Herb Garden
Published June 20, 2022 by Nicole Burke

How to Grow Herbs in a Small Space

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Grow herbs in a small space with Nicole Burke

Growing an Herb Garden When You Don't Have a Lot of Room

You don't need a ton of space to grow your own herbs. A couple pots or one long container, and you can be stepping outside to your patio or balcony to cut some fresh herbs for dinner every night.

If you're just getting started growing herbs, I recommend creating your own herb planter. It doesn't have to be very big—in fact, you can start off pretty small.

No matter the size of your herb garden, your main goal is to re-create an environment that feels like home to the herbs you'll be growing. Unless you live somewhere like Italy or southern France, the herbs you might want to grow are probably not native to your area, so it's up to you to provide them with their ideal growing conditions inside a planter or pots. When herbs feel like their simple needs are being met, they'll give you harvest after harvest.

growing herbs in container

Growing Herbs in Containers

Most herbs are smaller plants with shallow root systems. The planter, pot, or container you pick to grow your herbs in needs to be at least 6 inches deep, but I recommend going for something that's a foot deep, especially if you're growing herbs in the Apiaceae family like cilantro, dill, and parsley, which grow a large taproot. I also recommend picking something at least a foot wide so that you can grow several different types of herbs in one container.

I have several sizes of steel planters that I grow herbs in. The largest is this rollable steel planter. It was super easy to put together (you can find full directions inside the Herb Garden Guidebook), and it can be rolled around my deck to chase sunlight. It's about 2 feet wide x 6 feet long, which gives 12 square feet of gardening space. That may not sound like a lot, but you'd be shocked at how much you actually can grow in this little bed!

large herb planter

Master the art of growing your own organic herbs

In this 100-page ebook, you'll learn all about the main herb plant families, how to set up your own herb garden, and how to plant it full of delicious, organic herbs.

Simple Steps to Create Your Own Small Herb Garden

Step One: Pick a Container

When selecting your container, choose natural materials. My favorites are cedar, steel, and terra cotta clay.

Here are three options for easy herb garden planters on Amazon. If you're shopping around on your own, look for words like "food grade" and "untreated" to ensure you're using the most natural of materials for your organic herbs.

galvanized steel tubs for growing herbs

Step Two: Add Drainage Holes

If your container doesn't already have good drainage holes in the bottom, make sure to add some with a drill. Space holes every 3 to 4 inches. Herbs dislike having their roots sit in extra water. In fact, the surest way to kill an herb is to overwater it in a container with poor drainage.

herb container with drainage holes

Step Three: Fill Your Container with Soil

Before filling your container with soil, put a landscape cloth, weed barrier cloth, or a coffee filter inside the bottom of the container to keep the soil from leaving the container every time you water.

Fill your container with a well-draining soil. I give you my recipe for the perfect soil blend for growing herbs in the Herb Garden Guidebook. Add 2 to 3 inches of compost to the top of your container to give your herbs a great start. I really like the organic mushroom compost from Espoma. Use a small rake to level the compost.

Step Four: Plant Herbs

When considering which herbs to plant together in a container, the most important consideration is water preferences. I like to plant herbs like rosemary, oregano, marjoram, lavender, sage, and thyme on the outer edges of my raised beds or herb planter, where the soil will dry out first, since they like to stay dry and do well being grown together.

Dill, cilantro, parsley, and basil all like their soil to stay more consistently moist.

The only herb that should not be planted with others is mint, which likes to spread out, and to accomplish this, it sends runners under the soil that can disrupt the tender roots of other herbs. It's best to grow mint in its own container or, at the very least, on the outer edges of your herb planter.

Overall, herbs grow more vertically than they do horizontally, which means you can pack more plants together. If you do so, though, make sure you're prepared to harvest leaves often. This will ensure each herb plant has access to the sunlight and air circulation it needs.

Make sure your container gets 4 to 6 hours of sunlight.

growing herbs in small planter

Growing Herbs in Pots

Herbs like lemon balm and mint do best grown in their own pot or small container. You can also grow any of the other herbs in their own pot.

Overall, the larger your pot or container is, the better the herbs inside will be able to maintain themselves. They can tolerate more abuse (like lack of water or too much sun) than if they're just in one small pot, where the soil will dry out much faster. If you are growing in pots, just make sure to monitor the soil's moisture more often than if your herbs were growing in larger containers or raised beds.

I like terra cotta pots because they help regulate the moisture level and come with a nice, big drainage hole. They're also a great budget option but still quite attractive.

growing herbs in pots

Where to Source Herbs for Your Small Garden Space

If you're going to buy mature herbs, the leaves will be ready for harvesting that very same day. I recommend buying organically grown plants from a local nursery rather than from a big box store.

Many of the herbs you buy from the store come more than one to the pot (to make them look fuller). It's actually best to separate them before planting them in your herb garden so that each little plant has space to grow to its full potential. Gently tug the roots apart to avoid damaging them. Plant separated herbs immediately because they're super fragile. Give them a nice watering in.

You can also start your own herbs from seed. Try these five herbs you can easily plant from seed first. Basil in particular does really well planted from seed. My favorite sources for herb seeds are Baker Creek and Botanical Interests.

growing herbs in pots

Refreshing a Small Herb Garden Each Season

If you're growing in small pots and containers, you can easily overwinter your herbs indoors.

If you're replanting a favorite herb garden container, it's really easy to prepare it for a fresh round of herbs. No need to replace all the soil—just follow these simple steps.

First, pull any old, spent herbs out. Chives will often return from their roots in the spring, and cilantro often reseeds itself. If parsley still looks healthy, keep it. It's a biennial and can last another year. You choose whether you're going to pull herbs that come back or leave them.

Next, rake the top of the garden space to clear out some of the leaf debris left over from last year. Leaf debris just gives pests a place to hide.

Add a couple inches of fresh compost and rake it in.

That's really all you have to do to get ready for planting. Super easy!

large herb planter

The Best Herbs to Plant in a Small Herb Garden

Here is a comprehensive list of our favorite herbs to grow in a small herb garden:

Herbs from the mint family (basil, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and summer, winter savory, and mint) have shallow roots that make them ideal for pots only six inches deep if that's all you have on hand. Cilantro, cumin, dill, fennel, and parsley will each need at least one foot of soil to stretch down into.

Growing herbs in container

Herbs Are Great Plants to Get Started With

Starting your own small herb garden is the perfect introduction to kitchen gardening. You can fill it with herbs you plant from seed or healthy plants purchased from the store. Herb gardens work in any small space, like a patio, a front porch, even a balcony of a high rise apartment.

Herbs don't take up much space, and they're easy to tend and harvest from. Cut some leaves and come back in a couple days for some more. When in doubt, just plant something ridiculously low maintenance like chives. Once you get a feel for caring for something so easy, you'll want to try your hand at more and more.

Believe it or not, this is just the beginning of what you can plant in your small space. Once you're feeling comfortable with growing herbs, you can explore growing flowering herbs like calendula, marigold, and echinacea.

Thanks for helping me bring back the kitchen garden, one small pot of herbs at a time!

Grow herbs in a small space with Nicole Burke

Whether you're a beginner gardener or a seasoned gardener, I would really love for you to take on the challenge of not buying herbs from the grocery store anymore, but growing your own. I know you're going to love the experience. You can get started right away and have tons of herbs all season long!

UNLOCK 43 VIDEO LESSONS TO GROW YOUR OWN HERBS

Learn the step by step to building, planting, and growing your own delicious herb garden for a year-found supply of herbs. Your Gardenary 365 membership includes access to the Herb Garden Guide, plus our entire content library.

How to Grow Herbs in a Small Space