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Planting Herbs In Containers

Last week I crossed my fingers that no more cold spells would befall Massachusetts this spring, and planted my deck herbs. I love to put them in containers because they are handy for snipping just a few feet from the kitchen, and they look so pretty when they fully bloom.

Here are a few tips for creating your own container herb garden.

First, find a spot that gets a lot of sun. Most herbs thrive in full or partial sun.

Second, make sure your containers have good drainage since herbs, as well as most other plants, don’t like to sit in soggy soil. Conversely, pay attention to your herbs and make sure they don’t dry out.

I like to start with fresh potting mix each year to give my herbs the best chance to thrive. I start by cleaning out the old soil….

placing a coffee filter over the drainage hole to prevent the soil leaking onto my deck…..

and then adding filler rocks to the bottom of the pot. This decreases the amount of potting mix I need to use, and also aids in drainage.

This year I have also started using cow manure in all my pots and garden plantings after reading an article on the wonders of manure at Nest of Posies. If the thought of cow manure makes you wrinkle your nose, here’s something about cow manure that you buy in a bag for gardening purposes:  it’s been processed and it doesn’t smell. (That’s what held me back all these years – I was kind of grossed out. But now that I know it’s just like a bag of potting soil, I’m so over it!)  I bought an organic cow manure compost at Lowes and it’s super cheap (about $2.50 a bag). A handful at the base of where you are placing your herbs will do.

(When I told my mom, who grew up on a farm in Ireland, about my cow manure discovery, she was like – um, YE-AHHHH –  why do you think Ireland is called the Emerald Isle?? There is no shortage of cow manure, lovely soil, rain, sunshine and therefore glorious vegetation in Ireland, that is for sure! Hoping a little manure works wonders for my little plants here in Massachusetts too.)

Basil (on the right) flies solo in a pot because on it’s own, and with a little love, it will flourish into a massive plant – perfect for making pesto, or layering with mozzarella and tomatoes with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar…..yum! In my center pot above I planted thyme, parsley and rosemary together, with a couple of flowers mixed right in.

I always pot mint because it’s very invasive in a garden – it spreads and causes a ruckus. Even though I don’t use the herb a lot in cooking, it smells so wonderful on the deck, plus I have visions of mojitos with my girls Betsy & Jackie this summer 🙂

Chives are insanely hardy. Despite the fact that this pot was left on my deck all winter, in the freezing snow, and I have shown it no love, come the spring the chives sprouted up again all ready for a new year. I have added some green onions that were growing wild in the garden to this pot as well.

Keep in mind that unglazed terra cotta pots in particular dry out really easily, so keep a good eye on anything planted in them in the summer. (Decorating terra cotta pots is a fun activity to do with kids. About 10 years ago, way before I ever heard of a blog, my kids and I decorated pots with paint markers. They live outside and I’m amazed how the writing on this one, an ode to my Gram, has held up. And the crazy thing is – whatever I plant in that pot always thrives. Thanks, Gram, for looking down on us!!)

Oh! While we’re on the subject of herbs, let’s not forget wine cork markers!!

Since I started making these a couple years ago, I have discovered that it’s helpful to use a very small drill bit to make the hole into the cork a little wider than the corkscrew hole. With the cork pre-drilled, it’s much easier to push the wooden skewer into it.

Also, someone once commented that the corks and wooden skewer got mildew on them over the course of the season, after being exposed to the elements. I had this happen to me one year but not the next, and I imagine that the growth of mildew would be directly related to how wet of a summer you have. If the wood and cork doesn’t dry out after a rainfall, I’m guessing that’s when the mildew would kick in. You could try using stainless steel metal skewers if this concerns you. Here are my mildewy corks after several months outside vs. new corks. I make new markers every year.
A really cute gift for Mother’s Day or friends’ spring birthdays is a set of herbs with herb markers!
Hopefully in a month’s time these herbs will be spilling out over the pots.


Find some thyme to plant some herbs this year…’ll be glad you did!

I’m linking up these inspiring blogs!

My Uncommon Slice of Suburbia

Smoothie With Kale
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Wednesday 29th of May 2013

I love the cork idea! i will definitely be doing this!



Monday 20th of May 2013

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Saturday 18th of May 2013

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Linda {Calling it Home}

Saturday 18th of May 2013

I love this idea. Keeping them right outside your door makes it so easy to grab some. My dog eats herbs, and it drives me nuts.


Friday 17th of May 2013

Hi Lisa,

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