Growing Herbs in Containers

Add garden-fresh flavor to meals all season long by growing herbs in pots.

Growing herbs in pots brings fresh flavors within reach of every gardener, no matter what size your yard is. Containers are portable and can be placed wherever there's sun, and growing herbs yourself provides a low-cost alternative to buying pricey bunches of herbs at the supermarket. What's more, when you skip the seeds and start with vigorous young herbs plants from Bonnie Plants, you'll be able to harvest right away!

Pots of herbs offer more than just flavor. Many release fragrances as plants bask in the sun or you brush by leaves, and they look beautiful on your patio, deck, or doorstep. Here's what you need to know about growing herbs in containers.

Find the sun.
 In general, choose a spot that receives six or more hours of sun, except in the very warmest regions, where herbs appreciate afternoon shade. Many herbs, like parsley, mint, and thyme, will actually grow just fine in partial shadecheck the plant tag or seed packet for specific light requirements. Growing herbs in pots allows you to shift the garden to the sun, such as on a patio or walkway edge, where there may not be enough soil for a traditional in-ground garden.

Pick the right pots. Containers must be large enough to contain the herb's root system and keep the plant itself upright. A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that's at least one-third as tall as the final height of the herb listed on the plant tag or seed packet. (If a type of basil grows to 18 inches, for example, the pot should be at least 6 inches high.) For plants that grow very large, like pineapple sage or lemongrass, bigger is definitely better. Regardless of size, every pot needs drainage holes to allow excess water to drain away from roots.

Use good soil. Fill containers for your herb garden with a premium quality bagged potting mix, like Miracle-Gro® Moisture Control® Potting Mix, which protects against both under- and over-watering. What's more, potting mix isn't as dense as regular garden soil, so it allows more movement of water and air to the roots of the plant. If you plan to stick with the same potting mix you used last season, you'll want to revive it by replacing the nutrients already taken up by plants, restoring the soil structure, and renewing the soil's ability to retain water. The simplest way to do those three crucial things is to apply a layer of Miracle-Gro® Refresh 1™ Soil Revitalizer over the existing soil (just follow the label directions). Do that and you'll be good for another growing season!

Water regularly. Make sure your container herb garden is near a water source. Herbs in pots need frequent watering, and having to drag the hose around in the summer heat can quickly become a chore. Another option is to consider using a drip irrigation system designed for pots. These come in kits you can find at your local home improvement store or online, and let you water all of your pots at once simply by turning on the faucet. Water whenever the top inch of soil feels dry.

Feed your plants. The best way to ensure your herbs will produce lots of tasty leaves for you to enjoy is to treat them to the power combo of terrific soil (which you read about above) and plant food designed for the types of plants you're growing. So a month after planting your garden, begin feeding herbs with Miracle-Gro® Performance Organics® Edibles Plant Nutrition, following the directions on the label. Miracle-Gro® soil and plant food work in tandem to give you a bigger harvest (vs. unfed plants)—and who doesn't want that from their herb garden?

Harvest wisely. Pick herbs often to keep new growth coming. When you harvest leaves on herbs that grow in clumps (like chives, lemongrass, cilantro, or parsley), pick outer leaves first, working your way toward the center of the plant. For herbs that have an upright stem with a growing point, like mint, stevia, basil, or oregano, snip individual branches. You may also want to pinch off the growing tips, which will cause the plant to produce more branches and become bushier, which means you'll have more leaves to harvest.

Keep an eye out for flowers. Edible herbs have edible flowers. With many herbs, though, such as basil, mint, and stevia, leaf flavor begins to change (usually for the worse) once those flowers begin to form, so remove blossoms as soon as you see them. Other herbs, like chives and pineapple sage, flower throughout the growing season and make wonderful salad toppers.