose herbs and flowers that would thrive in that area.

Be sure your garden has water access in close proximity, especially if you plant in pots. Containers require frequent watering, as they dry out faster than in-ground planting. Follow the water requirements for any plants you use.

Need some Ideas for Theme Gardens?

Here is a list of several gardens you can plant, with a list of herbs and vegetables that work:

Theme Gardens for Food & Flavor

Pasta Sauce Theme Garden

Pasta Sauce Garden

Paste Tomatoes, garlic, onions, basil, and oregano are the foundation of a Pasta Sauce Garden. If you have room, consider planting a Bay Laurel. With the exception of a few other items, such as Italian Sausage, can pick everything you need to make a big pot of pasta sauce. You can do this several times throughout the summer. If you like to preserve your harvest, you can put up several jars for the winter.

Salsa Theme Garden

Salsa Garden

A Salsa garden uses the same plants as a Pasta Sauce garden, with only two additions. One, choose a pepper plant according to the heat you like for your Salsa. Second, add a pot of cilantro. This gives you all the ingredients you need to make salsa to eat fresh, and possibly enough to put up for later.

Soup Garden

Soup Garden

This garden potentially will take a bit more space. It consists of red potatoes, carrots, green snap beans, tomatoes, and celery. Corn is an excellent addition, but requires a large enough space for pollination. Add some onions, garlic, thyme and savory for herbs and you can have a huge pot for eating and preserving.

Salad Theme Garden


Plant several different types of lettuce and greens for the base. Bunching onions, bell peppers and radishes make a good second layer. Other vegetables can include squash, cucumber and carrots. If you like to make your own salad dressing, toss in some basil and oregano, or whatever you prefer.

Pizza Lovers Garden

Pizza Lover

The basic Pizza Garden fits well with a Pasta Sauce and Salsa garden. If you have more space, then go a little wild with your toppings. Onions, bell peppers, banana peppers, jalapenos, garlic, and any other vegetable you like on your pizza will work.

You may also consider adding Fennel, as it is an ingredient in a good pizza sauce. If you grow this type of garden, consider making several pizzas at one time, then freeze a couple for later.

Create a 'buzz' in your garden

Ready to Create a ‘Buzz’? 

Choose a Theme Garden that will attract bees!  Bees are some of the best garden ‘helpers’ we can have.  They work diligently at pollinating our vegetables, herbs, fruits and flowers.  When they have completed that job, they then go home and create delicious honey!

There is a wide variety of flowers you can choose from for a floral theme. You can also combine two or more themes. Consider a Cottage Garden that incorporates varying heights – from hollyhocks to Dianthus. Flowers in a Cottage Garden often work well as a Cutting Garden.

These gardens provide you with fresh stalks of beauty to cut and take indoors. Both themes are also excellent as Bee and Butterfly gardens. With just few flowers, you can get four gardens in one! (And if you have bee hives, that bonus can definitely be ‘sweetened’!)

It’s time to grab your gardening gloves and get started on your new Theme Garden! Once you have decided what you want to focus on, be sure and let me know. Better yet – if you have suggestions for other Themes, drop a comment below and let us know. We can all use some new and great ideas!

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Julie Murphree is a blogger, newspaper columnist, and speaker on all things ‘Living a Simple Life on the Farm’. She is the author of \\\'The Farm Wife – Living a Simple Life on the Farm. She and her husband have 60 acres in NW Louisiana where they actively work on living as sustainable as possible.


  1. The idea of a theme garden has always intrigued me! My favorite thing to grow, tomatoes, seem to be almost always included! Thanks for your ideas.

  2. I love the idea of themed gardens. It makes sure that you are growing everything you need for certain meals and gives your garden a nice variety. I could totally see myself growing a soup themed garden, as I can grow most if not all of those plants fairly easily.

    1. I have always thought theme gardens were fun, especially if you only have a small space. I am so glad you liked the post, Sarah. I hope you enjoy the e-book as well!

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