Growing herbs in pots is a great way to enjoy fresh herbs year-round, even if you only have a little outdoor space. With a few tips and tricks, anyone can become a master of container gardening and cultivate delicious, flavourful herbs. Not only are herbs fun and easy to grow, but they also make a beautiful addition to your patio or balcony. Potted herbs can be placed on a balcony, windowsill or even indoors.
Herb gardening in containers is easy as long as you provide them with their basic needs; soil, nutrients, light and water. With the proper care and attention, a potted herb garden can provide a bounty of fresh herbs.
Why Grow Herbs In Pots?
1. Controlled Conditions
Planting herbs in pots allows you to control the conditions the herbs are exposed to. When there is continual rain, you can move them under cover to reduce the amount of water they receive. The pots can also be moved to suit the light requirements when the sun changes its path in the different seasons.
2. Controlled Growth
Planting herbs in pots also allows you to control the herb's growth. Assorted mints, lemon balm, comfrey, gotu kola or swamp pennywort, brahmi, elder and St John’s wort all spread by underground runners. Growing these herbs in pots keeps them from taking advantage of your garden. Large trees like Bay, Ginkgo, Juniper and Curry leaf make excellent pot specimens and allow you to grow them in a smaller space or garden.
Growing herbs in pots allow you to place them within easy access to the kitchen. Having herbs close to the kitchen means you will use them more often to flavour your meals. You can even bring them into a well-lit kitchen for a few days before moving them outside again.
4. Lack Of Space
Growing herbs in pots and containers are the only alternative if you live in a unit or apartment. You can grow many plants on a small balcony by using pots. Climbing herbs and vegetables can be planted in pots or planter boxes and trained up the railing. Hanging baskets and window boxes can be used to make use of space and allow for a multi-level garden.
5. Change The Look
You need never become bored with the look of your garden. Growing some herbs in pots allows you to change the look of the garden. They can be moved to suit your mood, grouped together or placed in a row along a pathway. You can also use pots of herbs to fill in spaces in the garden until other plants have matured.
6. Protects Them From Pests
If your garden is experiencing a pest invasion, moving some plants into pots and relocating them out of harm's way is a great way to protect them. Pots can also easily be covered with pest-exclusion netting.
How To Grow Herbs In Pots
There are a few key elements you need to get right for your herbs to thrive growing in containers.
Choosing a Pot
You can grow your herbs in almost any container providing it has drainage and is large enough to allow the herb you are planting to flourish.
Try growing your herbs in some of the following containers.
- Hanging baskets
- Terracotta pots
- Bath tubs
- ½ wine barrels
- Old wash tubs
- Glazed pots
- Large saucepans
- Polystyrene boxes
- Old tins
Make sure there is plenty of drainage holes in pots and containers used for your herbs.
It is better to use a good quality potting mix rather than soil. Soil from the garden can become heavy and gluggy and does not drain properly.
When growing herbs in pots, drainage is of prime importance.
For some herbs such as rosemary, lavender and thyme, you can add dolomite to increase the pH, as these Mediterranean herbs like alkaline soil.
When herbs are first potted, we either soak the plant or water them in with a seaweed-based liquid fertiliser this helps reduce transplant shock and gives them a strong start. Organic Xtra or a similar palletised organic fertiliser can be sprinkled on the top of the potting mix every 4-6 weeks.
Most herbs need at least 2 hours of good sun a day to grow well. Herbs that do not get enough sun will grow leggy and lack the robust flavour that herbs with plenty of sun have. Herbs in pots can be grown in full sun providing you water them well.
Depending on the pot size, how much sun they receive, and whether they are exposed to wind, will determine how often you need to water.
The herbs in our nursery are grown on benches in full sun. We water our herbs every day.
Most herbs like good drainage and don’t like constant wet roots.
The best way to determine how much to water your potted herbs is to stick your finger into the potting mix to at least 5cm depth if it feels dry, water well, and if it feels moist, hold off watering.
Do the finger test every day for a couple of weeks, and you will know how often you need to water.
Step-By-Step Guide To Potting Up Your Herbs
1. Soak the container of herb to be potted in a bucket filled with seaweed solution, until all of the air bubbles have dispersed and the roots are soaked through.
2. Place some potting mix in the bottom of the new container/pot.
3. Loosen the herb to be potted by turning it upside down, and support the herb by holding it around the base of the plant. Squeeze the pot gently to release the herb.
4. Gently tease the roots and place them in the new pot, backfill around the root ball with fresh potting mix
5. Pat down gently, and water in well.
6. Once planted and watered in, sprinkle fertiliser around the base of the herb but not too close to the stem. We use organic xtra. Another good one is Searles 5 in Both are certified organic products.
I hope you enjoy growing some herbs in pots, let me know your tips.
Common Container Herb Gardening Mistakes
Poor soil in pots can harm herbs in a variety of ways. Without proper nutrition, herbs may become stunted in growth, produce less foliage, and even die. Poor soil can cause herbs to be nutrient deficient, leading to yellowing leaves, reduced flowering, and even wilting. Additionally, poor soil might not have enough organic matter to support the growth of beneficial bacteria and fungi, which can lead to disease and insect infestations. Poor soil also lacks aeration and drainage, resulting in waterlogged roots and root rot. Lastly, nutrient-poor soils can also lead to a build-up of salts, which can be toxic to herbs. All of these factors can leave herbs stressed and ultimately lead to their demise.
Too Much Water
During periods of high rainfall, it's all too easy for your herbs to become susceptible to root rot and look a little sad and soggy. Mediterranean herbs, like sage and thyme, are particularly vulnerable to wet feet. To prevent root rot from sitting in water for prolonged periods, you may consider moving them into a sheltered position away from rain or transplanting them into a well-drained garden bed.
Not Enough Water
Potted herbs are susceptible to drying out faster in hotter weather and may require more frequent watering. It will also depend on the kind of pot you use. Porous pots, like unglazed terracotta or pots, tend to absorb water, drawing water away from the soil. This is great for preventing root rot, but not so great if you're forgetful at watering your plants.
During hot weather, water will evaporate faster. Prevent this by adding a layer of mulch to protect the soil.
Overcrowding Your Pot
It's tempting to squish as many new herb seedlings that will fit into a container for a diverse picking of options. But it's important to remember, these plants will grow! Don't overcrowd your pots. Your plants need airflow and space to develop their root system. Overcrowded pots can result in weak and sick herbs that crowd each other out from sun, and compete too heavily for nutrients.
Growing The Wrong Herbs Together
Some herbs have different water and sunlight requirements to others. When planting multiple herbs into one pot, group them according to their needs. For example, Mediterranean herbs like thyme, oregano and sage, will do better when planted together in a container as they have similar sun, water and nutrient needs.