Growing Herbs in Containers: A Guide
Herb gardening is an easy and rewarding pastime, and also very beginner-friendly. If you’re feeling intimidated about starting your container garden, consider starting out with herbs.
Here’s why herb gardening is perfect for urban gardeners:
1. It’s cheap
You don’t need a fancy set up to start your herb garden. The essentials are a growing/potting mix, seed starters, and a space with adequate light. You can also regrow your kitchen scraps.
2. Herb gardens are low maintenance.
Herb gardens are easy to start and maintain, no matter your schedule. You can rig your herbs with a self-watering system if you travel a lot.
3. They yield results fast
Most herbs grow within weeks to months of planting so you can see your results almost immediately.
4. It brings positive energy into your space.
Herb gardening is also a mindful way of attracting positive energy. There’s just something about growing herbs indoors that brings a positive boost into your space.
Herbs like rosemary and mint are known to purify the air and bring natural fragrance into the home.
5. They add freshness to your meals
You can spice up your meals with the herbs harvested from your container gardens.
Easy herbs to start with:
Gardeners should always plant what they can consume, and that also applies to herbs. Start your herb garden with plants you will use often, especially in your cuisine.
You should also do your research on plants that grow well in your region and plant according to your strengths.
Some common starter herbs are peppers, mint, parsley, garlic, ginger, lemongrass, etc. Some gardeners also opt for a themed herb garden when choosing the herbs to plant (a pizza garden, for example, would have basil, parsley, oregano, bell peppers, etc)
Soil and soil additives:
The success of your herb garden will start with a great soil mix as a foundation. Herb gardening soil should be light, airy, and rich in organic matter.
Many gardeners use this soil mix for container herb gardening:
1/4 garden soil
1/4 landscape sand
1/4 potting mix additive (peat moss, vermiculite)
Every gardener has their preferred composting method. The best thing is to make sure that your compost mix has a healthy balance of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium (NPK). Most commercial fertilizers will have a 10-5-5 proportion of NPK, but that ratio is harder to reach when you are composting at home.
For gardeners making their own compost at home, it’s important to add Carbon, Nitrogen, Water, and Oxygen with the different elements of your compost.
Be careful not to over fertilize your herbs. Most herbs will do well with some fertilizer every couple of months during the growing season.
Mulching is an important aspect of herb gardening. You should always think of maintaining the optimal growing conditions for your herbs, and mulching prevents the soil from drying out too fast and provides continuous nourishment to the soil. For best results, mulch with organic material like fallen leaves, sawdust, and fruit peels.
Location and lighting
Many herbs can grow comfortably on your kitchen windowsill, provided there is enough light getting to them (at least 6 hours of sunlight). You can also grow herbs on your balcony or backyard space.
Most herbs don’t have deep roots, but some herbaceous and woody plants will need deeper containers to spread their roots. Give your herbs enough space in the pot, and make allowances for fast-growing herbs.
You should also consider the weather when you choose the material for your plant pot. Terracotta dries out fast, which is great in colder climes where plants may get waterlogged. On the other hand, plastic keeps plants warner and holds water for longer, allowing your plants to soak up all the nutrients they need. You can also grow your herbs in grow bags if you have a bright and airy balcony space.
One advantage of container gardening is that you can move your plants around as the seasons change so they get the best sunlight they need to thrive.
Herbs have a spectrum of needs: from water and moisture loving mint to thyme that thrives on neglect. You have to keep your different herbs on a watering schedule that works for them.
Using companion planting in your herb garden will also require you to consider different watering requirements. Put plants that have the same watering needs together so that one plant doesn’t thrive at the expense of the other.
Harvest your herbs often to encourage growth. As soon as they produce, you can harvest the leaves/seeds/pods and store them. You can pinch off most herbs to harvest them, or use a handy pair of garden shears.
You should also propagate your herbs to create as many plants as you can handle!
Some tips for successful herb gardening:
● Cover your herb gardens with a tarp/canvas when there is a frost or in winter. They need warmth to thrive.
● Companion planting is a great idea with herbs. Did you know that you can plant your herbs together in the same container to maximize space and create a better growing environment for both plants? Check out our guide on companion planting to see what herbs you can grow together.