Successful gardening doesn’t always require a green thumb. Sometimes, all it takes is good soil and lots of sunlight. So, if you’re a novice gardener who needs a little boost of confidence, I suggest starting your adventure with a herb garden in pots. These fragrant plants only need a small amount of your time and effort to reap their great, not to mention tasty, rewards!
Why Grow Herbs at Home
If you’ve been growing organic vegetables but haven’t started on your herb container garden just yet, then I encourage you to get your trowel and garden gloves right away. Aside from being a fulfilling experience for beginners and seasoned gardeners alike, having a herb garden in pots has a lot of benefits:
- Economic. A small bunch of store-bought tarragon or rosemary can be pricey. It’s also unfortunate when half of it gets wilted and ends up to the bin. Having pots of these herbs at home will avoid food and money down the drain.
- Useful. Fresh herbs can add that little “oomph” to any dish, be it a salad with mint or cilantro on guacamole. And pesto is not delicious without fresh basil. They may be small and dainty, but a sprinkle of herbs can take your cooking from ordinary to fancy.
- Beautiful. Whether you have a large porch or a tiny corner by the window, herbs can grow practically anywhere sunny. Plant them in mason jars or attractive pots and have an instant home décor. I especially like placing them in the kitchen to keep nasty cooking odours away.
Guide to Start Your Herb Garden in Pots
Ready to start growing herbs indoors? Here’s your guide for sure-fire planting success.
Decide which herb to plant
First things first: choose which herbs you want to grow. I suggest picking those that you enjoy using in the kitchen. Also, start with a few pots first to get the hang of it before going all-out. Herb gardening should be an enjoyable task, after all. For even greater success, it’s best to plant herbs based on your region or area. That way, the plants will be more accustomed to the soil and weather. Consult your local garden centre if you need more help. Meanwhile, here’s my selection of easy-to-grow herbs that you can try:
- Basil. I love basil for its cooking versatility. You can use them fresh, cooked, chopped and more. Basil plants also grow well in pots. Place them on a sunny kitchen to keep houseflies out!
- Mint. This fragrant, fast-growing herb likes fertile soil, moisture and lots of shade. Plant spearmint or peppermint if you love tea, cocktails and salads.
- Oregano. If you have space in your sunny balcony, use it for your pot of oregano. Make sure to keep the soil moist. The sweet and spicy flavour of oregano leaves will make your Mediterranean dishes taste authentic.
- Sage. If you like making homemade sausages or pork dishes, then a pot of sage at home is perfect. Its flowers attract bees, too. Water it sparingly and place it somewhere with the full view of the sun.
- Thyme. Take your sauces, soups and stocks to a new level with a small bunch of fresh thyme thrown into the mix. Make sure to give this drought-resistant herb full sun.
Experienced gardeners can start their herb garden in pots from seeds or cuttings. For beginners, there’s a higher chance for success if you start with seedlings from your garden store.
Pick the right pot or container
There’s a lot of attractive pots available that your herbs will like. But the herb pots must have some form of drainage to avoid saturating the soil. Also, you may need to put a plastic saucer underneath each plant to keep the surface clean. If you’re using mason jars though, make sure to have a layer of pebbles at the bottom. Small pots are also cute. But keep in mind that you’ll likely to transplant sooner with tiny containers. For best results, look for clay pots that allow about 20cm of space in between plants to avoid overcrowding.
Use good quality soil
Aside from pots, a high-quality potting mix should also be in your buy list. Herbs do not need as much soil nutrients as vegetable plants, but adding some manure, humus and compost will surely make them grow better. Steer clear from chemical fertilisers though. You’ll be enjoying these herbs in your dishes, and the last thing you’d want is to serve anything with harmful toxins in it.
Find the perfect sunny spot
With your herb plant now looking beautiful in a pot, it’s time to look for the right spot where it can get enough sunlight to thrive. Most herbs need at least 4 hours of sun. So, if you are growing herbs indoors, make sure to bring them out from time to time. On warm days, however, it is best to move your pots under the shade. Try to observe your garden space for a few days and see which area gets more sun or shade then match these spots with your plant requirements.
Water and feed wisely
Some herbs like moist soil, while others can withstand a little dryness. Most of them, however, do not like sitting in water puddles. If the leaves of your herb plants start to wither and turn yellow, it’s advisable to lessen your watering frequency. Also, when watering your plants, make sure to water the soil, not the leaves. If water pools in the saucer underneath, remove it and let water drain freely before placing it back on. Every fortnight, boost your herb plants’ growth with a sprinkling of liquid fertiliser.
The best way to encourage herb plant growth is to use them. Trim a few leaves off regularly or harvest some sprigs using kitchen shears. However, avoid taking a quarter of the plant in one go. It might distress the plant or even kill it. A few leaves are all you need for a flavourful dish.
Transplant when ready
Your herb garden in pots is a success once you see plant roots creeping out of the drainage holes. It’s a sign that your herbs are doing well and in need of a bigger pot. If you have space, you can transfer them outdoors as well. When the cold weather comes, some annual herbs like basil will start to flower and set seed. Make sure to collect them for replanting in spring. Try growing thyme and rosemary through cuttings, too. These techniques can restart the cycle and keep your herb garden in pots growing!