Are you one of those who are short on space, but still want to grow their own kitchen staples? If you are, these spicy herbs are the best ones to start with.Container gardening will fulfil all your “green wishes” when you start with plants that will truly thrive.
So, look no further than home grown herbs.
Most are low on maintenance since they require very little attention when it comes to watering, feeding and pruning. Plus, they don’t mind having their roots confined in medium-sized pots—some even thrive in these conditions.
Herbs are also flexible: They’ll happily take your guidance and grow in a way that is convenient for you. Although most need quite a lot of sunshine, many will thrive on a fairly sunny kitchen window sill and will provide you with fresh and fragrant leaves for delicious meals.
Here are 5 of the most used culinary herbs that are the easiest to grow in any container:
- Bay herb
Use: In cultures around the world, the leaves of the bay tree have been used to give broths, stews, roasts and other slow-cooking dishes a unique depth of flavor. Bays are evergreen trees and their leaves can be harvested and used fresh throughout the year.
When grown in the ground, bay trees can reach staggering heights, up to 15 feet height, but are quite controllable and very attractive when grown in home containers. They’re amenable to pruning and shaping and are hardy enough to withstand root pruning in order to remain a manageable size for smaller containers.
Soil and growth: Bay herb does well in a basic, well-drained, organic potting mix. When planting a bay tree, make sure not to cover the top of the root ball with soil. Because the bay is a frost-sensitive perennial, plant it in a container that’s easy to move indoors for winter.
Light: Bay likes full portion of sunlight with a bit of afternoon shade. Protect it from cold winters by providing a sunny spot for it indoors. Provide it with as much light as possible until you move it back to its old place outside in the spring.
Water and feeding: You should water bay sparingly, and don’t allow it to sit long in stale water. Feed once per year in the spring with worm castings sprinkled on the top of the soil. Fertilize with lime every few years if the plant remains in the same container and soil.
- Basil herb
Use: Basil is to herbs what tomatoes are to vegetables—it’s easily the most popular herb to grow in any garden, and its culinary uses are seemingly endless. Basil is a friendly herb that grows well along with other herbs and flowers and makes a great natural pest-repelling companion plant, especially for tomatoes, due to its strong aroma.
Soil and growth: An all-purpose organic potting mix, perhaps with a bit of sand and lime mixed in, is all basil needs to get it going. Basil is incredibly sensitive to harsh weather conditions and will turn black and wilt at the slightest hint of cold.
Light: Basil craves for heat and thrives perfectly in the summer months. Make sure your basil gets a full day of bright sun.
Water and feeding: Like other Mediterranean plants, basil likes soil that gets a bit dry between subsequent watering. If young basil begins with good soil, it won’t need much in the way of fertilizer. If grown in poorer soils, feed basil with a high-nitrogen fertilizer, such as composted chicken manure, two to three times during the growing season.
- Cilantro herb
Use: This sun-loving annual is often mistaken for parsley since they look alike, but the flavors couldn’t be more different. Many Americans correctly associate cilantro with the distinctive flavors of Mexican and Southeast Asian cuisines. Also called coriander, many herb growers make the distinction that the name cilantro refers to the leaves and the name coriander to the plant’s seeds.
Add cilantro to a stir-fry, toward the end of cooking to maintain the fresh flavor and oils that can stimulate digestion and minimize gastric distress. Chop and toss fresh cilantro leaves into your guacamole.
Soil and growth: Cilantro grows and goes to seed quickly in hot weather, so the best time to harvest its juicy, pungent leaves is in the late spring and early summer. Because cilantro can develop a significant taproot, be sure to give it a deep container filled with rich, well-draining soil.
Light: Like many herbs, cilantro loves full sun. It will successfully grow on a sunny windowsill or other bright location indoors.
Water and feeding: Cilantro doesn’t need much in the way of fertilizer, but it’s a “heavy drinker”. Don’t let it dry out more than an inch’s depth into the soil between watering.
- Mint herb
Use: Mint, also known as mentha, is a wonderful herb that no kitchen (and therefore garden) should be without! It may seem like a simple herb, but don’t let its sweet leaves and easygoing nature fool you. Mint has many healing and nutritional properties, and is used in everything from digestive tonics and teas to sweet treats and cosmetics. There’s a seemingly endless selection of mint varieties for home gardeners to choose from, though the most popular are peppermint and spearmint.
Soil and growth: Unlike some of the other herbs profiled here, mint is a hardy perennial that sends webs of roots below ground and firmly establishes itself where it is planted —and eventually, where it wasn’t. For this reason, mint is the best herb for container gardening. It’s not fussy at all: it will grow in anything from rich to poor soil and in any type of planter!
Light: Mint likes full sun, but will appreciate a bit of shade during the summer heat.
Water and feeding: Mint is a heavy drinker too and will do best with regular watering.
- Rosemary herb
Use: Most herbs are incredibly pungent, nutritional and medicinal in their nature, and rosemary is no different in this regard. Essential oils extracted from this heat-loving perennial are used to fight colds and infections and boost the immune system, just to name a very few. Like bay trees, rosemary is a beloved culinary herb that is absolutely captivating when grown in containers. Also like bay, rosemary is very flexible when it comes to pruning and shaping: Many varieties are easily coaxed into graceful topiaries. It’s the perfect balance of being a visually pleasing yet incredibly useful plant.
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves are used in traditional Mediterranean and especially Italian cuisine. When cooking with dried rosemary, crush it before adding it to your dish as the sharp leaves can be difficult to remove once cooked. Anyway, try to remove leaves or sprigs after cooking. This fragrant herb with small, bittersweet firm leaves (that resemble pine needles) beautifully flavors meats and roast vegetable dishes. When used sparingly, the aromatic flavor of rosemary works well in delicate desserts such as sorbets, fools (a cold light dessert) and fruit salads.
Soil and growth: Plant rosemary in a fertile, well-draining organic soil. Though this herb is a perennial, it will need your help in colder climates – protect rosemary from hard frosts by bringing your container indoors, or finding a very sunny spot inside for the winter (you may even choose to supplement with a grow light).
The plant is an evergreen shrub, so the leaves are available fresh all year around.
Light: Rosemary loves (and thrives in) high, full sun.
Water and feeding: Arguably, the hardest part about growing rosemary successfully is getting watering just right. Too much water, especially in the winter when growth naturally slows, can rot the roots. On the other hand, too little water, especially in the hot climates that rosemary loves, may result in irreparable heat damage. So, the measure is the key to success in this case. Rosemary is not resilient to late watering and may struggle to come back. Fertilize with liquid seaweed during the spring.
There are so many other wonderful herbs that grow famously in containers and in harmony with other herbs, flowers, and vegetables. The 5 listed here are just a few of the easiest to grow, easiest to source, and the most useful for cooking at home.
The beauty of container gardening lies in these things: it can be done easily and simply just about anywhere and with any tight budget!