by Matt Gibson
If you are gardening mainly for culinary reasons, there’s nothing better than having access to lots of fresh herbs. If you’re just getting your feet wet with gardening and plan to start off with a simple container garden where you can grow fresh herbs to cook with, you’re in luck. Fresh herbs are super easy to grow, and starting your own herb garden in containers is a perfect way for beginners to start getting their hands dirty. Not only is an herb container garden one of the easiest gardening tasks you can get started, herbs also have a high success rate. It will be tough to get discouraged about your harvest while you’re enjoying a delicious butter spread made with herbs that you grew yourself.
Great Herbs to Grow Together in The Same Pot (Companion Herbs)
While pretty much all herbs require full sunlight exposure to thrive, it’s important to consider each plant’s irrigation needs if you want to grow your herbs together in the same containers. Rosemary, thyme, and sage all enjoy relatively dry conditions and therefore, they make good roommates in a large container. Basil and parsley, on the other hand, enjoy consistent moisture, so they work very well when grown together. Basil and parsley also enjoy the company of tarragon and cilantro in large containers. Or for a refreshing citrus bouquet, try pairing lemon verbena with lemon thyme.
Some herbs, however, don’t play well with others. Mint, for example, is a savage. It’s highly invasive when grown with any type of neighboring plant. For this reason, you should never plant mint in a container with other herbs. Mint will strangle whatever you plant it with and will overtake the container in no time at all. So be sure to plant all mint varieties by themselves. You will also want to keep different varieties of mint separated—not only in separate containers, but also far away from each other to avoid cross-pollination.
Pro Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Herb Garden
The most important factor when you’re growing herbs in containers is ensuring full sunlight exposure. Whether you are planning on situating your container garden indoors or outdoors, you will want to pick a location that gets at least eight hours of sunlight each day for the best possible growth performance. And though you can definitely have some success growing herbs indoors, your plants will perform much better outdoors if you have the room. You can place your pots just about anywhere that has good sunlight exposure, so whether you have a deck, a patio, or a balcony that gets the eight hours of needed sun, you are in business.
The second most crucial step for success is to be sure to pick your herbs regularly and correctly throughout the growing season. That way, you’ll get the most out of each herb that you grow. Don’t pick stems from the base, as this will encourage new growth that is too tall and not as densely covered in foliage. If you instead pick the tips of each stem—usually taking about an inch or two at most, depending on the size of the plant—then you will encourage a more well-rounded growth, with less stem length and more flavorful foliage.
Another important tip for your container garden is to avoid fussing too much over your herb plants. Most herbs produce foliage that contains the most flavor and fragrance if they’re grown in lean soil conditions with no added fertilizer. Instead of typical plant nutrition, use liquid seaweed or worm tea from your vermicomposting system to feed your herbs, especially early on in the growing season. Liquid seaweed and worm tea both provide the minerals and trace elements that your herbs need to produce thick, lush plants instead of weak, spindly ones.
A soilless potting mix is recommended for herbs, as it provides great drainage and ample space for roots to spread out as plants grow. Avoid overwatering as well, as most herbs thrive in relatively dry conditions. Be sure you know which herbs need more moisture and which don’t, then water accordingly. If you are planting some of your herbs in the same containers, make sure that you pair them up according to hydration preferences so you can maintain the appropriate moisture level for each plant.
If you are planning to grow your herbs as perennials, use extra large containers that provide at least five gallons of soil so that the roots can firmly establish themselves before winter frosts hit. You may choose to move your plants into the ground late in the summer, which will give the roots ample time to adjust and re-establish themselves before the season gets too cold.
You could also choose to treat your container herbs as annuals and throw them out at the end of each season, starting over with new plants each spring and fall. While growing herbs as annuals might be less cost effective, you are almost guaranteed to have a successful new crop each season, especially if you start anew each spring from seedlings.
Clay and ceramic containers may look pretty, but in the long run, plastic pots will last longer. Those ceramic and clay pots tend to crack and break over time due to the cycle of freezing and thawing that they will be exposed to outdoors.
The Nine Best Herbs to Grow In Containers
Rosemary thrives in full sunlight and well-draining soil. This plant hates having wet roots, so ensure it receives proper drainage, and avoid overwatering. Rosemary likes hot, dry, and very sunny conditions, and it’s hardy in USDA zones 7-10. The fresh, sharp taste makes it an essential herb for Mediterranean cuisine.
Give basil plants full sunlight and lots of warmth. This herb needs well-draining soil so that its roots stay dry. Water once per day, preferably in the morning before sunlight exposure. A staple of Italian cooking, basil is available in many different varieties. Use large, five gallon containers when pairing basil with other herbs, or try growing more compact varieties in smaller containers.
Set thyme up for success by giving it full sunlight and well-draining soil. Like rosemary, thyme cannot stand having wet roots, so ensure your plants receive proper drainage, and avoid overwatering them. Thyme is hardy in USDA zones 4-10.
Mint is both highly invasive and highly productive. This hardy plant prefers shady areas and does not require full sunlight like most other herbs do. The only thing mint needs to thrive is a soil that is rich in organic matter. Water your plants regularly, and harvest mint often.
The more sunlight oregano gets, the more flavorful its leaves become. Oregano is drought tolerant and requires very well-draining soil. This spaghetti sauce staple requires great drainage and will not survive in wet soil conditions.
Chives require at least five hours of sunlight per day and moist soil conditions. Don’t let the soil dry out in chive containers. This herb needs soil that is rich in organic matter. Hardy in USDA zones 3-10, chives planted in containers can be left outdoors year-round. For culinary applications, chives are basically tiny onions. They are strong in flavor and fragrance. Try them in salads, soups, on baked potatoes, and as a garnish. Even the flowers are edible and quite tasty.
Cilantro, also known as coriander, is quick to flower. That means you’ll want to sow it from August to September, when it will be less prone to bolting. Cilantro is one of the few herbs that can use a little bit of shade to keep it from flowering too quickly, but it will do well in full sunlight as well. Keeping cilantro well watered and fed will also help prevent early bolting. Your cilantro plants will eventually flower, however, no matter what you do. Luckily, its flowers attract hoverflies, which eat aphids, so gardeners of cilantro win either way.
Give sage plants full sunlight exposure and well draining soil. Like rosemary and thyme, sage will struggle if its roots are constantly wet, so proper drainage is a must. Most varieties are hardy in USDA zones 4-10. In the kitchen, sage is great for seasoning poultry dishes.
Once established, parsley will produce for two years before it flowers and dies out. This classic seasoning plant is slow to get going, but once it does, it produces tons of fresh foliage. It likes more water than most herbs, and it’s one of the few that can use a bit of fertilizer. A light feeding of a slow-release, organic fertilizer should be added to the soil in early spring each year.
Vidoes About Growing Herbs In Containers
Here’s a list of quick tutorial videos for growing each of the herbs we recommend: