Growing herbs in pots is amazingly easy and productive. Most herbs do exceptionally well in pots. You just need to get a few basics right. Simply apply the nine essential below and I can almost guarantee that you’ll get good results.
1. Don’t overdo it. Keep your initial attempt manageable by opting for a few useful herbs. The “Magnificent Seven” are all easy to grow and make good beginner subjects. What’s more, they can be used in a variety of dishes and remedies. They are: basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary and thyme. And if you like fragrant herbs, consider lavender or lemon balm as well.
2. Choose a nice sunny spot for your potted herbs. This will improve their flavour and nutritional value. In addition, they will be able to resist pests and diseases better. It doesn’t need to be full sun. Herbs in pots do better when they get a little shade. Try to find a spot that will get at least two hours of direct sunlight a day.
3. Make sure that the containers you choose are deep enough (at least 30cm), and that there are sufficient drainage holes. Don’t line the bottom of the containers with small stones or gravel. This can hinder rather than help drainage. If you are concerned that the pots may ‘leak’, rather line the bottom with an old stocking or newspaper.
4. A high quality organic potting medium is a must. Ask your local garden centre for a recommendation.
5. To grow your own herbs from seed, or to start with seedlings, can be quite a lengthy and time consuming process. It is much easier to purchase potted herb plants directly from your garden centre, and to transplant them into bigger pots.
6. Try to resist the temptation to grow more than one herb in a small container. Just like humans, herbs don’t like overcrowding and they prefer familiar company.
7. Water your herbs regularly, but do not over water! Herbs hate having wet feet. Don’t let them wilt, or suffer regular dry spells either. You must try to maintain a balance. Press your finger into the soil up to the first knuckle. If the soil feels dry, water the herb. If the soil is moist, wait until the next day to water.
8. Use a good quality organic fertiliser and feed your herbs on a regular basis. Herbs grown in pots prefer a lower dose – about half the recommended strength – once a week. The nutrients in a water soluble fertilizer are easier for plants to ‘digest’, and it saves time as you can feed your plants whilst watering them.
9. Use your herbs as much as possible and prune them regularly. This will encourage bushy growth.
Having problems with your potted herb garden? Feel welcome to share them below.
This article is also available in Afrikaans.