How to grow herbs in containers

Grow Your Own Perennial Herb Container Garden

For years now I have been growing my garden herbs in containers just down the deck stairs from the kitchen.  While a few changes are made each year, the foundation of this garden is perennial herbs. The garden will continue to produce for much of the year allowing me winter harvests of sage, marjoram, rosemary, oregano, and sometimes arugula.  Other herbs will pop up in their due time from chives in early spring to saffron crocuses in the fall.

How to grow herbs in containers

This garden has 14 different herbs growing that come back year after year: mint (variety show in Kentucky Colonel or Mojito mint), Egyptian walking onions, saffron, rosemary, chives, marjoram, oregano (Hot n’ Spicy), anise hyssop, sage, thyme,salad burnet, tarragon (French), chamomile, and arugula. Add in some annuals like basil, parsley, and cilantro and you have yourself everything you need for your kitchen.

Container Herb Garden - growing perennial herbs

Growing a Container Herb Garden

Pick Your Pot

In most cases, larger is better if you plan to over-winter your herb garden. Pots that are 16”-20” in diameter will allow your herbs to grow into fairly large plants while you continue to harvest them. For over-wintering, choose plastic pots. You can dress up the area with some smaller terracotta or other decorative pots, but plastic is weather safe and will help protect the roots through the cold.

Use Good Soil

Starting with a high quality container soil gives your herb garden the best start. Each year it’s a good idea to scratch in some good compost and replace the soil completely after a few years. Regular feeding throughout the gardening season will encourage healthy growth and strong production.

Site Selection

The best site for your herb garden is near the kitchen. You aren’t going to love traipsing around in the rain to find herbs at the back of your property. Knowing that your kitchen garden is close by will encourage you to snip away when your meal needs a little extra va-va-voom.

Some herbs like it sunny, hot, and dry, while others prefer a cooler, shadier location. When you choose your plants think of where you are going to place your herb garden and select accordingly.

Choose Your Plants

There are just so many herbs out there so the best place to start is to decide what you love and will use. Next check out your local nursery or ask neighbours to find ideas that just may inspire a new favourite.

Here is some information a few of the perennial herbs you can grow in your garden.

 

Chamomile, Anise Hyssop, and harvested herbs

Mint, Lemon Balm & Oregano: mint is a fast growing and spreading herb that while wonderful for teas, cooking and cocktails, it can quickly take over the garden. For this reason, mint is best grown in containers. The same is true for lemon balm and oregano. Grow these three in large containers and you’ll always have enough.

Rosemary: in milder areas rosemary will over winter but cooler climates should bring plants in for the cold season.

Egyptian Walking Onions: fun alliums that have a mild garlic flavour. They set bulbs up at the top of the plant which becomes heavy, flops over, and plants itself in the ground aka ‘walking’.

Egyptian Walking Onions

Chives: are so prolific that you’d be hard pressed to find a gardener nearby who won’t give you a chunk to plant. The pretty purple flowers freeze well and will add a mild onion flavour to soups and dressings. Chive flower vinegar, anyone?

Tarragon (French): a sweeter herb with more of an anise flavour tastes great on chicken or again in vinegar. Don’t be fooled by packets of seeds sold as Russian tarragon, it doesn’t stand up in flavour to the French.

Salad Burnet: with a light cucumber flavour, salad burnet is great in (you guessed it) salads. Leaves can be added to the bowl or use them to make a flavoured vinegar or dressing.

Salad Burnet

Thyme: a wonderful culinary herb for most, but I don’t like the taste. I do love the creeping versions growing in between pavers though.  Check out great cultivars like lemon thyme and woolly thyme which are exactly what you would expect them to be from their names.

Arugula: wild arugula has a peppery flavour and hardy temperament. Given enough depth for the long taproot, arugula will produce a small shrub of leafy greens to add to salad and sandwiches.

Chamomile: This beautiful herb has just the most heavenly scent. Dry the flowers for a sleepytime tea or use them in natural bath products (like this Cold-Process All-Natural Handmade Soap).

Saffron: this expensive herb comes from the bright orange stigmas in the center of the saffron crocus. Pluck the stigmas off frugally as each flower only produces three of them. This explains why saffron is so darn expensive. You may not be able to grow more than will use in once recipe, but that’ll be one delicious paella.

Bay: the leaves used in soups and stews come from the bay laurel which is typically trained into a large tree and it is as slow growing as it is beautiful. If you have a friend with one or a spot in the garden, you will never run out of dried bay leaves as a mere few adds a lot flavour.

Lavender: I can’t say enough good things about lavender.  I have many plants in my garden so I can make things like Lavender Eye Pillows, Lavender Bath Salts, Gardener’s Herbal Foot Soak Recipe, Lavender Sachets, and a Dried Lavender Wreath. A whole post will be dedicated to the mighty lavender on August 3rd, which around these parts is lavender harvest day.  Mark your calendars.

 

Now this is only a small fraction of what can be said about growing an herb garden.  For a more extensive list of herbs plus more information on planning, growing and using herbs, check out Your Backyard Herb Garden: A Gardener’s Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More.  It’s an excellent resource for all things herbs with a detailed directory covering 52 herbs in detail and it even has some great recipes! I love this book.

 Your Backyard Herb Garden A Gardener's Guide to Growing Over 50 Herbs Plus How to Use Them in Cooking, Crafts, Companion Planting and More

Thanks for visiting the Weekend Project.  Also check out this DIY project on making Metal-Stamped Plant Tags from Hardware Store Finds so you can label up the new garden.

Metal Stamped Plant Tags DIY Oregano

 

About the Author : StephanieAn artistic gardener aiming to feed the body & soul through an urban potager garden & a community veggie plot in Vancouver.View all posts by Stephanie

  1. R.
    R.July 15,12

    A friend promised me some mint, so i’ll have to go find a container to put it in. My problem is always that I forget to water my herbs =). But maybe if I put it close to the kitchen like you suggest, i’ll remember…

  2. brandi
    brandiJuly 15,12

    I have mojito mint and basil that are in small pots. i wonder if that’s why they aren’t doing so well? maybe i’ll try transplanting them into bigger pots? my rosemary is doing great, though!!

  3. Stevie
    StevieJuly 15,12

    Hi Brandi, it’s hard to say why they aren’t doing well, but certainly if you are doing everything I suggested in this post in terms of soil, location, and fertilizing, then pot size may be an issue. Your plants could be crowded depending on how large they are or how many are planted in the pot. Or they could be stressed from lack of water or too much water. The best you can do is follow the tips listed here and if they still don’t do well, let me know.

    Glad to hear the rosemary is doing well!

    Stevie

  4. Paige @ Little Nostalgia
    Paige @ Little NostalgiaJuly 17,12

    You have so much information here! We’re moving into a house next week and I’ll finally have space to start a garden. I feel like I have a good handle on it now. :-)

  5. Lilah J
    Lilah JJuly 17,12

    Great post thanks so much for sharing. Lavender is definitely my favorite herb to grow but I try to add a new herb every season.

  6. katie
    katieMay 4,13

    oh my! this is a SUPER guide to container herb gardening. thanks for sharing! I know I’ll for sure be referring back to this page again and again as I get my garden ready this spring.

  7. Tanya Smith
    Tanya SmithMarch 30,14

    Is there a list of companion plantings? Which herbs can be planted together in the same pot?

  8. Stephanie
    StephanieApril 3,14

    Tanya, I have not had any issues with growing different herbs together in pots as long as they have the same growing conditions. There is a great book that I would recommend that discusses everything you need to know about companion planting: Carrots Love Tomatoes http://amzn.to/1gsd85S

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  13. Michelle Florida
    Michelle FloridaOctober 10,14

    i would like to start an herb garden, but don’t know where or when to start. i would like to grow chives, basil, parsley, cilantro and maybe oregano. Where do you suggest I begin?

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