Planting a herb container

Fresh herbs are a great addition to any garden.

Herbs are brilliant grown in a pot. Not only do they look attractive but they smell good and can be conveniently located near the back door for ease of access to the kitchen. Planting a herb container also restrains vigorous herbs like mint and sage, known to grow rapidly and spread in borders.

Many herbs are perennials (come back to growth year after year) but it is nice to add some annuals (plants that grow for only one season) into your container too, such as basil.

Here is our step by step guide to planting a herb container:

  1. Choose a container or containers to plant in. You can pick up purpose made herb or strawberry pots from our garden centres. These have planting holes in the side of them. Alternatively you can choose a traditional terracotta pot or trough. Make sure your containers are porous (unglazed) as this will assist with drainage.
  2. Select the herbs you want from the selection available in our garden centres. Pick your favourites for taste and then maybe add one or two for their colour or fragrance.
  3. Buy some loam-based compost like a John Innes No 2 and add up to a third of horticultural grit or perlite for added drainage (herbs hate standing in water).
  4. Fill your container to either the level of the first planting holes (if you chose a container with holes in the side) or 3 inches from the top of your traditional pot. Start with the lowest planting holes first, feeding the roots through the hole carefully and laying compost on top as you work your way upwards. Once you have your plants in the position you want them (allowing space for growth), fill the area around their roots with compost, tapping the container gently to shake the soil about and remove any air pockets.
  5. Water plants in, but do not overwater.

Looking after your herb container:

Many herbs grow well in pots initially but can decline or lose vigour over time. You can divide and re-pot herbs easily and doing this each year will keep your herbs looking fresh. Do this in early spring and only retain the growing outer portions of the rootball and discard the older central section. Use your hands to gently tease the roots and plants apart.

Regularly harvesting your herbs encourages them to remain bushy and compact. Use new shoots as fresh herbs or dry them for later use. You can do this by tying your harvest in a bundle with string and then hanging them in an airing cupboard. Once dry, chop them up and store in glass containers – just like the ones you buy in the supermarket.

In winter, herbs (even the hardy ones) are vulnerable to frost damage. Rootballs can freeze and winds strip moisture from leaves. Keep your herb container fairly dry where possible and in really cold snaps move your container into an unheated greenhouse, porch or conservatory. This helps prevent your pot from cracking with the frost too.