The standard clay pots are great, but any container that has holes in the bottom for drainage will work. Putting many herb plants in one big container and letting them spill over the sides creates a very nice visual effect.
Mint and oregano each need their own pot or they will over take other plants in the same pot. Use pots that are a bit bigger than the original container that your new plants come in so there is room for growth.
Hint; Pass-up on those cute little herb pots you see in specialty stores. They are usually way too small to be useful.
Most herb gardening books recommend buying a potting mix that drains well. Your local nursery can help you choose the right potting mix. Just tell them you are starting a small patio herb garden. They will point you to the right mix and offer helpful suggestions to get you started.
When transplanting your herbs to bigger pots, you may want to mix in a handful of compost or organic fertilizer.
Hint; Avoid heavy potting soil. Herbs don't want to sit out summer in a boggy swamp.
A small hand spade or a big old kitchen spoon will get the job done.
Buy good healthy plants that are of decent size instead of starting with seeds, remember, they don't grow overnight. Look for herbs that you will want to actually use. Some good plants for beginners are thyme, chervil, oregano and mint.
You can find well known herbs in the nurseries, but choice may be limited. However, you should find at least 10 varieties. Since growing herbs at home has become more popular, your local discount store may also carry them.
Look for plants than have not been carried over the winter. Their roots should not be overgrown and matted in the bottom of the pot.
Most herbs do well when transplanted from their original pots, except dill. It has long tap roots and doesn't transplant well. If you want to be successful with dill, grow it from seed.
Hint; Springtime is the best time to find herbs. Look for thyme and rosemary in a nursery. Find the most beautiful sage and basil at your local farmers' market. And don't forget to check for oregano and parsley in the flower section of your supermarket.
Parsley is very easy to grow, but slow to germinate. One old wives' tale says that you should laugh as you plant the seeds. Try it!!
You can keep your herb plants on a sunny windowsill indoors, but they do better outside. Most herbs need at least six hours a day of full sun.
Be sure to let the soil dry out between waterings, but don't let your herbs wilt. By keeping a close eye on the tender, leafy herbs such as parsley, cilantro and basil, as they will be the first to wilt from thirst, you can determine when watering is needed.
Small plants in good container mix may not need any food for a single season of growth. However, if they start to look peaked, developing yellow leaves, add a little all-purpose fertilizer.
There are two general rules for harvesting. For most leafy herbs that have pairs of leaves along the stem such as mint, sage and basil, cut a sprig just above a leaf pair. The remaining pair should sprout off into two new stems, giving you a fuller plant. For parsley and cilantro, cut entire individual stems near the soil surface, taking outside stems first as new stem growth sprouts from the middle of the plant. Thyme is best harvested in late spring or early summer, just before flowering.
Hint; Cut and wash herbs immediately before use for the most fragrant flavor.
Annuals, such as chamomile and basil, will only last one growing season before they bloom, go to seed and die.
Biennials, such as parsley live for two years, growing the first year, blooming and dying the second.
Perennials, like mint, oregano, sage, marjoram, rosemary, and thyme, can live year-to-year in good conditions and mild winters. Check the plastic marker on each plant when you buy it to learn its life cycle.
The care of a potted herb garden requires very little time. The reward of fresh herbs outside your kitchen door are tremendous. If you are unsure of which herbs would be best for your patio garden, read more about them on-line or at your local library.
A potted herb garden will bring you many weeks and months of pleasure and reward, as you see the beautiful flowers, breathe in the fragrant aromas, and taste the freshness of your own herbs.