Some Tips on Container Gardening for Herbs from an Urban Container Gardener

a container garden on a patio in an urban container gardening setup using vertical space to grow more
Use vertical Space to Get More Space to Grow

How to Grow an Herb Garden on the Porch: Container Gardening for Herbs

It's that time of year again: time to get working on your garden! Yay! I love it. Gardening is my favorite hobby. I've been doing container gardening for 6 years now. So, I figured I would share some of my tips on how to grow an herb garden for container gardeners, for those who are interested in having a patio garden.

herbal and flower container garden on a urban patio garden

Starting from Seed Is Really Tricky - Skip That Part and Buy the Starts

I don't start from seed. I usually buy my herbs from a mix of Whole Foods, local farmers and sometimes the big box stores. I find that to be easiest, and given the circumstances for an urban contianer gardener usually doesn't involve a greehouse, that might be easier for you, too.

various sizes of containers for a contain garden make sure you have the right size container

Make Sure You Use the Right Size Container for Your Patio or Porch Container Garden

Check various resources for recommended container depths for the herbs. There are good sources on Pinterest, and just a good old internet search, as well as container gardening books.

Some of my book recommendations are:

  • Gaia's Garden - this book is about the philosophical horticultural approach to gardening/growing known as Permaculture
  • The Edible Container Garden - this book is geared toward applying permaculture practices in the container garden
  • The Container Garden: A Practical Guide To Planning & Planting - good all-around rescource with excellent color illustrations. I think gardening books are most useful with color illustrations
  • Traditional Home Book of Herbs - this is a just a really well-written and informative illustrated book about herbs, not limited to container gardening for herbs. It's a great read!
  • I also have a little guidebook from the New Orleans Botanic Garden gift shop on how to grow herbs - look for similar side-stapled short books at gardening centers and botanic gardens near you

There are so many good resources out there, so I recommend both seeking info from groups on social media, searching on places like Pinterest and Instgram hashtags (like #containergarden #herbgarden #containergardening #urbangardening, #porchgarden, #patiogarden etc etc) and the deep dive that you can get from sitting down with a full book.

To learn more about permaculture and its origins and practices, I'd start with viewing the results from a YouTube search of "Bill Mollison Permaculture."

some herbs are really low maintenance and grow easily like lemon balm keep them in containers so they don't take over your garden

Don't Forget to Supplement Your Soil

You will need to supplement the soil since a container doesn't have the same "help" as regular soil (earth worms and other enriching things). I use Neptune's Harvest. Smelly but useful. Mulching is also very helpful for this, and has the added bonus of heping to avoid erosion of your topsoil, even in your small container. 

every garden needs a garden gnome even and especially urban container gardens

Learn How to Cultivate Your Plants

Different herbs need to be cultivated different ways. If you buy starts, often times the tag will tell you how to cultivate, as well as plant spacing and sunlight needs. Here's some information on cultivation of basic cooking herbs:

  • Basil need to be pinched from the inner leaves to get more leaves. 
  • It's better to cut chives and scallions at the bottom, etc. 
  • You can eat every bit of parsley, stem to leaf. 

Search cultivating methods for your given herb

mint is a really low maintenance  herb to grow in a container garden

Some Herbs and Other Plants May Be High Maintenance for the Container Garden

Some herbs are more low maintenance than others. Oregano, lemon balm, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, sage, mint (all perennial) are really low maintenance. Basil, tulsi, parsley, & lavender are a little more care but not too much. Coriander and dill in containers are a bit trickier.

a container garden with many sizes and heights and recycled furniture to help with growing vertical space

A Note about Growing Medicinal Herbs in a Container Garden: Results TBD

Last year, I also grew spilanthes, arnica, calendula, catnip (which neighborhood cats TOTALLY ate then knocked over and made a mess like rock star kitties) and ashwaganda. It was my first year doing the medicinal herbs. I need more practice. It was fun to grow them but I didn't really grow enough to make any medicinal products from. I think this year I will put everything in large containers and make more of an effort to research cultivation practices.

scallions and succulents in an outdoor herbal and flower container garden patio garden urban porch

If You Bring Your Herbal Garden Containers Indoors

Indoors plants will need to be turned every few days so that different parts gets sunlight, otherwise you will see the part facing the sun start growing towards the window. Whenever possible I recommend keeping plants outdoors as late into the season as you can, because once they go inside it's a lot more work. Most of the winter, I just cut everything down and store the containers against the wall of my patio, often times covering with the raked leaves as a low maintenance way to do part mulching-part part covering.

More Information on Container Gardening at Other Links at An Arts Notebook by Bridget Eileen

Good luck with your container garden this coming growing season, to those in the Northern Hemisphere! It's so fun and lovely to have a garden.

Here's a tour of my 2018 garden: