How to Create a Container Herb Garden

Are you short on space, but you’d still like to grow some herbs? You’re in luck – many herbs do very well in containers. Patios, decks, and porches are ideal for container gardening. Herbs in containers are also ideal if you have a small yard with poor soil. And if you have spotty or limited sunlight, you can move the containers to get the ideal amount of light.

Here are some suggestions and tips on how you can create a container herb garden.

1. Survey the Scene

First, take a look at your outdoor area. Over the course of 24 hours, observe how much sun the area gets. Most herbs need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day, but if you get less than that, you can choose shade-loving herbs. That’s why determining how much sun the area gets is so important for success.

2. Consider Your Herb Needs

What do you want out of an herb garden? Are you interested in medicinal herbs, or would you like to grow them for drying, tea, scent, or for cooking? There are so many uses for herbs! Think for a bit about what you’d like to accomplish with your herb garden. This is another step toward determining what you’ll grow. While you’re thinking along these lines, here are some suggestions for various herbs that grow well in containers:

  • Tea: members of the mint family (bee balm, spearmint, lemon balm, mountain mint, etc.), lemon grass, lemon verbena, chamomile
  • Cooking: sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, chives, basil, tarragon, cilantro, chervil, mint
  • Scent: lavender, lemon balm, thyme, basil, rosemary
  • Flowers: sweet woodruff, lavender, pansies/violas/violets (you can eat these in salads, too!)
  • Dried: mints, chamomile, lavender, sage
  • Medicinal: lemon balm, chamomile, sage

3. Choose Containers

Think about how you want your patio garden to look, and the height of the herbs you’ve chosen. Low-growing herbs can be in low containers and placed in the front of your arrangement (more on container placement below). Herbs with shallow root systems can be grown in shallow containers, round or square. Herbs with deeper roots need taller, deeper containers. So learning how your herbs grow is another important step in successful growing.

Whatever containers you choose, make sure they have good drainage.

4. Container Arrangement

Before putting any soil into your containers, consider how you will arrange them (once you put the soil in, they get really heavy!). Use small tables or plant stands if you like. The idea is to make some use of vertical space as well, and grow taller herbs toward the back and shorter ones in the front. You can create various groupings around your patio.

5. Soil

Use a high-quality potting soil for your herbs. It should have plenty of composted matter and/or peat, and be light and well-draining.

6. Seeds or Seedlings?

Depending on the timing and variety of herb, most of the time the choice between seeds and seedling plants is a matter of cost, convenience, and assurance. Seeds are less expensive, but less reliable; seedlings are costlier, but more reliable.

Designing and growing a successful herb garden does not have to be difficult. It may take some tweaking over a few seasons, but there’s no reason why you can’t go for it and enjoy fresh herbs without a big garden bed.