Do you love cooking with fresh herbs? Buying them at the store can get expensive, especially if you use them often. Some years ago, I decided to start a small container herb garden on my balcony and have not looked back! It's really easy to do and doesn't take up much space. It’s satisfying to walk out to my garden and snip off fresh herbs as needed.
If you're interested in starting your container herb garden, keep reading for helpful tips to get you started.
Start with timing and check out the farmer’s almanac website for planting times in your area. If you grow from seed, you will need extra time to cultivate the seedlings.
The very first step is deciding on an area to grow your herb garden; if you have a backyard, then you hit the jackpot! However, you can grow a nice selection of herbs on your kitchen counter, a windowsill, or a small balcony.
Check out Pinterest for some herb garden layout designs in small spaces.
PICKING THE HERBS TO GROW
Most importantly, only grow what you will use in your recipes. If you have space, a few edible flowers are also nice and pretty. Something may be easy to grow, but if you don’t have a use for it, then it’s just wasting valuable space on your balcony. If you have pets, always research the possible toxicity and only plant pet-friendly varieties.
Now that you have a list of herbs to grow, you can determine what kind of soil they each need. Soil requirements are easily found online with a simple search.
Generally, you need porous soil to allow for good drainage and air exchange. If the soil is too sandy, it won’t retain moisture, and if too fine, the soil will compact. Good potting soil should be easy to find at your local nursery or garden section of Lowes or Home Depot. The gardening salespeople will be happy to help you pick out an appropriate soil for your purpose.
It's easy for pots to heat up and fry delicate plant roots. I don’t recommend plastic pots for many reasons, including the potential for overheating. Clay pots are also prone to drying out their soil quickly, so keep an eye on these daily or rig up a simple irrigation system like water bulbs or self-watering planters.
It’s a good idea to add mulch on top of the container; when plants are small, and the pots are larger, there's more soil exposure. The mulch slows evaporation and helps the soil's surface temperature to stay cooler.
Plant pouches are also a great lightweight option.
When research your herb growing requirements check for the root depth to ensure you use the right depth pot for optimal growth. In my experience, most herbs will grow will in a 6-8 inch deep container.
This really depends on what you are planting. The seed packet or plant will have information on how much sun the plant requires.
Watch how the sunlight moves across the balcony over the course of a day, and place the containers in the areas where they will get the right amount of sunlight to thrive. If your balcony does not get good sunlight and you have an outdoor electric outlet, consider purchasing some grow lights.
Roots of container plants are restricted and will need constant care and watch for signs of wilting. It's easy for pots to heat up and fry delicate plant roots, I don’t recommend plastic pots for many reasons including the potential for overheating. Clay pots are also prone to drying out their soil quickly so keep an eye on these daily or rig up a simple irrigation system.
Adding mulch on top of the container soil when plants are small, and there's more soil exposure the mulch will help to slow evaporation by keeping the surface temperature of the soil cooler.
I’m not an irrigation expert, so I just water my plants in the morning before heading off to work, and if it’s a hot day, I’ll water again when I get home. A lack of water, even for a short time, may result in the herb plants bolting or wilting.
You don’t need much. I use a mini spade, fork, and scoop when planting. In addition, a small watering can and some herb snipers are all you need. Having a soil moisture tester helps get a good idea of how often your plants need watering.
Helpful gardening books for the beginner
There is no clear answer to the question of which herb is the easiest to grow, as different herbs have different requirements when it comes to light, water, and soil quality. That said, some herbs are generally believed to be easier to cultivate than others. For example, many herb growers recommend starting with oregano or basil, as these plants tend to be quite hardy and are able to withstand many of the common mistakes made by novice herb gardeners. Other herbs that are often considered fairly easy to grow include mint and chives, thanks to their ability to flourish in a wide range of conditions. Ultimately, the easiest herb will depend on a number of factors specific to each individual gardener's needs and preferences, but no matter which herb you choose, cultivating your own homegrown herb garden can be a rewarding experience that allows you to take control of your cooking and savor the fresh flavor of herb ingredients at their peak.