I love container gardening. It is by far my favorite way to grow just about anything. From lettuce to tomatoes, zucchini to peppers it is a super-easy way to try out gardening without going all in and getting overwhelmed your first time out.
And my favorite thing to grow in containers? Fresh herbs.
Having a collection of herbs right outside a kitchen window is amazing. And the best part? When the weather cools you can bring those containers into your home to enjoy them all year long.
Growing Herbs in Pots: Outdoor Tips
Step #1: Choose the best containers for your herbs.
If you plan to move containers inside for the winter, pick pots that will work in both areas, like terra cotta. Not only are they easy to move, but they are durable in all kinds of weather, as well.
You can also use plastic, ceramic, or even metal containers. Have fun here. You might be amazed at what you can grow in a ceramic bowl. Just be sure you use a container that will allow enough room for not only the plant but for the roots, as well.
Step #2: Prep your container.
Whatever you choose, you will want to prepare your container for your plants. Wash with a bleach mixture of 1 parts bleach to 9 parts water and rinse thoroughly. Add holes for drainage, if needed and if the container will allow it. If you can't add drainage holes, a layer of small rocks or glass stones at the bottom will help keep the roots from laying in a pool of water.
Step #3: Pick your favorite herbs.
I love to have basil and parsley year-round, but with so many herbs to choose from you can have just about anything. Thyme, dill, sage, cilantro...the list is endless. Find herbs that you and your family love and give them a try. Unlike a full-blown summer garden, herbs take up little room and are relatively easy to grow. I love to experiment with different varieties before committing to my favorites.
Step #4: Plant correctly.
With so many options, it is best to follow the planting instructions either on the seed packet or the plant's tag. For the pot, however, the steps are the same.
- Purchase a good organic potting soil mix.
- Pre-wet with water to dampen the soil, mixing the water in with your hand or a wooden spoon. Repeat until the soil is damp, but not sopping wet.
- Fill your pot with soil about 3/4 of the way.
- Add your seeds or plant to the depth needed as per the instructions.
- If planting seeds, cover lightly with soil. If transplanting a plant you will want to break up the roots a bit and pack the soil lightly around the base of the plant to give a bit more stability.
Step #5: Place in partial sun.
Plants that are grown in containers can dry out quickly so you will want to protect them a bit from the heat of the summer sun. I like to keep our pots in partial shade for this reason. If full sun is the only option you may want to water more frequently. Be careful not to overwater. To be sure, check by sticking your finger into the soil of your pot. If dry, water; if damp, you are fine.
Step #6: Harvest and enjoy as needed!
Just use a pair of kitchen scissors to snip off what you need when you are cooking. If you see your herbs are growing faster than you can use them up, dice and freeze in ice cube trays with a little water or broth. Use these herbal ice cubes in soups or stews for a lovely flavor punch.
You can also dry your herbs and store in labeled glass mason jars.
Step #7: Move indoors.
As the weather begins to cool you will want to move your plants indoors. Set pots on a cookie sheet or tray to protect your counter or window sill. Be sure to choose a location that will get the warmth of the sun for the longest amount of time each day.
Keep an eye on your plants to be sure the relocation did not do any damage by watching the leaves for any color changes. You may need to adjust your watering a bit since your plants will not dry out quite as quickly as they can outdoors.
Having fresh herbs close by is a home cook's dream. They are simple to grow, both indoors and out, and smell so wonderful that even if you don't cook you may still want a few pots of basil in your own kitchen.