Patio Herb Garden

Creating your own patio herb garden is easy even in the smallest of spaces. Anyone can do it, and the cost is minimal. Just follow these steps, and you’ll be wowing your friends at your next dinner party!

By Jabet Wade

Mar 2015

potted herb garden
Photo by Brandon AlmsA patio herb garden can be simple and rewarding in the kitchen.

If you’re ready to join the masses of people already growing their own food but you don’t have a lot of space—or even a backyard—don’t fret. Container gardening is an easy, space-saving method to grow plants at home, and herbs are great for beginner-gardeners. All you need are a few supplies and a sunny spot, and you’ll be serving up fresh herbs to your family and friends in no time.

Supply List

Planter of your choosing (clay, plastic, wood… anything will work) | Good quality potting mix | Rocks or mulch to layer in the bottom of a deep planter | Herbs of your choosing | Trowel Gardening gloves Garden labels (to remind you which herb is where) | Organic fertilizer Water

1. Choose your planter 
Anything will work: clay, plastic, wood or even a window box. Just make sure it has plenty of holes in the bottom for water to drain. Keep in mind, the larger the planter, the bigger your herbs will grow and the more space you’ll have for a variety of plants.

2. Select good quality potting mix
Mark Wheeler, with Wheeler Gardens and Florists, says the soil is one of the most important components in any type of planting but especially when it comes to container plants. Unlike soil, which is dense, potting mixes are lightweight and loose, which helps ensure good drainage. Mark recommends choosing a mix that contains a slow-release fertilizer. (If it doesn’t contain fertilizer you can add in some on your own. Herbs require very little fertilizer, so you won’t need much.)

3. Choose the herbs you want to plant 
The combinations are endless. (See suggested pairings below!) Whatever combo you choose, make sure they all like the same sort of growing conditions and have similar needs, such as how much sunlight and water they need to thrive. Wheeler says most herbs will take full sun, which means six to eight hours of sunlight a day. And they’ll need to be watered frequently, so it’s a good idea to place your pot near a garden hose or another water source. Wheeler says just about any combo will work, but be careful with mints. They tend to prefer more shade than other herbs and can also take over and affect the aroma and flavor of other plants.

4. Start planting 
Decide where the planter will sit before you fill it, since it will become heavy once it’s full. If your planter is deep, you can layer rocks or mulch in the bottom to take up space and also to help with drainage. Then fill your planter half to three-quarters full with the potting mix. Using a trowel or your hands, carve out a space for each plant. You might consider planting the taller herbs in the back and shorter ones in front for aesthetic purposes. Once the plants are in place, add more potting mix to finish filling in the planter, and leave a couple of inches at the top. Gently pack the potting mix down around the plants. Finally, add labels if you’d like, and water the plants liberally.

hanging dried herbs
Photo courtesy ShutterstockDon’t throw out those extra herbs. Dry them by hanging them upside down.

Sage Advice

If you’re making an herb pot, consider these helpful tips and tricks.

Pick a Theme
For an Italian theme, combine basil, oregano, parsley and rosemary. For Asian flavors, plant garlic chives, Thai basil, lemongrass and shiso. If you like Mexican food,  pick out cilantro, oregano, thyme, parsley, mint and marjoram. Plant herbs that are great for tea including mint, chamomile, lemon verbena and pineapple sage.

Bugs Be Gone!
Plant marigolds with or near your herbs to keep bugs away.

Head Start
Start your herbs indoors any time of year in individual 6-inch pots before moving them outdoors after the final frost in the spring.

Do Your Research
Know that different herbs require different harvesting methods. A general rule of thumb is to cut no more than one-third the length of the stem. (Exceptions are chives and lavender, which can be cut at the base.)

Dry Up
If you grow an abundance of herbs, dry and preserve some. Simply tie a bunch together and hang them to dry for three to four weeks. Strip dried leaves off the stems before storing them in an airtight container.