Food & Swine

simple container herb garden


Today I spent less than 30 minutes planting herb plants I purchased into containers I have on my deck.  Our deck is located right off of our kitchen and over the past few years I’ve really enjoyed having fresh herbs to use out of these containers.  I planted a variety of herbs (I bought 8 containers of herbs that had 1-3 plants each) into my four 15-20 inch containers.  These herbs are enough to get our small family of 4 through the summer.  Herbs can elevate any dish, even using a minimal amount and most often are very versatile. The reason I began planting herbs is because a peek at my grocery list revealed I was spending way too much on them.  Rosemary was always one of my standby herbs and I finally planted it one year so I could have it for my Rosemary Garlic Compound Butter. *A complete list of what I planted and some of the dishes I use it in is at the end of the post, along with the recipe for the aforementioned butter which can be used on so many things!


Planting Strategy:

I try to pair herbs that are similar in flavors if two different herbs have to occupy the same pot.  (ie: I wouldn’t pair the Lemon Balm herb plant with something like oregano or even Rosemary because of the potential cross-contamination when they grow together in late summer.  Maybe this is not possible, but I swear I could taste Rosemary in my chives last year and frankly, that pissed me off.  Ha!

Gather up your tools, dirt, containers and herb plants of choice.  You can certainly plant the seeds, thin them, wait and wait and wait for them to grow to a useable size… but I’m more of a zero-patience, instant satisfaction type of person and like to purchase the started plants.  Plus they tend to do better for me and thrive a bit more in the conditions on my deck.  (All but my basil which totally gets weak and yellow by summer’s end.  I’m working on that this year.)

This is not rocket science, anyone can do it and you will thank yourself all summer long!

Let’s get started already!

Begin by removing old, dead herb plants from the previous year and mix the soils in the pots around.  Add a little compost and new black dirt if need be, just so things are new, fresh and ready for the plants.


One by one, cut off the plastic on the biodegradable container that is allegedly safe for planting with the plant.  I don’t like to plant them as I have done it before and the roots of those specific plants never took off.


This biodegradable material just peels right off and that’s what I do, peel it off and throw it away or add it to existing compost.  It shouldn’t be wasted but I never think it fully decomposes and it seems to inhibit the growth and expansion of some root structures in smaller plants and herbs, IMO.


I give the existing (bio-pot free) roots a little fluff and separation.  I only know to do this because it sounds right and my Mom did this when I was little.  I am NOT a gardening expert.  Absolutely not.  This is just what works for me.


There are various numbers 1-4 plants in each vessel I purchased today.  For the first time this year, I separated the plants and placed them all around the pot.  Hopefully this will encourage better growth… hopefully.


Someone loves to play in the dirt and smell the various herbs.  Her favorite is still rosemary which is surprising to me.  This picture was before we separated each respective plant to separate them with room in between.  Prior to planting each herb, I like to have a plan so I set the containers out in each large pot on top of the soil until I get them arranged just right, then we plant.


After organization, this is how I spread the plants out by dividing them gently.  This gives them a bit of room to grow.


During the planting process we put the little tags/stakes up and away to save them for a game later.


Game time: after planting we identified each one again using the photograph on the stake and sounding out the name.  (confusing words for a 5 y.o.: german, thyme, balm)


Now, once everyone has their place, water is needed.  We made a mock-watering can out of a spent milk jug.  Pierce the jug with a sharp tipped paring knife, cut X’s to encourage better flow of water. This is not the ideal watering can but it is cheap and easy to make on the fly. It helps watering with small children because drops of water come out… not a big pouring.  Gentle watering is necessary in the beginning stages of life in containers for these herbs.  Overwatering is bad! (*Be sure your containers have holes bored in the bottom to properly drain.)


Water away.




I also had to make another little watering device for crabby brother.  He promptly squeezed it backwards and it sprayed him silly.


Just drink the remainder buddy, if it makes you happy.


Or run around with your shirt pulled up.  Sweet.


I was glad for helpers today.  It is positively beautiful outside.


I hope you have a great weekend!

Here’s a list of the plants that I purchased today and a few dishes that I use them in.  (Throughout the summer I hope to have recipes for most all of these examples.)


Uses for dill in my kitchen: chicken salads, homemade ranch dressing, accompaniment for fish or chicken, egg salad, deviled eggs and more.


Uses for chives in my kitchen: potato casseroles, soups, mashed potatoes, twice baked potatoes, chopped in green salads for a light onion flavor, stirred into sour cream, risotto cakes, can be used in anything that would accompany a light onion flavor with freshness.

1-german thyme

Uses for thyme in my kitchen: soups, with roasted chicken, lemon thyme cookies and scones, etc.  It is a gently flavored herb.  Not overpowering.


Uses for Rosemary in my kitchen: in compound butter, accompanying beef, in my prize winning dinner rolls, in marinara sauce etc.

1-sweet basil

On pizza and in other Italian style applications.

1-lemon balm

infused in teas, minced finely and perfumed with sugar for sugar cookies or shortbreads, fruit salads, chicken salads using thyme, chicken dishes, shrimp dishes, pesto etc.  This is a strong herb but such a beautiful pungent smell and flavor.  Lots of staying power.


This is my NEW herb of the year.  Rubbing one leaf between my fingers left them with a beautiful and pungent lemon flavor.  I plan to try it in anything I’d use mint in and I also want to muddle some in cool cocktails this summer.  Lemon is a recently acquired flavor-fave of mine.

Herbs you can’t pay me to grow or ingest in any fashion:  Sage and cilantro.  Not a huge fan of marjoram and tarragon has too much of an anise flavor for me.

For professional and detailed information on each herb check out this Better Homes and Gardens link that describes every herb I’ve listed today and others that are well suited for containers.

Rosemary Garlic Compound Butter

By: Cristen

2 small cloves of garlic, peeled and minced

1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced VERY finely

1 stick of unsalted butter

Combine minced garlic and salt, smash together to make a paste (30 sec), add rosemary and butter, stir well.  Refrigerate if desired or serve immediately on top of dinner rolls, hot seared steak as an accompaniment or plain noodles, etc.



Previous Post Next Post


  • Reply Lois April 26, 2014 at 1:21 am

    Love the pictures.

    • Reply Cristen April 26, 2014 at 2:03 am

      Thank you! It was not easy handling two kids, dirt and the wasps swarming around! :)

  • Reply r April 28, 2014 at 1:30 am

    we must have been on the same page! I bought wood today to make one of my new raised herb beds. I have about 1/5 of my herbs started in an indoor greenhouse. Is there a particular reason you choose German thyme? That’s one I haven’t tried. Just wondering.

    • Reply Cristen April 28, 2014 at 7:06 pm

      German Thyme was simply by default, it likes my containers… :) Your tomato plant is looking great that you sent us! Thank YOU!

  • Reply r April 28, 2014 at 1:31 am

    btw love the kiddie pics!

  • Leave a Reply