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Herb garden basics

A row of pots with herbs growing in them.

Flavorful herbs are an attractive, tasty and aromatic addition to your container garden. Perfect for salads, soups and other dishes, there's no substitute for homegrown herbs. Plant a single herb in one pot, mix several types in the same pot, or combine with vegetables.

Herb basics

Most herbs thrive in the sun, although a few such as basil and mint tolerate partial shade. Check your sun loving herbs every day to make sure they're not dried out. Water in the morning before the temperature rises, using a nozzle with a fine spray to help keep soil from splashing out of the pot. Fertilize herbs with a half-strength liquid solution once a month through spring and summer.

Growing together

It's easy and convenient to grow herbs and vegetables together in the same pot. Just be sure to match plants with similar growing conditions and seasons. For example, annual herbs like cilantro, dill or parsley get along well with beets, carrots and radishes. Avoid overcrowding and place herbs in front for easy picking.

Delicious choices

You can start most herbs from seed, but for quicker results buy young herb transplants in 2-inch nursery pots or cell-packs. Let your appetite be your guide when choosing herbs. Fresh parsley, basil, thyme, and oregano are basic in Italian dishes, while cilantro is a must for Mexican cooking. Other cooking herbs like chives, dill, marjoram, mint, sage, tarragon, or rosemary will enhance almost any dish you prepare.


Although container gardening eliminates many problems with pests, they can still be a problem. Get rid of most insects by simply spraying with a mild soap solution. If you prefer to keep your herb garden organic, just grind up one clove of garlic, add to one cup of water, strain and spray on plants. Don't use pesticides on your tender herbs.


It's amazing how fast your garden of seasonings go from pot to table. Snip off tender herb sprigs as you need them, but never trim off more than a third of the foliage at a time. Frequent snipping and pinching stimulates dense, quick growth. Annual herbs like basil and dill should be cut back several times during the growing season. Rosemary, thyme and other woody perennial herbs should not be picked during hot weather, while leafy evergreens such as oregano and sage can be harvested year-around.

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