Cook Fresh - Grow a Container Herb Garden

 Fresh cooking


What are the best herbs for container gardening?  Basil, Chive, Italian Parsley, Lavender, Lemon Balm, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage, Thyme

Where should I put them? 
Mint, lemon balm, parsley and chive need only four hours of sunlight, “partial shade”. The other six herbs listed thrive with six or more hours of sunlight, “full sun”. If you have less than four hours of sunlight, herbs are probably not the best choice. While many herbs can handle eight hours of direct sun, this does not mean they love 90 degree weather. For heatwaves, move your herbs to a spot where they can receive some afternoon shade. 

What herbs do well together in the same pot - companion gardening?

Mediterranean Mix: Rosemary, Sage, Oregano, and Thyme. Rosemary and sage can be planted in the middle as they are vertical plants, while oregano and thyme can be planted along the sides to grow nicely over the rim. If desired, marjoram can be substituted as a subtler, sweeter version of oregano. This is a sun-loving pot. Full sun.

French Countryside: Lavender in the middle, surrounded by thyme and sage. Full sun.

Mint MoJo: This plant likes to spread out. Plant it in its own container. Also its roots grow sideways so wider pots are better. Partial shade.

Salad Lover: Chive, Parsley, Lemon Balm –Great choice for a space with only 4 hours of sun a day. While lemon balm is a member of the mint family, its roots don't grow sideways. Partial shade. 

Basil and Tomatoes: These are simply two of the best companion plants in a traditional garden. The tomatoes partially shade the basil and the basil scares away tomato pests. They also do very well together in container gardens – either in the same container or in neighboring containers as I do on my patio. Tomatoes require large, deep containers. My favorites are the “sun gold” tomatoes, sweet orange orbs. Full sun.

Which herbs tolerate a small container?
Thyme, Oregano, and Sage can grow in 4 or 5 inch containers. Smaller containers are suitable for a season. If you have leftover small pots from your herbs, try growing succulents as they don't mind the smaller sizes. Be sure to leave a 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch of space between the soil line and the top of the rim, so that you water without overflowing the pot. While this is important for all pot sizes, it is often overlooked when planting in the smaller sized pots.

Which herbs need a larger container?
Basil, Parsley, Chive, Lemon Balm, Mint, Rosemary, and Lavender will do best in five inch or larger containers. They may last a summer season in a five inch container, but for a longer period of time they prefer six inches or larger.

Which herbs grow well indoors?
Mint, Thyme, Oregano, Parsley, Rosemary

When to water?
Insert your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If your finger tip is dry, then it is time water. Be careful not to over water Rosemary. Unlike basil, mint, parsley, and chive, a rosemary plant likes to dry out completely between waterings. In dry climates like Colorado, it is common to water your pots every day during the summer. Additionally, perk them up during heat waves by spritzing with a spray bottle - great task if you have small garden helpers at home.

How to choose a soil?
Excellent drainage is important for herbs, and especially important for Rosemary and Lavender. Choose an organic high quality potting mix with peat moss, compost and perlite. The perlite, looks like styrofoam but isn't, helps to keep the soil from compacting. A soil that retains too much moisture won’t allow enough air to the root system. There are many different organic soil mixes that will work; one that I have had success with is Black Gold Natural and Organic Potting Soil. 

Is fertilizer necessary?
With herb container gardening, it is helpful to fertilize. During periods of rapid summer growth, you can add a liquid fertilizer applied in a water solution. Follow the directions on the back of the product. Fertilizing too much negatively affects the flavor of the herbs and isn't healthy for your plant. If it is important to you that the fertilizer be 100% organic, then try Old Age Organics Grow. Another high quality liquid fertilizer that is mostly organic and will also replenish the nutrients in your soil is FoxFarm Grow Big.