Idiots guide to herbs in big outdoor pots

(115 Posts)
Flingingmelon Tue 14-Apr-15 12:02:39

I live in the SE and my garden gets plenty of sun. I'd like two or three big pots that I can grow herbs in.

I eat a lot of thyme, parsley, coriander and rosemary and a little bit of sage, basil, mint, and tarragon. Would they all grow well together? What sort of percentage space should I be giving each plant?

Can someone point me in the right direction of a how to guide or give me some tips here?

I'm clueless but enthusiastic smile

ChopperGordino Tue 14-Apr-15 12:12:17

i am no expert, but:

- i grow rosemary separately as it likes light sandy soil

- mint and thyme i also grow in separate pots as they are thugs that will take over IME

- i have sage, tarragon, chives, oregano and parsley growing happily together in a large pot, though i have to keep a beady eye on the sage as it has thuggish tendencies

- i also have a small bay bush in a pot

- coriander bolts easily so is better done by succession sowing seeds every few weeks i understand, so that you always have some available (however i hate coriander so i've never actually done this)

- i tend to keep basil on the kitchen windowsill. it's more tender - it would probably do fine outside in summer but, um, i just don't put it out there...

there's some info here www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?PID=142

FreeButtonBee Tue 14-Apr-15 12:17:45

I put one herb per pot and put them in a REALLY big pot. The bigger the pot, the less likely they are to dry out and the less you'll have to water them. Think about 20 times the size of the pot they come in!

I've had great success with sage, rosemary, thyme (it even self seeded into another pot and I now have 4 extra plants!), chives (just split my pot of chives and now have 4 pots full!), mint (dies off over winter but comes back with a vengeance). Oregano less successful but it's just about coming back. Bay tree - I have one in the flower bed that is doing quite well. I hack it back every so often and stick a load of leaves together to dry in the kitchen for easy access for cooking. Agree that basil better inside. I've not had much success with parsley or coriander - they go over way too soon.

ChopperGordino Tue 14-Apr-15 12:34:29

parsley i usually just buy a new plant every year. it takes AN AGE to germinate from seed and needs high temperatures i think and i'm too impatient for that, and also too lazy to overwinter them

SprungHasSpring Tue 14-Apr-15 12:52:39

Don't grow mint in the same pot as anything else. It will take over. Good idea to grow it in a pot though.

Coriander will bolt in full sun. I would start it there then move to a shadier spot or inside the kitchen.

Rosemary and thyme in big pots of their own with lots of grit mixed in. Don't overwater.

redshoeblueshoe Tue 14-Apr-15 13:16:56

I once read that to germinate parsley its best to put boiling water on them when you plant the seeds - I was amazed that it worked. Last year I got a little pot of basil from a supermarket and just kept putting it in bigger pots - it was great. I've grown a few rosemary plants from cuttings I just left them in a vase of water till they rooted. My rosemary is in the ground I don't think it would benefit by being in a pot.

Flingingmelon Tue 14-Apr-15 14:29:57

Okay, so I'm better buying a small plant then starting from seeds? Anywhere special you'd recommend or would my local garden centre be fine?

And what does 'bolt' mean?

shovetheholly Tue 14-Apr-15 14:35:13

OK, so forget about mint for a second. Thyme, rosemary, sage are perennials. They'll come back year after year. Thyme is small and dainty, but the others tend to be quite large, so think about putting them at the back of a big planter maybe. Have a look at varieties, because there are several and they taste and look quite different. For example, rosemary can be a bit of a leggy old upright bush around 0.5m high, or you can get a daintier version that trails over the edge of the container. Sage can be purple, or green, or variegated - so you can choose something that goes with your colour scheme. They also all like quite well-drained soil in the sun - so think about digging in a bit of horticultural grit and loads of compost especially if you're on clay soil.

In most of Britain, unless you're somewhere very sheltered, most kinds of parsley, coriander, basil and tarragon are annuals, so you'll probably need to sow each year. All of them will appreciate the well-drained, sunny conditions of the rosemary/sage/thyme group, or you could do pots indoors even. They are generally quite a bit smaller than sage, rosemary but slightly larger than thyme.

Now mint. This likes different conditions and will be happy on clay and in the wet. However, do not - repeat DO NOT - grow mint outside a pot because it is a right thug that spreads everywhere. I would give it its own dedicated space. I have mine in an old broken handled trug after making this mistake three years ago, and I am still pulling bits of the damn stuff out of the border.

There are a world of herbs out there, so enjoy having a good look at what you'd like. Don't forget things like bay trees (a established standard one not only looks lovely but provides more leaves than you could eat), oregano (great on pizza, self-seeds everywhere, but the bees absolutely adore it), chives (probably the easiest thing to grow ever). And then there are edible flowers too - from nasturtiums through to lavender (lovely in cakes/shortbread), calendula, even borage (a flower in each segment of an ice cube tray and you have the prettiest and best tasting thing to add to a gin and tonic). Happy herbing!

shovetheholly Tue 14-Apr-15 14:36:48

Oh and sourcing - I would go to a local garden centre for the perennials. Mine do small herb plants 6 for a tenner. But you might need to buy seeds for the annuals.

Flingingmelon Tue 14-Apr-15 15:24:33

WowShove and everyone, this is all great stuff. Thank you grin

FirstWeTakeManhattan Tue 14-Apr-15 16:54:24

Some great advice here. Growing herbs is a great thing to do.

Can I just add the bits I've discovered over the last 10 years of growing;

Coriander likes open ground
Rosemary likes the sun
Few herbs like rich soil - I never feed them.
Rosemary, thyme and sage prefer lighter, drier soil.
Sage is a breeze to take cuttings from - just cut and stick in soil somewhere warm and light. Very easy to propagate if you know someone with existing plants.

Cut and dry herbs through the summer. I always have a jar of dried thyme, sage and oregano that keeps me going through the winter.

Fresh or dried mint is gorgeous as a herbal infusion - try different varieties.

Enjoy!

CruCru Tue 14-Apr-15 17:05:23

Thyme also comes in loads of different colours (I have green, variegated / silver and yellow) so you could get a few and put them together.

DayLillie Tue 14-Apr-15 17:08:02

I have given up growing herbs in pots because of drying out. They rarely do well after the first year (or two if I am lucky). I hate the process emptying the spent compost out the pots and restarting. The thymes always dry out and die and there are never enough leaves on them.

Therefore, I am growing them in rows, from seed in the vegetable patch. I will sow replacement rows every other year for thyme and sage, and every year for parsley. They have just had a spring haircut to encourage lots of new growth. Coriander is left to self seed in the corner. Rosemary has permanent place in the flower bed. There are some more decorative herbs in a patch outside the greenhouse, but I don't use them (apart from French tarragon).

Millipedewithherfeetup Tue 14-Apr-15 17:12:51

Thankyou for posting this thread op, i am too (or was before this tbread) clueless but wanting to give something like this a go.

Badgerwife Tue 14-Apr-15 18:05:41

fab thread. I've just moved into our first house and would love to grow herbs for cooking but don't know the first thing about gardening and even killed a cactus once, so this is really helpful.

Any beginners books on how to grow a small herb garden and or basic veg you could recommend?

RandomFriend Tue 14-Apr-15 18:10:22

Thanks, OP for the thread and to all the experts that have posted. I tried a couple of years ago but didn't get it right. I now have only mint, but am going to try again with the others mentioned.

Jux Tue 14-Apr-15 19:08:33

We have a health shop here. The owner is a keen gardener and grows many varieties of herbs. I have ginger mint and chocolate mint, as well as spearmint and peppermint. I also have purple basil, which I bought about 3 years ago and is still going.

The normal basil I got from Lidl last year has been abundant on my windowsill since last year, even though I often forget to water it and it goes droopy. A sit in the sink for a while soon sees it happy again.

I grew calendula from seed last year and didn't dead head it in the hope that it would seed itself for this year. Not sure yet whether it has or not.

scurryfunge Tue 14-Apr-15 19:15:22

Jux, I had a purple Basil last year which was great. I suspect I should have done something with it over winter though smile. Will it grow back this year?

AnythingNotEverything Tue 14-Apr-15 19:21:44

Watch out for slugs. We had great success growing coriander from seed. And then a lovely smell of coriander every time we went outside as the slugs slowly chewed their way through it.

Hard to predict if you'll have the same problem, but keep an eye out.

FirstWeTakeManhattan Tue 14-Apr-15 19:41:34

Another thing…if you struggle to grow basil, then I find Greek/bush basil types are way easier.

The Great Vegetable Plot by Sarah Raven is a good book for the basics of growing veg - it covers loads of different things and is a good read.

Start with salad leaves - nothing to it at all, and you'll never have to buy sweaty bags of supermarket leaves again. Cut-and-come-again varieties are good to start with.

Growing food is addictive, I find. I read the Windowbox Allotment in my 20's when I had no space to grow in at all. Really inspiring!

Clawdy Tue 14-Apr-15 19:42:30

So is it better to grow them all in pots really? We just cleared a fairly sunny patch of soil for a small herb garden but will it just go mad? Also,is it better to dry bay leaves for cooking? and how do you do that?

SprungHasSpring Tue 14-Apr-15 20:03:18

Rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon will do much better in the ground IMHO.

Bearleigh Tue 14-Apr-15 20:28:34

IME:
Bay is best grown in the ground and can grow big but can be kept small if well pruned. I pick leaves whenever I want them or save prunings to dry.

Thyme bought in pots from the supermarket can be divided into lots of little plants and planted out at this time of year. Much cheaper than from garden centres.

Taste tarragon before you buy. Even if the label says French Tarragon it isn't always - Russian tarragon can be grown from seed and is tasteless. I kept mine in open ground last winter (mild, am also in SE), and it's sprouting well.

I don't bother with sage as it grows big & leggy and I don't cook much with it, so dried is fine.

I love lovage - tastes of celery, but wilder, and excellent in cooking. It grows big & tall

Don't plant lemon balm you'll never get rid of it, as it spreads, and seeds freely. It keeps popping up in my garden, though I keep pulling it out.

Do plant lemon verbena -grows well in pots, is pretty, and the chopped leaves make fabulous lemon drizzle cake later in summer, also ice cream. Buy a tiny plant as big ones are expensive but they grow quickly. Keep sheltered in winter.

Sorrel is good for a bit of sourness - I make soup out of two plants.

Basil grows ok out of doors in a hot summer, but the slugs do like it, (and dill, and coriander.)

Chervil is lovely to eat, and so pretty. Easy to grow, but runs to seed quickly so you have to keep sowing

Get special 'leaf' coriander seeds as if you sow coriander from supermarket pots it'll be a variety that produces lots of seeds not leaves

Summer savory is nice too - grows easily from seed - a bit like thyme in flavour, but tall

Thyme needs good drainage and a lot of sun - add grit to the soil and no feed.

Agreed about mint spreading. I grow it ok in the shade in pots. It's unusual for a herb in liking a lot of water. I grow Moroccan mint, as I like it best for fresh mint tea.

IvoryMadonna Tue 14-Apr-15 20:29:45

Be sure to buy French tarragon, and not the bigger Russian tarragon which has no flavour at all.

I don't think you can grow French tarragon from seed, best to buy a plant and take cuttings later on. I find it will usually come back for a couple of years, but then dies out.

Bearleigh Tue 14-Apr-15 20:32:11

I should add that I grow all in the ground except mint and those that I said slugs like so I can protect them more easily.

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