ISSUE 37  |  Style on a Budget

Small Space DIY: Countertop Herb Garden

September 17, 2014 1:30 PM

BY Erin Boyle

One of life’s chief pleasures is the simple act of plucking one’s own herbs from a kitchen garden. For city folk without outdoor space, it can be easy to feel left out. But here’s good news for urbanites not graced with an abundance of space: herbs–like New Yorkers–are happy to cram themselves into small spaces.  

Read on for step-by-step instructions for making a DIY countertop herb garden:

Photography by Erin Boyle for Gardenista.

Above: All you need is one pot, five herbs, a bit of soil, plenty of sunshine and–presto–you have an herb garden.

Above: As a rule of thumb, it’s nice to keep similar herbs with similar herbs. For this garden, I chose five with relatively woody stems: rosemary, sage, marjoram, oregano, and parsley. All of these herbs prefer relatively dry soil and lots of sunshine. Another good combination might be herbs that all prefer slightly wetter soil; tarragon, chives, basil, and cilantro are examples.

Above: Start with small plant starts (or start your own) and remember that because you’re hoping to grow multiple herbs in just one pot, you’ll need to trim plants frequently to keep the garden healthy. (If you have a cooking habit, this bit shouldn’t be a problem). N.B. If you’re hoping to grow lots of a particular herb–enough basil for pesto, for instance–consider potting it separately to give it room to grow in abundance.

Above: Tiny Marjoram leaves belie the robust, sweet flavor; $3.65 for a packet of seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Above: Common Sage is one of the most versatile culinary herbs, but it’s a great choice for your herbalist endeavors, too; $3.65 for a packet of seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Above: Paravert Curly Parsley retains a compact shape, making it ideal for containers; $3.65 for a packet of seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Above: Pungent and delicious, Rosemary is delightful in edible recipes but I have a soft spot for adding the spiny stems to flower arrangements too (see my wire vase from last week); $3.65 for a packet of seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Above: Practically a requirement for homemade pizzas and tomato sauces, Oregano is also practically a requirement for kitchen herb gardens; $3.65 for a packet of seeds from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.

Above: Herbs can thrive in containers, but you’ll want to be sure that your container has good drainage and is large enough to accommodate five plants. I used an oval pot that’s roughly 12 inches long by 10 inches wide. I filled the container with organic potting soil from the local hardware store. A similar Oval Terra Cotta Planter is $50 from Botanik.

Above: I arranged the herbs with plenty of space between each one, making sure to loosen the roots before planting.

Above: I placed herbs that have a tendency to drape–such as the rosemary and marjoram–along the edges of the pot.

A pot of herbs like this one can live happily on a sunny kitchen counter or tabletop. When it’s time to water it, place the entire pot in the kitchen sink; allow it to drain completely after soaking. It’s not recommended to use a saucer or tray underneath the pot as herbs can rot relatively easily and won’t want to sit in standing water.

Above: Being able to snip herbs for an evening meal or cocktail is well worth the investment of pot and plants. 

See our archive of Herb posts for more culinary inpiration. Dreaming of a full-size garden? See our Kitchen Garden posts.