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Starting Your Herb Garden

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Raye gardens organically, harvests rainwater, strives to eat locally, and honors the gods from her home in the Pacific Northwest.


Grow Your Own Herbs

Herb gardnening doesn't have to be a big outdoor production. In fact, you don't need a garden or yard to grow your own herbs at all. Many varieties are easily grown in containers. Depending on the plant, these can be grown indoors or outside on a deck or patio.

Before large-scale grocery stores and supermarkets, most houses has their own "kitchen gardens" where people grew their own fresh herbs for cooking. It's not hard and using healthy, organic methods make it easy for you to produce the best for yourself and your family!

Getting dwarf varieties of different herbs is a way of getting plants already adapted to being a bit smaller. Think about what can be grown in a cascading style and try to hang some plants up to use space more efficiently.

Planting Your Herb Containers

Annuals vs Perennials

An annual refers to a plant which completes its lifecycle in one year. This means that it grows, flowers and dies once each growing season. Once these plants start to produce seeds, they are on their way to dying. Occasionally, these plants can re-seed themselves, but most often you will have to re-start these plants each season from seed or by getting herb starts.

A perennial refers to plants which will live and keep growing for more than two seasons. These will die back somewhat in winter but then begin growing again from the same rootstock in the spring. Sometimes a plant will act like an annual in a colder climate but become a perennial if grown in a very mild one.

Planning Your Container Herb Garden

Investment In Resources - How much space do you realistically have to work with and how much time and effort do you wish to put into this project? Starting plants from seed takes more time than starting with herb starts, but getting baby plants is more expensive. How much time will you have to take care of your herbs once you get them going?

Pick Your Space - Think about where you really want to put this herb garden. Window boxes, patios and decks are the most popular spots for container gardening. However, if you've got south-facing windows or well-lit bathroom space, those can be good spots for plants too. Beware of locations that are very breezy as plants in pots get dried out by winds much more than plant in the ground.

Preferences For Growing - Make a list of the herbs you most often use when you cook.

What Can You Actually Grow - What you like to eat and what you can grow well might be a bit different. You'll need to do research into what plants will actually flourish in the temperatures and environment you can create. You may not be able to grow some of your favorites due to climate or space required.

Container Gardening for Herbs

About Container Gardening

  • Container Gardening Guide
    This brief guide is designed to facilitate decisions in planning and growing your garden in containers, since you will need to select the right containers and their ideal locations and plants.
  • Herb Garden - The Helpful Gardener
    The beginner can be an instant success, and as time goes by, develop into a master gardener, growing more difficult and esoteric plants. There is room for all skill levels, and many different garden situations.
  • Creating an Herb Garden
    Making a container garden of herbs is a really fun and educational project to do with kids!

Garden Favorites

Here are just some of the herbs that people enjoy growing in containers:

  • Basil - A delicious annual that also comes in many varieties. Grow several plants if you wish to make homemade pesto.
  • Borage - Not only an edible (try it in your tea), but a great companion plant for strawberries and a favorite of bees.
  • Chamomile - This tiny flower makes a cute container addition and also can be used for homemade teas.
  • Chives - The thin stakes topped by purple blossoms are very fun for children to grow.
  • Mint - As this gets invasive when planted in the ground, many gardeners prefer to grow this in a pot. There are tons of varieties with subtle taste and smell differences. Especially fun to grow for tea lovers.
  • Oregano - A must-have for those who love to cook Italian food.
  • Rosemary - Easy to grow and one of the most commonly used cooking herbs.
  • Sage - Purple and varigated types are great for cooking.
  • Shisho - This herb is like a cross between mint and basil and is most often used in cooking sushi.
  • Thyme - This herb has very tiny leaves but they are extremely fragrant.


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How to Slow "Bolting"

When a plant is said to be "bolting" it means it has started going to seed. This is the end phase of a plant's lifecycle when it flowers and makes seeds, then dies. Most often, the taste of the herbs will not be as good once a plant has started bolting as it's now putting all the energy into the seed production and not the leaves or flowers.

Here are some tips and tricks to deal with bolting.

Harvesting - Some herbs need to have their leaves harvested regularly or they will start to bolt. Sometime pinching off flowers as they start to form can keep a plant in the growth phase, but this doesn't work for all herbs.

Not enough water - If a plant dries out too much, it can cause it to bolt in an attempt to make seeds before it dies. Make sure potted plants are given adequate water, or even extra water if it you get a heat wave.

Too much sun - As a companion to the above, some herbs prefer partial sun intstead of full sun, and too much light can cause them to bolt too. Choosing an appropriate location is the best way of dealing with this.

Container Herb Comments & Questions

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on October 05, 2012:

Balcony gardens can be very productive, especially with herbs... Good luck!

Lita C. Malicdem from Philippines on October 04, 2012:

Due to lack of space in my kids' apartment, where I visit more often now, I am growing some leafy greens and herbal plants in plastic containers available in the market right in the balcony at the back of the apartment. I'm so glad I found you here. I'm excited to educate myself from your container gardening tips. I have oregano cuttings brought in from my own big backyard garden back home, some horse grasses and other local herbs that already have taken roots. I also bring garden soil that I can manage to carry in a small sack, to my girls' consternation. Thanks for sharing the tips!

Cresentmoon2007 from Caledonia, MI on November 02, 2011:

Thank you for posting this for I am thinking about starting an indoor herb garden.

jetta17 on July 15, 2011:

This is a great article. I was really drawn in by the design of the herb garden in the first picture. What a unique design! Anyway, there is some great information in your hub. I love to grow herbs in containers. I only have a north facing apartment, but still manage to grow Mint, Thyme, boxwood basil and curled parsley with great success.

Fluffy77 from Enterprise, OR on February 19, 2011:

Great advise, I'v wanted to grow herbs for a while now, I may start this season.

Diane Ziomek from Alberta, Canada on February 19, 2010:

Very interesting and informative Hub! I have acres and acres to garden on, and many full sun sites. I only wish the kitchen door didn't go onto a North side deck.

Organic-Gardening on June 23, 2009:

Great hub. Thanks for sharing all these useful information. All the best!

Rodney Fagan from Johannesberg South Africa, The Gold Mine City on August 12, 2008:

Great hub, using your suggestions, you are assured of fresh herbs, improves the taste of your meals, twenty fold.

Research Analyst on August 11, 2008:

I am starting a herb garden now, this hub is very helpful. Thanks

GJCody from Pittsburgh on July 25, 2008:

I have grown herbs for the last two years. They are so great to go out and pick them and put them in soups and salads ..or just anything. I am going to try my hand an indoor herb garden this year. I hope I can make it happen ...thanks for your information and thank you for sharing best to you!

Aztec Blue from Greensboro, NC on July 25, 2008:

Thanks for all the great ideas. I love cooking with different herbs especially fresh picked herbs, so container gardening of herbs is a great idea.

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on July 21, 2008:

The trick with Basil is that you can grow it indoors or outdoors, but once it starts to flower, it's reached the end of its lifecycle. At that point, you have to eat it, or dry it, or make pesto and freeze it.

daoine on July 20, 2008:

You've inspired me to look for some nice containers for my herbs. I had the most gorgeous basil plants before winter set in and the cold killed them. Had I been able to move them into the sun for part of the day, I might have saved them.

Whitney from Georgia on July 19, 2008:

I love the look of the first herb gardon. It's an interesting way to separate the herbs.

Raye (author) from Seattle, WA on July 19, 2008:

I lived in apartments without any sort of yard for so many years, so I had to get better at indoor and container gardening if I was going to grow anything.

cthomas on July 19, 2008:

Great article, thank you for sharing, I am a frustrated gardner! My Mother was great at it, wish it had rubbed off on me.

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