If you’re new to gardening and not sure where to start, growing herbs is an easy way to get your green thumb going. There’s no large plot to prepare or maintain (which can be daunting for newbies) and by growing different varieties, you’ll gain experience working with plants that have different watering and care needs.
Here’s a project sheet highlighting a few different ways you can grow them with many suitable for your patio or balcony (and even indoors too). I also added instructions at the bottom of this page for building a clever spiral structure. Enjoy!
|Hanging Coffee Cups: Make a charming outdoor display and grow your own herbs at the same time! Use enamel coated metal coffee cups as pots (drill a hole in the bottom first for drainage), paint in cheery colors then hang against an outer wall with twine, metal rings and screws drilled at cascading levels for a lovely display.|
|Hanging Pockets: Grow plants “vertical style” by simply filling each pocket of a shoe organizer with soil and herbs. This is also a clever way to hang your plants out of reach from inquisitive cats. Tip: Test the fabric of the organizer first to see if it will allow water to drain, if not, just make a few small holes in each pocket.|
|Vertical Gutter: Here’s a neat idea for those with limited space, attach plastic gutters to the side of the house (making sure to first drill small holes at the bottom of the gutters for good drainage) then fill with soil and plants or seeds. Tip: Add time release fertilizer to the soil when planting to help maintain the soil’s nutrient levels.|
|Strawberry Jar: Here’s an easy way to pack a variety of different herbs into one container while keeping them separated neatly (they’ll grow into a nice & decorative display). Tip: Mix a time-release fertilizer into the soil when planting, one dose can last all summer.|
|One-Pot Indoor Garden: Here’s a way to grow them year round indoors, all you need is a sunny spot, a big pot filled with soil and a few plants. Also see this page on chow.com for a nice reference that gives some ideas of different herbs you can try growing indoors. You’ll find watering, soil and potting tips on the second page. Tip: You can move the pot outside during warm summer months, the plants will love it!|
|Kitchen Container: No garden? No problem! You can grow a variety of kitchen herbs in a large pot or container, just use plant markers to label each and help distinguish which plant is which (they’ll eventually grow into one bushy mass of greenery). Tip: Keep the pot at the back door for easy access to snipping while cooking.|
|BBQ Container: Here’s a neat way to use an old hibachi or portable bbq! Fill with potting soil, a selection of your favorite plants and voila! a smart DIY garden. You don’t need the lid or grate to make this project and if you don’t have anything on hand, watch garage sales, craigslist, kijiji, etc., since you can pick up old barbecues and grills on the cheap. Also see this page using a hibachi for a similar project.|
|Tower: Five terra cotta planters in assorted sizes are cleverly stacked to form three plantable tiers, filled with potting soil and then an assortment of herbs are planted. Situate this compact garden in a sunny spot near the kitchen door for easy snipping.|
|Mason Jar Herb Garden: Mason jars are secured to an old wooden board with pipe clamps, triangle ring hangers and hanging wire. Suitable for indoors.|
|Space Saving Vertical Garden: Ideal for balconies, plastic pots (with a lip) are hung on a square-frame trellis using “S” hooks. Also has instructions for making your own garden markers using wooden paint stirrers (spray paint and label with a marker).|
|Tiered Wooden Planter: You’ll need some woodworking experience but it’s a relatively simple project. Built with weather-resistant cedar, herbs are grown on the top level so they’re easy to tend to and pick.|
This is a clever trick to grow several varieties of herbs, each with different environmental needs (full sun, moist, dry, shade, etc.), in a minimal amount of space. It’s also a clever way to conserve water since each watering flows from the top down to the plants at the bottom, water reaching each of them effortlessy.
Here is a collection of resources that provide information on what they are and how to build one.
The first is from Welcome To Voluntary Simplicity:
Many people seem to be interested in herb spirals, and rightly so if done properly they need little maintenance and can keep you in herbs all year round. For me they encompass all manner of permaculture principles from how close to house you can get it to including a a small pond so frogs can do some of the slug hunting for you.
Basically the idea behind them is to get as many different herbs as possible in a confined area. The spiral and the subsequent height differences mean that you create a number of different environmental conditions which normally would not be possible in a small space. The small area also means that they are ideal for a small garden and harvesting and watering is easy.
The next resource is this video:
- You can increase the planting space of a circle about 2 meters in diameter by raising the soil into a spiral which will give you about 9 meters of planting space.
- Keep size in mind when designing, everything should be easily reachable by hand. To start, take a rock and place it at arm’s length to the center, then build around.
- If you build the formation with rocks then fill with dirt, the plants won’t get the nutrition that they need. Instead, do a sheet mulch which will provide nutrients and create soil that will break down over time.
- The spirals provide different microclimates and soil types for different types of plants. Top center will be a warm, dry and sunny area that is well drained. The bottom will be cool, wet and shady. Choose plants that are well suited to each part of the structure.
The final resource is another video:
- As the foundation, lay cardboard over compostable items (peels, veggies, etc.). The cardboard will break down eventually and the veggies left will have broken down and then add more nutrients to the soil inside the structure. The cardboard also helps prevent grass from growing underneath and from across the yard.
- Sketch out the design on the cardboard then start laying the bricks over the pattern.
- Do as much building as possible in the center as the center can be up to 4 ft high.
- Use straw to fill up the spiral then water well. The mulch will break down over time as well as do a good job of holding moisture.
- For each spot that will hold a plant, make a hole in the mulch and put one or two handfuls of soil in there. Plant then water.
Very interesting stuff! You don’t need to build a huge one either, you can start with something small-ish near the kitchen door and just grow a handful of your favorite and most-used cooking herbs. You can also build them and fill with flowers or do a mixture of both.