An herb garden is a wonderful but what if you are an apartment dweller or have a small yard? Growing herbs in containers can be a solution. You can place them on your patio, balcony or window sill. What types of herbs grow well in containers and can be used for culinary or health purposes?
I have chosen five herbs that grow well in containers and surprisingly are not just culinary herbs. These herbs can be used for a variety of ailments as well. You have probably heard of these common herbs: Oregano, Thyme, Basil, Peppermint and Rosemary.
Pots, Soil and Sunlight (Brimer, 1976)
Choosing the right pot, soil and location for your herbs is important. I have included some pictures of some herbs I’ve tried to grow but failed due to improper soil and sunlight. I believe in being honest with you and growing herbs has been a struggle but with each failure comes a success by learning from what I did wrong the first time.
The pots your herbs come in or are initially grown in are not going to be their final container. After two or three pairs of true leaves appear it will be time to transplant into the final container for your herb. Make sure the container has good drainage by using about a half inch of gravel on the bottom of the pot should help with this. Make sure the container has drainage holes or add some by drilling them yourself. You’ll want to use a potting soil and you can mix some sphagnum peat moss and a mixture of even amounts of vermiculite, perlite and shredded peat moss.
The last ingredient is the correct amount of sun. When you buy your herb, it should come with a stake that explains if it needs full sun or part sun. This was my mistake with my peppermint. I didn’t put it in the full sun that it needed. Make sure you read the information that comes with your plant when you buy it.
Now on to the herbs.
There are many varieties of Oregano. The most common types are Sweet/knotted marjoram (O. Majorana); Oregano (O. vulgare); and Pot/French marjoram (O. onites). (Bremness, 1988) This herb needs full sun. You can use the young leaves anytime. If you want to preserve the leaves pick them right before flowering.
I am going to be growing Oregano (O. vulgare) which is the traditional herb the Italians use in their cooking. It’s also good in soups and bean salads. This type of oregano is “more pungent and has overtones of mint.” (Brimer, 1976)
Infuse the leaf of Oregano for a relaxing bath and as a hair conditioner. The flowering top can be infused as a tea for cough, headaches, and general exhaustion. Chew the leaf for tooth ache relief. (Bremness, 1988)
Thyme (Bremness, 1988)
Thyme has many varieties too. I am going to focus on Common Thyme (T. Vulgaris). This herb needs full sun. Pick the leaves in summer and they are best while the plant is flowering. You can use the dried leaves for Thyme vinegar and oil.
Thyme can be very pungent used fresh but is good for marinades, stuffing, sauces and soups. You can use the leaf in baths, facial steams, ointments and in a strong decoction for a household disinfection. Infused along with Rosemary you end up with a hair rinse that helps prevent dandruff.
Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) is the most common type of basil. It’s used in many Italian dishes although Basil “Genovese” is supposed to be best for Italian pesto. Basil prefers full sun. When flower buds appear pinch them off to encourage the leafy growth. Cut each stem back a few inches and harvest the leaves, discarding the stems. It’s best to do this when the plants are dry to prevent the leaves from spoiling. Basil leaves tend to retain their flavor best with freezing.
Basil is supposed to keep flies away according to legend. Basil is especially good in tomato dishes but be careful when using fresh leaves, the flavor does tend to increase when heated. (Brimer, 1976)
Basil is used medicinally as a natural anti-inflammatory and it is also high in antioxidant. Fresh basil leaves have antibacterial properties and can be infused to use as a disinfectant. Basil has many other uses such as for headaches, insect bites, skin disorders, stress, sore throats, healing and more. (Carmen, 2018)
Peppermint and Spearmint
There are many varieties of mint with the two most common being Peppermint and Spearmint. Any mint can be invasive in a garden, so containers for these herbs are highly recommended. Peppermint needs full sunlight. Spearmint can be grown in sun to part shade. It’s best to harvest one third of the new foliage in the morning then dry or freeze any extra for future use.
Peppermint and Spearmint can be used in desserts, with fruits, beans, lamb, veal and most commonly as tea. If either one or both are planted near roses they can help deter aphids. Blend the two and infuse to make a refreshing tea. Infuse Peppermint as a tea to help digestion and with colds. Decoct Spearmint strongly to heal chapped hands and add to bathwater to invigorate. (Bremness, 1988) Peppermint essential oil blended with water can help repel spiders in the home.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is a culinary delight most commonly in rosemary chicken and lamb offering a good source of iron, calcium and Vitamin B-6. (Nordqvist, 2017) Rosemary is best grown in full sun. You can grow Rosemary in its container outside then bring it inside for the winter months. You can pick Rosemary all year round gathering the main leaf crop prior to flowering. (Bremness, 1988)
Rosemary is a source of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds. Rosemary may also be good for your brain including memory and concentration. It’s also thought to protect against macular degeneration. (Nordqvist, 2017)
Rosemary can be boiled in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes to create an antiseptic solution for washing bathroom fixtures. Scatter the stems on a barbecue to discourage insects. (Bremness, 1988) Add 3 sprigs to a 16-ounce bottle of isopropyl rubbing alcohol and let sit for 3 months to make a great rubbing alcohol mixture for sore and aching muscles.
Growing herbs in containers
I hope you can see the convenience of growing herbs in containers. Also, I hope you give it a try so you can enjoy the culinary delights and medicinal healing of these and many more herbs.
I am sure there are many more herbs to grow in containers so if you have any favorites that you have tried or used please leave a comment.
DISCLAIMER: Please remember these treatments options are only meant as guidelines and in no way replaces the advice or treatment provided by your medical practitioner. It is always good to seek the advice of your physician, homeopath, naturopath, or herbalist for professional advice in any matter related to your health. This article is for information purposes only.
Bremness, L. (1988). The complete Book of Herbs; a practical guide to growing and using herbs. London: Viking Penguin Inc.
Brimer, J. B. (1976). Growing Herbs in Pots. New York: Simon and Schuster.
Carmen. (2018, June 23). Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits of Basil. Retrieved from Off the Grid News: https://www.offthegridnews.com/alternative-health/medicinal-uses-and-health-benefits-of-basil/
Nordqvist, J. (2017, December 13). Everything you need to know about rosemary. Retrieved from Medical News Today: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266370.php