Is your soil full of clay like ours?
Or maybe your in an apartment and there is nowhere to grow a garden.
Perhaps you rent and tearing up the backyard to plant all-of-the-things isn't something your landlord would approve of.
There are plenty of reasons that a full-on garden isn't an option for many people. Whether you live in the city and can only dream of living in the country or you live in the country. Your soil is less than desirable there are still lots of options for growing something wherever you are.
Before we start:
This herbal information is just that, information. This blog post and I DO NOT INTEND to treat, cure, or diagnose any disease or illness. This is for informational, educational and entertainment purposes only. Please consult a physician before using herbs medicinally.
This post also contains affiliate links throughout. Translation: We get a little kick back for sharing certain products, at no additional cost to you, should you choose to purchase said items. And - thank you for supporting our farm and family! Read the full disclaimer here.
We have tons of clay on our almost 2 acres, but we also live on the side of a hill. Once we fight through the clay, we usually strike something big and hard. Like, say a 200 lb boulder the 'size of Texas'.... ok maybe not quite that big. If you ever wonder why we 'decorate' with boulders here on the farm, now you know.
When we first moved here, we knew what we were up against to some degree. When my dad built our house and created a huge rock wall out of the boulders that he dug out of the foundation.
We also knew that we wanted to grow LOTS of food! We started out with some pallet square-foot garden boxes.
Having had just come from a small city lot that we were renting, we were use to those square foot gardens. It wasn't too bad for just moving to the country. We had some tomatoes and peppers, a few herbs. But it was far from enough for us.
I bought some big pots for the front porch to fill with herbs, we planted grapes up the front porch posts, and a year later we built our hoop house greenhouse with raised bed gardens.
The moral of our story is that you start with what you have and go from there for many people that means planting in a pot and putting that pot in the window cill, the porch, back deck, or on the kitchen table.
Just plant. And plant where you are with what you have.
What kind of space do you have?
Is it the tiny window cill in your apartment? Maybe a shelf by a window or the balcony or front porch? Do you have a back patio or small city lot?
Your space is the first thing to consider when you are deciding what you will plant. Some herbs like basil, chives, and rosemary can be grown in smaller spaces when managed correctly.
If you have larger spaces for larger pots, then the options could be much different. Look at the area you have and determine what size pots or containers would fit there. Maybe you have a 4 foot by 4-foot space, and instead of a pot or container, you could build a square-foot garden bed with wood or pallets. That is if the landlord doesn't mind the grass being killed off. Or maybe the square-foot garden could be built on a cement patio to save the grass.
Maybe you are the master of your own property, and you are just fighting clay (or some other struggle). Then a raised garden bed might suit your space best.
Does the Kitchen window sill Provide enough sun?
I wish this was a straight forward answer.
But it's not.
It really depends! What side of the house is your window on? Is it a south-facing window? North, east, west? The side of the house your window cill is on, that you are wanting to put your plants on, will really determine what can grow there. This is because you will get way more sunlight on the south-facing side of the house than you will on the north.
Also, it will depend on if you have an awning over your house to shade the specific window cill you want to use. For instance, here on the farm, my kitchen window cill is on the north side. As I mentioned, we live on the side of a hill, and the north side happens to back up to the hill. There isn't a whole lot of sun coming in the window into the kitchen. Being such, my plants have never done very well there. They get tall and thin and start reaching for sunlight where ever they can.
Now on the south-facing side of our house, we have a large awning covering the cement patio, and so it is pretty shaded and keeps the house nice and fresh in the summer. The bad news is that anything under that awning doesn't get a whole lot of sun.
Now you might be able to combat that a bit with planting some herbs that appreciate less sunlight and can handle shade. There is a list of 16 shade-loving herbs here if you want to gather some ideas.
Now, if you have plenty of south-facing sunlight where you want to plant lots of basic culinary herbs, doubling as medicinals, could be grown there such as basil, thyme, oregano, bay, chervil, and chives.
Using Grow Lights to Start Seed Indoors
Do I have to start my seeds under grow lights?
Just because you are growing in containers or pots doesn't mean you have to start your plants by seed or even under grow lights. Though starting your herbs from seeds are much more affordable. You also get to control what kind of seed you plant ( we recommend non-gmo, organic, and/or heirloom). Also, you know if it was sprayed and what type of soil your culinary and medicinal herbs have been growing in.
You know the story of your herbs, but you can also get them started this way even when the sun is out.
Starting seeds indoors can be a little bit tricky, though. Remember how we talked about the necessity of the proper amount of sunlight for window sills. That applies here as well, except for here you can use artificial light, so your space inside doesn't have to be in just the right spot. Now, if you have a good window, you might not need a grow light system. But as we mentioned, those plants might get long and lean without enough light.
Setting up your own grow light system doesn't have to be complicated. It can be as simple as some store-bought shelves, some lights from your local home improvement store, and a little ingenuity. For a step by step process on setting up your own grow light system for your culinary and medicinal herbs in the house Kathleen over at Roots & Boots has a fabulous system all laid out and ready to go! No need to reinvent the wheel here!
What are the best type of containers to plant in?
While all sorts of plants can grow in containers in various sizes, the type of container you use is going to depend on many variables. Again the space you have might determine what kind and size of the container you use.
The plants you want to put in containers may also be a factor in choosing the proper container. As some plants grow and get larger, they may need to be repotted into a larger container.
Almost anything can be a container. It's important to remember that whatever you use for a container should be safe to use as well as have proper drainage for your plants.
Some container ideas might be:
You can see that the list would go on and so there are lots of choices for containers! Just remember 3 things:
My friend and fellow homesteader Melissa K. Norris has a super detailed post on container gardening that I would highly recommend.
Best Plants to Plant in Pots
We can't decide if the pot or container we have is going to work until we know what plant we are going to put in it!
So what herbs do ok in pots? What herbs do ok Indoors? And which plants/herbs should be planted outdoors?
Some of the best plants to use indoors are usually those culinary herbs: basil, chives, rosemary, thyme, oregano, mint, chamomile, lavender, cilantro, and sage. This list could be extended too if you think of similar plants in the same family. Like pineapple mint, chocolate mint, lemon mint, etc. Or lemon thyme, Thai basil, purple basil. The trick here is to keep the plants well-trimmed or used often so that they continue to grow busy and don't get too big for their pot.
If you are going in pots outdoors, there are many other plants you could add, including many food-producing plants. Like strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, garlic, onions, lettuce, beans. The list goes on and on... you can pretty much plant anything in the right pot, with proper drainage and the right soil.
The main difference with what you plant inside vs. outside is how much sunlight you will have. The outdoor elements and space will usually be larger, allowing you to have bigger pots and containers.
Herbs that Work in Pots
What type of soil to use for Potted Plants?
Speaking of soil!
Potted plants need a whole different soil then if they are outside in the elements. They are in a contained situation, and so it is up to us to make sure they get the nutrients that they need rather than nature supplying them.
Depending on what you plant, it may want a fertile loamy soil, or it might prefer dry soil. A lavender plant is going to have totally different needs from say a basil plant. So first and foremost, understand the soil conditions that the herb you are potting up needs.
There are also some things to keep in mind when you're picking a soil to use in your containers. The soil needs to be free from weeds. We are putting this plant in a controlled environment, so we need to make sure no weeds will take it over, but this will save us time too. No weeding! YAY! There also needs to be a component of the soil that will allow airflow. For those of you who have clay soil, you understand that ain't nothing going in there because the soil is so hard. It's like planting in a rock. There is no room for little ole' seed or roots to spread out because of its like cement. The same applies to potting soil, it needs to be light and airy. At the same time, you don't want it so light and airy that the plant can't grow in it without just falling over because there is no support from the soil.
I've done both when mixing potting soil. Too heavy on the compost, and the seeds can't grow and then too light on the peat moss, and so nothing will stand up. That's why I would highly recommend The Prairie Homesteads Homemade Potting Soil Recipe. Take the guesswork out, and just start with this! Some plants will need different elements, so look up your specific plant's soil needs before diving in.
Don't forget the draining Material
When you are planting herbs in containers, you want to make sure that they have proper drainage. The reason that drainage is essential is that the plant's roots are not just sitting in water the whole time. Plants that love a dryer climate will need more drainage, whereas plants that like a wet moist environment will need less. Most of the drainage is going to come from the soil content.
Now, if these are outside containers like raised beds, the drainage will come naturally through not just the soil but also the bottom of the raised bed.
When you are planting in pots there are 3 essential things to consider when it comes to drainage:
It isn't always necessary to have drainage holes AND drainage material. Still, again it's really going to depend on how much drainage your particular plant needs.
Some ideas for drainage material to place in the bottom of your pot might be regular gravel, pea-size gravel, decor type rocks from the hardware store, maybe some rocks from a creek nearby your home, or fish tank rocks. You can get creative here if need be!
Are you daydreaming about all of the herbs you can plant now?
Yep. Me too. I'm thinking of every nook and cranny that gets enough sunlight to stick yet another plant. I don't know how my Farmer will feel about that. Still, hey, those common herbs are useful, practical, and powerful medicines!
Let me know in the comment section below WHERE you think you can keep your potted herbs and what herbs you have in pots.
My name is CeAnne, wife to my Farmer and mama to 4 adopted kiddos. I help farm lov'n mama's (and grandmas) turn common herbs into powerful medicines without being overwhelmed. Here you will find all sorts of nourishing goodness on natural medicine, herb gardening and wholesome real foods. Read more about our farm HERE.