A container herb garden is a great way to dabble in growing herbs and get the kids involved with gardening. See the picture below of my now 8-year old watering herbs as a toddler. Here are a few reasons that I have loved container herb gardening for the last several years:
- Herbs are healthy and taste great. When you have a container garden, you always have fresh herbs on hand for your favorite dishes. The fresh version is often more intense and flavorful than dried.
- Growing herbs introduces kids to new tastes and smells. If they are involved themselves in growing the herbs, they are more interested in knowing how they taste.
- Growing herbs yourself saves money. The little herb packs you find in the grocery store are so expensive, and often the herbs are not truly fresh. Growing your own means that you have fresh herbs at a fraction of the price. Herbs can be frozen for use in the winter, too!
- Container gardens can be placed anywhere. No need for good soil, just a sunny space. I place mine on the edge of my covered porch where there lots of sun. They are right outside my back door, so they are convenient to get to. I often ask the kids to grab me what I need when I’m cooking. Because they are close, they are easier to water than if they were way out in my back yard.
- Using potting soil and growing in pots means NO weeding. Enough said!
The herbs that I grow regularly:
- Mint: Great for fruit salads, ice teas and other drinks. I also use it with grilled lamb. Very easy to grow and is a perennial.
- Oregano: Great for sauces. A must-have if you like Italian cooking.
- Basil: This works well in sauces and homemade pesto. If you plan on making pesto, consider planting more than one container. Asian or Thai basil is great for Thai cooking. I have found it at farmer’s markets in the past.
- Thyme: A favorite of mine in soup. Great on fish, too. A perennial.
- Sage: Nice in pastas and great for Thanksgiving dishes. A perennial.
- Parsley: Nice for garnish and in sauces and salads.
- Rosemary: Very fragrant, great on meats. It will grow all year.
Today I got most of my herbs together and planted. I’m hoping my mint and sage will come back up like it did last year. I also found a couple of tomato plants and sweet peppers, just to have some close to the house. For tomatoes, I buy “determinate” varieties which are easier to grown in pots (as opposed to “indeterminate” which have a more vine-like pattern of growth). I plan on looking for chives this year and maybe some more basil.
- Choose the herbs you want to grow (think of what you use most in your cooking, or herbs you would like to try). Purchase young plants at a greenhouse or landscape store. Farmers markets can be a great place to find off-beat varieties of young herbs.
- Find containers with adequate drainage holes and fill halfway with organic potting soil or topsoil. This year I used a Miracle-Gro Organic Potting Soil, which was almost the same price as the regular potting soil and has a time-release plant food.
- After removing from their plastic containers , loosen roots a bit and place young plants in new larger containers so that the base it near the top. Place containers in a sunny spot.
- Fill in remaining space with potting soil and water thoroughly.
- Use a sharpie to label the herbs on plastic stakes. This makes it easier for little ones who read to identify the herbs.
The more that you snip and use herbs the more they grow. Some herbs may form a flower, like basil. Pinch these off as you see them because it can change the taste of the herbs. Kids will love this project, as it can be done with very little effort and it’s easy to find jobs for them (scooping soil into the pots, placing the plants in the pots, making the labels, etc.) Best of all you are introducing the joy of growing and eating fresh herbs at a young age.