Do you love to use fresh herbs in the food you cook? Did you know that you can grow many of the herbs you buy in stores right in your own home? Even if you have very limited space, and no room for a garden you can grow your herbs in containers. Many herbs are perfectly suited to be grown in container gardens, as they take up little room, and are very low maintenance. The key to a successful container herb garden is to make sure you select the best potting media, container size, plant selection, container location, and planting procedures.
Herbs will grow best in a high quality potting mix, so it is best not to use soil found in your yard. The advantages of the potting mix includes the fact that it is sterile, has good drainage, and has decent aeration. Most commercially bought potting mixes are made up of peat moss, vermiculite, and sand. Keep in mind that potting soils usually don’t contain any fertilizer, so you will need to fertilize your herbs. Never over fertilize as this is a recipe for disaster, under fertilizing is always better than over fertilizing.
Container selection for individual herbs is important as those with larger root systems need larger containers. A good guide would be to allocate one gallon of potting mix per herb. Therefore if a 12 inch container held three gallons of potting soil, you can successfully grow three herb plants there. Any container you select must allow for drainage so make sure the container has a hole in the bottom, or you can easily make a hole. Make sure you select a location for your containers that get plenty of sun. A southern facing location will get the most sun in the northern hemisphere. It also may be helpful to place your container near a source of water, so the task of watering isn’t a problem.
When you are choosing the herbs for your container garden it is best to use herbs that are compact. Larger herbs like fennel or dill may grow too tall and cause the container to fall over. Herbs that are slightly drought resistant will also do best in containers if you forget to water your plants. When planting your herbs in a container the top of the root ball should be about level with the potting soil mix. If you have transplants of different root depths you will have to adjust the holes that you dig in the container soil. The soil in the container should be moist but not too wet when you put in your seedlings. After you are done transplanting you should give the container a good thorough watering. Watering your herbs in the container is one of the hardest parts about herb container gardening. If you over water the plants are subject to bacterial of fungal infestation. If you under water the herbs may wilt, and eventually they will die. Ideally you should water your container until the water just begins to trickle out of the drainage hole in the bottom. Test the soil with your hand and see if it is still wet about two inches below the surface. If it is still wet, you can wait till water, however if it is dry it is time to water. During the extreme heat of the summer keep a careful watch of your containers as they may dry out very quickly.
Most herbs resist pests, however if you see aphids, spider mites, or caterpillars you need to spray your herbs with an insecticidal soap. Do not use a normal insecticide on your herbs as you will be consuming the leaves. Harvest the herbs as needed, as this will allow the herbs to continue growth. It is best to harvest the herbs in the morning to get the best flavor. If you have too much you can dry them for later use.
Some common herbs that grow well in container gardens include: basil, catnip, chamomile, chives, cilantro, lavender, horehound, lemon balm, marjoram, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, and sage.