Winter Project: Growing Container Herbs (With Photos)

If you’re a regular reader of our blog, you know that we fully believe in growing as much as one can all year round – yes, even when the thermometer shows just a smear of red! How? There are so many ways, but one great way to keep something fresh on your table in the wintertime is to grow container herbs.

And let’s not forget the aesthetics. Indoors or out, gardening is an experience. There’s just something so warm, welcoming and just overall wonderful about a line of fresh, savory- or sweet-scented herbs along the kitchen windowsill.

Please note that most of the following steps can apply to outdoor herb gardening for those who experience milder winters. However, please make sure you’re using plants that are hardy for dipping evening temperatures.

With that said, get ready, get set – get container herb gardening!

Step One: Decide Which Herbs to Grow

What do you love to pinch and add, dry and sprinkle, add to potpourri? Some of our favorite, easy-to-grow and “containable” herbs are:

  • Basil
  • Bay
  • Chervil (French parsley)
  • Chives
  • Cilantro
  • Dill
  • Majoram
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Spearmint
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme

When deciding on what herbs you’d like to grow, keep space in mind. Some herbs are very small and self-contained, while others (cilantro, for example) will require more horizontal space. This applies not only to how “bushy” your herbs may get (regular trimming helps with this and provides delicious meal garnish), but how much space the roots need, so look up each herb to find out which will work best in your space.

Step Two: Purchase a Growing Lamp

If you won’t be able to place your herbs near a sunny, warm window, buy a growing lamp/grow light to keep your herbs thriving, even when it’s frosty outside.

Growing lamps are also great for plants that require more sun than the rest of your herb garden.

Step Three: Get Some Containers

Matching or kitschily hodgepodge, bought or made, it all starts with the right container.

Make sure there are holes in the bottom of each pot for drainage and that the pots are of a diameter appropriate to each herb, allowing for growth (look up each herb to find out how large a container it will need).

If you’d like to save time, pick up an herb growing boxes at your local nursery. Generally, an herb box will contain a number of squares in which to plant. Some of these are quite decorative and adorable, others are more utilitarian, so buy per your preference.

Step Four: Purchase Your Herbs

For beginner herb gardeners, we recommend obtaining your herbs already grown to seedlings, though it can be quite easy to start an herb from seed. Many herbs are very fast-growing, so starting from seed should not be a time hindrance. The choice is up to you.

Step Five: Fill the Pots

Place pots on a tray if you’d like to protect surfaces. Small plates are also a good option. This will keep your sills from getting damaged due to drainage when you water.

Fill with compost or planting dirt to within 1/2″ of the top of the container.

If your planting soil does not already contain fertilizer (or if you’re not using compost), add organic fertilizer per the package directions (or add 1 inch of compost to non-fertilizer-containing garden soil). Mix into the soil.

Step Six: Plant Your Herbs

If you’re purchasing seedlings or already-grown herbs, be careful taking them out of their containers for transplanting. Disturb the roots as little as possible. With your finger or a spoon, dig a hole into the dirt in your pot large enough to accommodate the roots. Gently replace dirt around the roots.

For seedlings, make a “thumbprint” about 1/2-1″ into the dirt, place the seed into the depression and cover with dirt.

Step Seven: Grow, Grow, Grow!

Water each container immediately after planting seedlings or seeds and place in a sunny window or under your growing lamp.

Water per your plant’s requirements. Be sure to watch for signs of either under-watering (shriveling; brown, falling leaves) or over-watering (most plants will yellow if they receive too much water). Most herbs like to dry out somewhat between waterings, so try not to overdo things when you water.

Step Nine: Harvest

Most herbs can be clipped for use, while the rest of the plant continues growing. Pinch or use scissors. Disturb the rest of the plant as possible when harvesting your herbs.


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