If you like to cook, having a plentiful variety of fresh herbs at hand is a real plus. Most of them are easy to grow. And beyond their kitchen-garden value, herbs can significantly increase your backyard enjoyment, by giving your patio a multi-sensory lift.
Herbs come in a lovely variety of leaf sizes, shapes, colors and textures. Nearly white and silvery gray to golden yellow, bronzy reds, and every shade of green. Smooth and shiny to crinkled or fuzzy. Spiky chives with their fun purple flower globes.
And the fragrances! So let’s get planting.
What makes a good container?
Anything – as long as you can drill a few drainage holes in the bottom. Sophisticated containers and tubs from the garden center. Recycled or found objects. Use window-box style planter boxes atop the guard rails that separate your raised patio or deck from the lawn or garden. Create DIY tiered planters. Or hang boxes and pots on a wall.
The nice thing about pots is that you can easily rearrange them any time you want a new look. Heavy containers are easy to relocate if you mount them on roll-around platforms.
Which herbs to grow?
Consider fragrance of flowers and leaves. Consider herbs that are actually evergreen shrubs such as rosemary, thyme, sage, and lavender. All come in many varieties now, including sages and thymes with variegated leaves, and all have lovely flowers.
Make it functional, too. Grow your culinary favorites, but choose some herbs you aren’t familiar with. Many lesser-used herbs such as borage and lovage make lovely garden plants, whether you harvest their leaves or not. Or consider something ethnic – ginger or lemongrass.
Feel free to combine your herbs with other edibles such as lettuces. Many new varieties are not only delicious but eye-catchingly beautiful. Basil and cilantro (coriander) grow fast, so you can plant multiple crops. Or let the cilantro keep going, for a show of snowy white flower heads and then seeds you can harvest.
Tuck in a few edible flowers – pansies, violas, tiny Johnny Jump-Ups, nasturtiums, calendulas. The blossoms on most of your herbs make beautiful edible garnishes for meat dishes and salads. Use garden-fresh herbs to create refreshing summer beverages, too. You can also add some of those bulbs you’ve been planting around your lawn. Tuck them into your herb containers, and you’ll have extra color and texture year after year.
What goes with what?
Herbs come in all sizes. You can deliberately vary heights to add visual interest by:
- Using different height pots.
- Planting taller varieties like dill in the back of groupings against a wall or in the center of free-standing pots.
- Adding a small trellis to accommodate climbers.
- Using trailing herbs in hanging pots or around the edges of containers.
Some hints for growing success:
- Baby plants look cute in tiny pots, but they won’t thrive unless you give them room to grow.
- If you’re going to plan more than one type of herb in a pot, make sure they all have the same water and sunshine requirements. Most herbs prefer full sun, but some, such as parsley and mint, tolerate or even prefer partial shade.
- Some herbs have big root systems, so make sure they have enough room to spread out under the soil surface as well as above.
- Don’t plant different mint varieties together. They can take on each other’s characteristics and lose their distinctive flavors.
From a tiny balcony to an expansive deck or patio, herbs can transform your outdoor space and take you on new culinary adventures as well. Now that’s a patio garden worth planting.