Many of us have received those adorable windowsill herb garden kits as holiday gifts or have simply been experimental countertop herb growers for years, but did you know there can be a method to the madness of herbs in pots? Before you have trails of thyme taking over your kitchen and choking out the delicate dill it is potted with, consider some of these points and tips as you plan your potted herbs.
I’m Thinking About Growing Potted Herbs, Where Should I Place Them?
Before you start to map out who lives where in your herb pots, whether you plan to place the pots outdoors or indoors, keep these basics in mind:
- While most herbs prefer slightly arid soil, some are water lovers. For the majority, a layer of rock or other drainage material in the bottom of your pot before topping it with a quality organic potting soil is essential to maintain optimal moisture levels. Those that love moisture won’t like being planted with dry loving herbs. We will get to that list in a minute.
- Herbs, especially the culinary ones we are most likely to plant, are sun lovers. If you plan to place your pots on a shady back deck, your outcome won’t be as successful as full sun exposure. Likewise, if you are planting your potted herbs indoors, look for your most sun-drenched window areas.
Okay, I know some herbs love water, some don’t. What are some examples?
Herbs that tend to prefer moist soil over arid are:
- Lemon Balm
Herbs that tend to prefer dryer soil include:
Now That I Know Soil Preferences, What Should I Plant Together?
Taking into consideration the size of your containers, planting two to five varieties in the same container can not only lead to wonderful, fresh, ready to use herbs for cooking, but can also add a beautiful aesthetic to your home or planter garden. When thinking about herb pairings, you will want to plant herbs together that not only have the same soil requirements, but that also tend to vary in height. In other words, plant herbs that grow taller with those that tend to bush out a bit and/or trailing herbs. Excellent pairings for this approach could include:
- Creeping Thyme, Rosemary, Sage
- Basil, Italian Parsley, Chives
- Oregano, Lemon Thyme, Savory
- Cilantro, Parsely, Lemon Balm
Really, the pairings largely depend on what you want to grow and the soil content. The sky is the limit once you know what you want and will use.
Things to Keep in Mind:
- Most Mint varieties have a tendency to take over a pot, and therefor may do best potted alone.
- Consider flavor profiles when companion planting. Common sense prevails here. A great rule of thumb is: If you would not combine them in cooking, don’t plant them together, either.
- Harvesting your potted herbs only as you need them, will help your herbs continue to grow. Think of it like pruning. As you cut what you need, new growth ensues.
- If you begin to notice one herb choking out its neighbors, cut the overzealous herb back by at least half in order to prevent a takeover.
- Potted herbs can last through more than one season if properly cared for. In warmer climates, many potted herbs will last outdoors year round, as several are somewhat frost tolerant. If grown indoors, many varieties can last for two years or more, depending on care.
Growing potted herbs together is a very satisfying and beautiful way to enhance any garden or indoor space, and the added bonus is that they are entirely useful in the kitchen. There are few things in life more satisfying than the smell of fresh picked herbs mixed with your favorite dish cooking on the stove, knowing you just clipped them from the pot a few feet away. Enjoy experimenting!