Creating a Container Herb Garden: Window and Porch Boxes

Creating a Container Herb Garden: Window and Porch Boxes
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I've used a lot of containers for herbs over the years from baskets to porch boxes to large clay pots. I think the key, as with herb beds, is matching the plants that have the same needs and to be realistic about the size of the plants. You can only squeeze so much into a container and have them all do well.
Soil: I don't buy expensive potting soil or additives. I buy bags of top soil, compost and the big square of peat from Home Depot or where ever it's on sale. I place a bag of the top soil, a bag of compost and about the same amount of the peat in a wheelbarrow. I mix them together and begin filling containers. One optional addition is an organic fertilizer that can be added at the same time. I don't over do it, but I throw in a few handfuls. It's important to really get in there and mix the soil well with a spade, rake or whatever works best for you. Often my hands end up mixing!

Containers: I have three main things I use-- large 13 inch clay pots that I found on sale a few years ago, 12 inch wide porch boxes that my husband made out of pine. They measure from 5 foot long to 10 foot long and are on the front and back porches. I also have raised beds made from inexpensive wood landscape timbers. We stack them 3-4 high depending on the space that is available and adjust the length as well. We fasten them with very long nails (6-8 inches long) that are pounded into the timbers from the top as they are stacked. I fill the very bottom of the bed with leaves and organic matter from around the yard--then top that with the soil mentioned above. Out of these three containers, the raised beds work best, the porch boxes next and the pots last.

Choosing Plants

Nasturtiums and Basil- both can be grown from seeds, and will do well together because they need about the same amount of watering. A good combination is Alaska Nasturtiums and Lemon Basil. Plant the nasturtium seeds around the edges and the basil in the middle. Dwarf Cherry Nasturtiums and Cinnamon Basil are another option that work well together. Both of these nasturtiums are more compact then the others available, and you can trail them over the edges of the containers or beds. You can use both of the herbs in vinegars and salads.

A Thyme Box-Buy plants of lemon thyme, lime thyme, standard thyme and any other citrus variety of thyme you can locate. They will all grow in the same method--short and trailing. Add some sand to the soil you mix for the thyme. Place them conveniently where you can snip off leaves when needed. Thyme can be used with any meat--simply snip off leaves and strip them from the stem. It makes a wonderful vinegar that can be used on any type of beef to season and tenderize. Thyme dries easily after harvesting too. In the ground I don't water my thyme extra, but in the boxes make sure the soil doesn't dry all the way out. Watch those hot, windy days!

Dill, Nasturtiums and Chives: The dill should be Fernleaf Dill, which is a dwarf variety of dill that is most grown for the foliage, which is what I use it for. Again, use the nasturtiums mentioned above, and alternate dill with chives in the middle of the nasturtiums. Use the regular soil mix, no sand added, and keep these watered when it's dry out. You don't want the soil soggy, but don't let it dry out. All three of these are perfect for snipping into salads! You can also combine all three for herb vinegar.

A Pot Garden: If you have large pots---12 inches or larger--gather them together on a sunny porch and you can grow a pot garden. Why together? It makes it easier to water, and to harvest. Clay pots dry out quickly. You'll need to water them daily unless it rains and the rain can reach the pots. Those hot, windy days may even dry them out to where you will need two waterings. If they are on a porch it's much easier to keep an eye on them. What can go into your pots? Consider oregano, rosemary, a cherry tomato, globe basil (more compact), one variety of mint, chervil, parsley, sage, summer savory, or lemon balm. I also have 12 inch plastic pots that work well for the mint and basil.

I mix and match all of the about methods to get the most out of my space. Each year some things do better than I expect and others don't do as well. I visit my local garden centers and try new herbs. Some aren't suitable for containers, but the ones that are get mixed in with my porch boxes and raised beds. Squeeze what you can out of your space, especially if it's full sun!


About The Author

Brenda Hyde is a freelance writer living on ten acres in rural Michigan with her husband and three kids. She is a mom, grandma, gardener, cook and writer. She blogs on all of these topics at


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