Every spring I get the bug to garden, and when I say "spring" I mean summer because we don't get spring in Chicago. I love access to fresh herbs and vegetables all summer long and I also love to can homemade jam, tomato sauce and more. I love container gardening because it allows you to grab what you need right outside your back door and if you really wanted, you can bring those containers into a sunny spot indoors for fresh herbs all winter long.
I have two, large raised beds for my garden in the backyard where I grow tomatoes, zucchini, a wide variety of peppers, yellow onions, herbs and more. This year we plan on adding two more boxes so I can expand and grow things like pumpkins, carrots, beets, potatoes and possibly strawberries. Gardening was something my parents always did so it felt very natural to me to have one of my own. We have built raised garden beds in every home we have owned, even in the city of Chicago, and this little guy loves to help me!
Container Gardening - Growing Herbs
This year I've decided to grow our herbs in pots on our back porch. I have quite a few self draining/self watering plastic pots on hand and have a very sunny place to grow them. Most herbs LOVE sunlight, they tolerate shade but from what I've read and experienced they love sunshine and lots of it... this also means you must water quite a bit. Herbs obviously like water, if the soil is dry your plant friend needs a drink ASAP. It is best to water in the morning, when the sun is at its lowest point. If you water in the afternoon your plant leaves will scorch in the hot summer sun. Some plants like water and sunlight more than other, and though it is tempting, you shouldn't just plant herbs in pots together without doing a little research. I am no expert but I have found this information helpful over the years.
First, start with some nutrient rich soil for veggies and flowers, like Miracle-Gro Potting Mix.
Basil - 15" pot, full sun, daily watering
Basil can get up to 2 feet tall and loves very wet soil. Basil loves full sun, so it requires every day watering, if you're growing basil in half sun/ shade, you can water less. This year I purchased the large container (vs the 4.5 oz) of Bonnie basil from Home Depot. I generally grow the sweet basil, but they have so many different varieties to try. Basil produces white flowers that need to be trimmed off to avoid making the leaves taste bitter. When you don't trim the flowers the plant puts all of its energy into creating the flowers, leaving the leaves vulnerable to flavor. My basil is planted in a 15" self watering pot. A self watering pot allows you to add water to the base and the plants soaks it up whenever it is thirsty.
Dill - 15" pot, full sun, daily watering (if in full sun) and companion growing.
Dill has always been a tricky herb for me to grow, it grows very tall, up to 4ft and isn't very pretty to look at to be completely honest. I LOVE dill in dips, on potatoes, I use it when making pickles, etc. Dill loves heat but can withstand cold/shade. It is doesn't grow wide as much as it does grow tall and also grows yellow flowers that need to be snipped to avoid altering the flavor. Dill can be grown in pots with other plants like parsley. My dill is currently growing in a 15" self draining pot with a curly variety parsley.
Parsley - 15" pot, full sun, daily water (if in full sun) and companion growing
According to the Farmers Almanac, parsley is in the same family as dill and grows well with other herbs, vegetables and even flowers. Parsley loves sun and needs water daily. Parsley is a commonly known as a garnish but also provides a lot of flavor. I love parsley on pretty much everything, especially in pesto, on potatoes, pizza, garlic bread and more!
Sage - 15" pot, partial sun, companion growing, ground cover
Sage is a very pretty herb that can be used in cooking or even ground cover, I rarely plant it but this year decided to go for it. It comes in many different color varieties and does well in container gardening and in the ground/a raised bed. Sage can grow 30" wide and 30" high. I personally don't like the taste of sage but the smell is very pleasant as well as the furry, grey leaves. Sage also likes partial sun and shade, and less water then plants like basil. Water Sage whenever the soil looks dry. Sage doesn't love full sun and humidity but will still grow fairly well in a container garden setting. Sage grows well with plants like Rosemary, Lavender and Thyme.
Rosemary - 15" pot, partial sun, companion growing, ground cover
Rosemary is a beautiful, fragrant herb the can grow like wild outside of a container. Inside a container garden it will grow about a foot tall. Rosemary doesn't like as much water as other herbs like basil, so I planted mine in a self draining pot with the sage. Rosemary likes sun and shade, it also needs a pot that self drains or this will cause the plant to rot. Don't over water.
Oregano - 10" pot, partial sun, companion growing or solo, grows well with like herbs
The oregano plant I purchased from Home Depot was already very hearty so I decided to plant it in its own pot. Oregano can tolerate sun and shade and likes fairly watered soil, like Rosemary and Sage. It would be safe to put all three of those small plants in a self draining pot. Oregano can grow 12"-18" wide, depending on your container.
I hope this was helpful and will help get YOUR container garden growing this year! You can use fresh herbs all year long, like this awesome pesto recipe below.
Herb Garden Pesto Recipe
I just finished mowing down the most delicious homemade pesto using herbs from my container garden! Rachel Rae's newest magazine inspired me, but I didn't have what she used on hand so heres what I used..
1/4 cup unsalted cashews (or nuts you have on hand)
1/2 cup olive oil
zest of one lemon
juice of half the lemon
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
two large handfuls spinach leaves
6 basil leaves
1 large parsley sprig
Pulse all ingredients in your food processor, serve with cooked angel hair pasta.