If you like cooking as well as gardening, then growing herbs in containers is a great way to have all the fresh seasoning that you’ll need. And luckily, you don’t need to be a fantastic gardener either. Growing herbs in potted containers is relatively simple and undemanding, as long as you know what you’re doing. And we’re here to tell you all you need to know!
What Are the Best Kinds of Herbs to Grow in Pots?
Most, although not all, kinds of herbs are suitable for growing in containers at home. Depending on what you like, and what you feel you’re going to use, the top choices are:
- Basil: nearly all Italian recipes use basil, and basil grows easily in containers. Plus, it responds well to pruning, meaning the more you pick, the more will grow.
- Rosemary: rosemary is more “bush-like” than other herbs, but it grows surprisingly well in containers. Plus, since rosemary doesn’t like the cold, growing it in a container makes it easy to bring inside if temperatures drop.
- Parsley: Another kitchen essential all kinds of parsley grow well in pots. Parsley does need regular watering, and plant food helps too, but all in all, it’s very easy to grow.
- Mint: Again, all kinds of mint grow well in containers. In fact, the only real problem with mint is that it’s very fast growing, meaning you shouldn’t plant too much of it unless you really love it. Mint does profit from plant food too as well as frequent watering.
- Oregano: There are tons of kinds of oregano, and nearly all do well in containers but do make sure you know which kind you prefer to eat since different varieties can have quite different tastes.
- Thyme: Thyme is an excellent choice for a first time gardener since it’s very hardy. It will grow easily in a container and requires next to no care (it will even survive without water for a while should you forget about it!).
The above are the most popular herbs to grow, but you’ll find that nearly all herbs will thrive in containers, though some may require more care than others.
What Kind of Container Should I Use?
The type of pot or wooden planter you use doesn’t really matter, but there are two things that you really need to look out for. The first of these is drainage. All containers should have holes in the bottom to allow water to run off. Many containers come with pre-drilled holes, but you can also put holes in yourself if need be. Be aware that these holes will allow water to drain, so if you’re keeping pots inside you might want to put a dish or plate under them to stop leaks.
Secondly, think about depth. Herbs need plenty of room to grow healthy roots in order to survive, so the deeper the pot, the better and we quite like the smart pots for their versatility if you don't have room for larger wooden
What Soil or Compost Do I Plant Herbs In?
The first thing you should do is add a small layer of gravel or grit to the bottom of your pot to allow for better drainage. Then find yourself a nice potting compost and add some grit to it (you’re looking for about 25% grit and 75% compost). Put this mixture into your pot and then dig the herb plant (or seeds if you’re feeling ambitious!) in. You might want to put a light layer of gravel on top of the soil too, since this will help prevent erosion of the soil, “drowning” the plant in heavy rain, and also helps keep pets out of the soil (useful if you’ve got cats).
In terms of plant food, some herbs simply do better with a little food or fertiliser. Just make sure you read the directions on the food package carefully first. If you opt for fertiliser, choose one that is marketed as “balanced” rather than “potassium rich” since potassium promotes flowering and herbs need leafy growth rather than flowers.
What About Maintenance?
Obviously, you’ll need to water your herbs. Some things, such as mint and coriander, need more water than others. So do read up on your herbs to make sure you’re giving an adequate amount of water. All herbs need pruning, and in most cases the more you cut off to use, the more will grow in its place. Some herbs like mint and parsley do well with a little plant food, whilst others (like thyme) don’t need any. So again, read up on your herbs to make sure you’re feeding them appropriately.
What About Winter?!
In the summer months, you can put your herb pots outside to benefit from the sun. But once temperatures start to drop you really need to bring all your herbs inside. Some things, such as rosemary, naturally die back a little in the winter but should bloom again in the springtime. Of course, you don’t have to put your herbs outside. Nearly all herbs will grow perfectly well indoors, though most will require at the very least a sunny windowsill.
Herb Growing Tips
Herbs really are some of the easiest plants to grow, and there are no real tricks of the trade. Make sure you know how much water and/or plant food your chosen herbs need, and regularly cut herbs back, and that should really be all you need to know.
There aren’t many pests that attach herbs, so you should be safe there and shouldn’t need pesticides, particularly for things grown inside. You might find a few slugs or snails on herbs left outside, however.
If your herbs thrive and begin to look too big for their containers, or if roots start to grow outside of containers, then you should repot them. This is easy, just choose a bigger container and repeat the planting process mentioned above.
Finally, don’t be tempted to use regular garden soil to plant your herbs. The normal soil from your garden is almost certainly lacking in some of the nutrients your herbs will need (and which will be abundant in potting compost), and it will compact too easily, meaning that your herbs won’t drain water properly.
Growing herbs is easy and fun, as well as fairly fast. Start planting now and you’ll have fresh herbs for your kitchen in no time!