How To Plant A Herb Garden In Pots

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Planting a herb garden in pots is a new convenient way of growing herbs that doesn’t take too much space. If you live in a city in an apartment, a herb garden in pots is an excellent option for you. It is convenient, especially when you are cooking.

All you have to do is step out into the balcony where your herb garden is placed, pick out fresh herbs, and throw them into the pan. Unlike having a full-blown herb garden, growing herbs in pots don’t require a lot of maintenance. You don’t have to deal with critters and weeds invading your herb garden pots.

How To Plant A Herb Garden In Pots
How To Plant A Herb Garden In Pots

A herb garden can be grown in any type of pots and containers. The only thing you need to consider is the type of herbs you plant in the same pot. Herbs grown in the same pots should have the same growing requirements.

For instance, some herbs require more light, while others require more water. Besides, the pots the containers add appeal to your herb garden. You can decorate them how you like or turn it into a fun little project to do with your family. It is also an ideal way of gardening for people who only get sunlight on one patch of their backyard.

Using pots to plant herbs can add versatility. You can use different sizes of pots, with different colors. You can either place them on a windowsill, on the ground or hang them from the balcony or porch. Herb garden in pots serves as an excellent décor for your space. It can add color to your patio or deck or any outdoor sitting space.

You can have smaller pots inside the house or apartment and keep larger pots outdoors.

Here are a few essentials to consider when planting a herb garden in pots.

Pot Sizes

Having a pot in the right size is essential. It is usually recommended you plant in larger pots compared to smaller ones. It gives the roots more space to grow comfortably. Also, larger pots tend to hold more soil and keep it moist for longer.

They also allow the soil to resist temperature fluctuations. Smaller pots are prone to drying the soil, especially during hot summers. You may have to water your herbs twice a day for them to survive.

You should consider how large a pot a certain plant requires. You must take into account the plant’s root system. Each system will require a different sized pot, whether it is annual, shrub, or perennial.

Plants that are root bound and fill up every square inch of the soil dry up more than other types of plants. Therefore, you would need large pots for them. Also, opt for light-colored pots since they ensure the soil remains cool compared to dark-colored ones.

The size of the pot also depends on how much space you have in your house, where you will place it and what will be used to support it. If you plan on putting the pots in your deck or garden, make sure to check the sturdiness of the structure and how much weight it can hold.

Drainage of the Pot

Pot drainage holes are important for your plants. Pots without drainage holes kill the plants when the soil gets waterlogged. The holes don’t need to be huge but should be enough to drain the water sufficiently. If you end up buying pots that don’t have any holes, you can drill some. Pots without holes work best as covers of the pots.

You could also use double-walled, self-watering, and hanging-pots if you have smaller plants that require frequent watering.

The Material of the Pots

The material of the pots is another thing you should consider. Terracotta and clay pots are aesthetically pleasing, but they can easily break and get damaged during freezing cold months.

In colder regions, these types of pots are placed in frost-free spaces to prevent crackling. They are also not good for shrubs or perennial plants that need to be outside all year.

Concrete pots, on the other hand, are long-lasting and come in different styles and sizes. They can be safely placed outdoors without getting damaged. You can decorate the concrete pots any way you like.

The only issue is that plain concrete pots are extremely heavy and difficult to move around. It isn’t a good idea to keep on the balconies or decks. If you want a lighter concrete pot, buy the one mixed with perlite, vermiculite, or fiberglass. For a pot that looks like it’s made of concrete but is much lighter, opt for hypertufa.

How To Start Planting Herbs In Pots

The simple rules for planting herbs in pots are centered on site selection, picking the right pot, using good compost, and watering and fertilizing your herb garden.

Step-1: Choosing The Site

Now one of the primary advantages of growing herbs in pots is that they can be moved around anywhere you like. Unless of course, you’re planting your herbs in the big-sized pots, you can easily group or move around your container herb garden in whichever way you like.

This allows you to control for temperature, and provide them with optimal growing conditions.

You can choose warm humid spots like the kitchen, window sills, or patio or place the aromatic herbs in clusters around your deck, patio and doorsteps for a heady welcome aroma of their goodness.

However, not all herbs are suited to the same growing conditions. There are some herb varieties that like hot, dry, and arid conditions, while other varieties like cool, moist conditions with shaded light, but all in all, growing herbs need at least six hours of sunlight in a day.

Also, although it’s possible to plant different herbs in the same pot, only do so if they have similar growing conditions.

Furthermore, a site tip to consider when planting herbs in pots is to ensure that they are close to a source of water. This is because pots dry out much more quickly than plants rooted in the ground. This means that herbs that are generally considered drought-resistant will need regular watering if grown in a pot.

Step-2: Choosing The Right Pot

If you’re planting herbs in a pot then obviously the right pot is extremely important, so it can be large enough to hold the roots of the plants comfortably and allow it to grow upright.

The general rule of thumb is to choose a pot that is approximately one-third of the height of the full-grown version of the plant and half to three-quarters of its width.

Whenever in doubt about the herbs full-grown size, just refer to the seed packets or plant tags.

A low-lying herb like the common thyme grows to 12 inches tall with an 8-inch width; therefore the ideal pot for it would be 4 inches by 4-6 inches wide. Larger herbs like, lemongrass, rosemary, sage grow well in bigger pots that are closer to one-half of the herbs mature size.

Apart from being well-suited for size, a good pot also needs to have a well-sized drainage hole that allows water to drain thoroughly from the roots. Unless your herb roots are well-drained, root rot is one of the main causes of plants dying in pots.

It is a common danger as it is easily started through complications like ‘wet feet’ which are roots that have been left in water or moist soil for too long.

Adding a layer of additional material like pebbles, coconut coir, broken pottery, over the drainage hole also helps to absorb and drain away unnecessary water.

Pots are usually available in a variety of materials, like ceramic, metal, plastic, terracotta, resin, or wood but plastic or resin are the best options for cold regions as they don’t crack due to the weather.

Big-sized pots are also good in this regard, as they help keep the plants insulated from the cold. Aesthetically, and by all intents and purposes, ‘Long Tom’ pots are the required width and height to grow your herb garden in.

Step-3: Using Good Soil

High-quality soil should be a priority for your herb garden. The soil in the pots should be lighter than normal garden soil in its density and be well-enriched with organic fodder.

It should also be able to provide good water drainage, yet be moisture retentive as well.

Adding builder’s sand or landscaping sand to your soil can help in this regard.  On top of that, perlite, vermiculite, and peat moss are additives that help to keep the soil moist without making it to compact or saturated.

The ideal soil blend for your potted herbs should have:

  • ¼ garden soil
  • ¼ builder’s sand
  • ¼ peat moss/ vermiculite
  • ¼ compost or manure

This light, airy mix includes everything that’s needed for nutrients, water absorption, and drainage.  Soil types and kinds also depend on your herbs, for perennials aged compost in the spring works well. But the soil itself needs to be changed every 3-4 years.

Always remember that the compost should be moist but not soggy. Herbs like mint like moist and rich soil but aren’t very happy growing in a pot.

Repotting them with rich soil and fresh compost, whenever their leaves look wilted or straggly shall keep them growing healthily.

Types of Herbs You Can Plant in Pots

Types of herbs you can plant in pots
How to plant an herb garden in pots

People have been planting herb gardens in pots, troughs, containers, and baskets for centuries. The main reason being the convenience.  What’s more convenient than waltzing to a herb garden that’s on your balcony or deck and picking out fresh herbs?

Another reason why people planted herb gardens in pots was easier cultivation and higher yield. Not all herbs like the same type of soil, sun exposure, water, temperature, etc. Hence, growing them in pots make it easier for you to monitor them.

Planting herbs in pots means you can give each of them ideal conditions required for their growth. Here are some of the herbs that are best grown in a pot.

1. Basil

Basil is a herb that is grown annually and lives for one season. It is grown on a window sill, a sunny deck, or a terrace. Plant your seedlings in the spring season in a regular potting mix and place the pot in a warm spot until the roots are established.

For basil to thrive, the pot should be deep because it has a long root. Water the herb thoroughly in the dry weather but avoid watering at night as damp leaves can are prone to getting a fungal disease.

2. Bay Leaves

This herb plant can become huge if not pruned. Similar to basil, the bay leaf plant also requires a large, deep pot that should be protected from frost. Feed the herbs liquid fertilizer in spring and during the summer season water well.

If you want the bay tree to grow bigger, opt for a plant that has a straight stem. Also, remove or trim the lower side of the shoots.

3. Chives

This is another herb perfect for growing in the pots. You can grow it in a small pot and keep it near the window. The soil for chives should be moist and fertile. It preferred shade in the summer so that the soil doesn’t dry out.

In early spring, feed it with nutrients, and if you notice aphids, immediately wash the leaves thoroughly. Since this herb is perennial, it will live for many seasons but wither away during winter.

4. Coriander

Coriander is best grown in a large-sized deep pot that is grown in a sunny spot. However, you have to make sure the soil doesn’t get dried out as it prefers a lot of moisture. This plant also doesn’t like being transplanted. It can be grown from the seeds very easily.

All you need to do is sprinkle some on a potting mix and then cover them up with a bit of compost. Harvest coriander seed by picking the flowers the minute they produce a scent. If you like coriander, you can increase your yield by sowing the seeds in another pot.

4. Lemon Grass

For lemongrass to thrive, you have to make sure the compost is moist in the summer season. If you live in a colder region, keep the pots in shelter during the winter season. In colder months, lemongrass plants become dormant.

In the summer season, harvest lower stems and fresh leaves. Also, in warmer months, administer liquid feeds every week.

5. Mint

Mints herbs come in many different varieties, including pineapple, apple, peppermint, and lemon. Most of the mint varieties are perennials that can easily spread. That’s why it is recommended to plant the mint herbs in larger pots.

Make sure the compost is moist, and feed your herbs liquid fertilizer throughout. This plant also prefers being placed where there is a bit of shade.

6. Parsley

Whether parsley pots are kept inside or outside, the herb will thrive if the soil is kept moist throughout, fed liquid fertilizer occasionally, and harvested regularly. A bit of shade in the summer season is recommended, whereas it prefers a sunlit area in the winters.

If you notice any flowers, remove them to ensure the plant produces leaves and not seeds. Parsley plants tend to live for a couple of seasons, making them biennial.

7. Rosemary

For rosemary, you will need a large-sized pot as it can spread and grow up to a meter. The pot should have a sufficient drainage system. This herb requires little water in the winter season.

However, make sure to place the pot in a sunny area if you live in a colder region; otherwise, the plant will wither away. In the winter season, put the pots in a shelter to protect the plants from frost. Trim the plant after it flowers to retain its shape.

8. Sage

Sage is an aromatic herb used in cooking. It is perhaps one of the most resilient herbs on the list as it is evergreen, frost tolerant, and is grown once a year. Sage plants can grow 60cm tall and spread easily.

Therefore, select a large-sized container that is deep and has an excellent drainage system. For the soil, mix composted fine bark with soil-based compost. Trim in the summer after flowering and do not overwater the plant.

9. Thyme

Thyme, just like mint, comes in different varieties. They are all perennial, evergreen, and frost hardy. Some grow 30cm tall, while others are low-growing. Thyme does well in pots, provided the drainage system is good and the sunlight exposure is sufficient. Do not use fertilizers for this herb and avoid watering too much.

What Time Is Ideal For Planting Herbs In Pots?

planting herbs in pots
Image of How to plant a herb garden

Herbs are generally simple to propagate.

Avoid purchasing herb seeds from garden centers or nurseries until the weather changes into late spring, and is thoroughly warm.

Gentle herbs like basil, marjoram, coriander and perennial plants such as French tarragon are best sown indoors in the spring time or keep the plant pots outside only after the chilly weather has completely past.

 There are some types of herbs that can have their pots be kept in the outdoors, throughout the year once they’ve taken root. These include mint, oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage. They can also be sown indoors in pots like the gentle care herbs are, or kept outdoors in the month of May onwards.

Additionally, biennial herbs like Parsley can be grown during the winter months if the pots are kept indoors, or in a covered area. Chives, marjoram, mint, oregano, and tarragon are one of the first herbs to grow into seedlings once winter is well over and the days start to lengthen.

Annuals herbs like basil, cilantro, and summer savory can grow quickly and directly into pots as the temperatures get higher in the spring. Or they can be sown indoors in the pots six weeks before the last winter frost is over.

Regardless, the very basics of planting herbs in pots entail that you start off with herbaceous types and woody perennials. If chosen and sown wisely based on climate and region, your potted herb garden can give you year-long produce.

Ever-greens like bay leaves, rosemary, sage, thyme, and winter savory are ideal if you are looking for a continuous supply of herbs throughout the year.

How To Care For Your Herb Garden

how to care for herb garden
how to care for herb garden

Watering

Herbs in pots dry out more quickly than those growing in the soil and need to be watered more often. Whenever the inch of the topsoil feels dry, you should be watering your herbs especially, in hot or windy weather.

If you have several herbs growing together in pots, then you can water them using a drip irrigation line. This is a relatively cheap way of watering, which is easy to install and not too intrusive. It also saves up on water.

You can also add a battery operated timer to it. Some of these timers can also be programmed for rainy day options, day and night watering times, and region settings.

Fertilizing

Potted herbs need more fertilization than herbs growing in the ground. A solution of fish emulsion fertilizer such as Fertilome, which is diluted to half its strength and then used monthly through the growing season is effective.

Harvesting

If you want your herbs to keep on growing healthily and to continue flourishing then harvest the leaves often. Clumpy herbs like chives, cilantro, lemongrass, and parsley, should be picked from the outermost leaves first and then towards the center and continually up.

Upright growing herbs like basil, mint, oregano, and rosemary can be pruned above the leaf-set to help them branch out and grow in bushy clusters.

Some flowering herbs like basil, mint, and parsley start to lose their taste once their flowers start budding. Because of this, their flowers need to be plucked from the stalks promptly. However, these flowers are edible too and can be used in salads or other dishes.

Plant A Herb Garden In Pots
Plant A Herb Garden In Pots

Pruning

How to care for your herb garden also includes pruning and trimming away dried stalks. Preen away existing mulch and layer new mulching material for protection against the cold winter.

Clean out any pots used for planting and growing annual herbs and after a proper clearing, stow them away for later use in the next winter.

This is because annual herbs don’t require any pruning and herbaceous types of plants can simply be cut right to the ground in late autumn season.

However, woody perennials do need to be pruned to be well-shaped and sized and to help them produce new thicker foliage.

If they are overgrown, then it’s hard to shear them back into a neater, sizeable shape as the woody stems won’t produce new leaves then.

Therefore, pruning them at this outgrown stage is pointless as the results are short woody stems with no leaves, and which look quite bare.

The ideal time for picking woody perennials like, bay, lavender, rosemary, sage, and thyme is in early spring when the new leaves start to unfurl at the base of the plant or at the lower limbs.

Pruning branches by a one-third or cutting above the leaves, while removing wilted flowers and flowers stalks, is the correct way to go about it.

Winter Protection

To avoid damage from frost, it’s a good idea to constantly move around your potted herb garden especially into a frost-free area to protect them from the winter cold.  This is especially important for perennials so that they can survive the winter months easily.

Planting herbs in pots is easy; however, those planted in bigger pots need to be offered more on-site protection to the roots during the winter season. Although, bigger pots are advantageous in that they don’t crack easily when exposed to really icy weather.

However, the herbs in such pots still need to be offered insulation which can be done by covering them with branches, blankets, or even bubble wrap. On very chilly nights you can even cover the foliage with plant covers made of cloth.

Protect Your Herb Garden in Pots From Insects

Protect your herb garden in pots from insects
Protect your herb garden in pots from insects

Now that you are familiar with the types of pots to use, the herbs to grow, and how to make sure they thrive, it is time to discuss the methods to protect your garden against insects.

Since herbs are grown in pots and do not usually respond well to insecticides, it is recommended you go for home-made or natural ones. Here are some natural insecticides you can make use of.

1. Soap Spray

This is your best bet when it comes to bugs that just won’t leave your plants. For instance, Japanese beetles are horrible for your plants. They hang on to the leaves in order to feed. Spraying a soap spray will make the leaves too slippery for the beetles to hang on and feed.

You can also add a bit of cayenne pepper to your soap spray to give the bugs a bit of a kick. Add one tablespoon of liquid dish soap in each quart of water, sprinkle a bit of cayenne pepper, and then shake the spray bottle thoroughly.

Proceed to spray all the leaves. Before harvesting, don’t forget to rinse off all the leaves if you have recently sprayed them. In any case, the amount of soap used in the spray is very little to cause any harm.

2. Neem Oil

This is a favorite natural insecticide used by gardeners who are concerned about their carbon footprint. Neem oil is an incredibly versatile essential oil. It can be used for all sorts of insects. All you need to do is dilute half neem oil with half portion of water. Shake the spray bottle thoroughly before using it.

Spray both sides of the leaves. However, consuming the neem oil does have adverse effects on humans, so don’t spray this solution on the produce. Also, don’t make big batches of the solution as you will need to use it within one week.

3. Other Essential Oils

Herbs have a strong fragrance of their own, but sometimes it’s not enough. Prevent the insects from invading your herb garden by using essential oils. Cedar oil is an excellent option as it has a strong scent similar to juniper. Cedar oil’s smell wards off snails, slugs, thrips, and aphids.

If you have a pet that seems to eat your herbs or fiddle with the leaves, juniper oil will work like a charm. Other oils that work as repellants include orange, peppermint, lemon, tea tree, lavender, garlic, and more.

The easiest way to apply the essential oils is by adding a few drops to 8 ounces of water in a spray bottle. Shake the bottle well, and then spray the mixture on the leaves and your plants’ surrounding area. Make sure you wash off the mixture from the leaves and produce before consuming.

4. Companion Plants

Companion plants are an excellent and natural way of repelling pests. These plants can help your herbs out when there is trouble. They can be used for all types of plants and will prevent not only insect infestations but also diseases.

Plant companion plants next to your herbs for protection. Coriander or cilantro and dill are best to deter aphids and spider mites. Chamomile will attract good insects. Garlic planted next to your herbs will disguise the smell of rotten leaves that are attractive to Japanese beetles, while mint drives off ants.

5. Nematodes

These are roundworms that reside in the soil. They occur naturally in the soil and are great for repelling pests. These insects are known as biological insecticides because they seek out a lot of insects in the soil, which are mostly larval garden pests.

The use of nematodes is harmless to the soil, and they don’t harm any of the larger animals or insects, including bees. They are good for when you don’t want your product to taste like soap or any of the essential oils.

Should I Plant A Herb Garden In Pots?

If you always wanted to grow your own herbs but didn’t know how to care for a herb garden then no you know that it is not too hard at all. Planting herbs is easy, but planting herbs in pots is easier. Our how-to plant a herb garden in pots simplifies each area of this DIY project.

Just remember to focus on watering regularly, fertilizing the herbs every month, repotting some herbs if necessary, pruning off the leaves and stalks, and of course harvesting your herbs!

After all, harvesting is the most important step as all your hard work and effort merits results through a fresh, aromatic, and bountiful supply of leaves for your kitchen or home!

When in doubt, always consult the seed packets or tags for instructions on watering, fertilizing, and even the mature size of your herbs so you can choose the right pot based on that.

You can always experiment with different herb types; take recommendations from your neighbors, colleagues or friends, or the local nursery. Once you get the hang of it, you can easily grow bunches of your favorite herbs in pots easily around the house!

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I hope this article helps you to know how to plant a herb garden in pots and how to care for herb garden. Hopefully, the tips for planting a herb garden in pots will help you ensure your herbs thrive and you get a good harvest at the end of it all.