What are some good plants for starting an herb garden?

I'm finally ready to start a garden on my balcony and I'm looking to start with herbs since they're fun to cook with, they smell nice, and I've heard that they're relatively easy to care for and can survive in a pot. Where to start?? Please let me know if there are any plants that you would particularly recommend for a potted herb garden. And go easy on me, I'm new at this!;-)
  7 answers
  • Catherine Smith Catherine Smith on May 19, 2013
    I've just gotten into growing herbs myself and found this site to be very helpful: http://www.designing-edible-gardens.com/BasicHerbGarden.html Looking to add a couple more this year, right now most of my herbs are in containers. We bring them inside for the winter. I have a small area set aside for starting seed, with lights. We just tuck the herbs under the lights and have access to fresh cooking herbs, year round. Plus the house smells so good. )
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on May 19, 2013
    Herbs do very well in containers, Naomi, provided your balcony gets a good amount of sun. Remember that plants in containers can dry out more quickly than plants in the ground, but don't overdo as herbs generally like it on the dry side. I'd say start with what you think you would use the most and branch out from their as your success gives you confidence.
  • Sleepy Maggie Sleepy Maggie on May 19, 2013
    One thing to remember is: they do NOT stay small and cute and manageable like they show in all those carefully-composed pictures of windowsill herb gardens. I am convinced that those windowsills are in the houses of giants! Herbs are mad to grow, and it would be a full-time job to keep them that small. I have learned to give each herb its own pot - a BIG one! And my rosemary shrub has been moved to the shrubbery border beside the front porch. Well they do say that a large rosemary bush outside a house means a strong woman lives there! :) The easiest herbs to grow from seed are basil and dill. In fact my method for growing them here is: 1.) Drop seeds on dirt 2.) RUN! These two are annuals, so they will die after the first frost (unless you have a really bright window and can bring them indoors - but most houses don't have anywhere near enough light to keep herbs alive through the winter.) The dill will probably re-seed itself and grow back without any input from you, but I find that these plants tend to have less flavor than those planted from new seed every spring. Dill and basil tend to get TALL, so put the pots they're in in back so you can get to the others more easily. Most other herbs are easier to start from bedding plants, and most of them are perennials and will grow back every year. Oregano and mints are very easy, but they really want to spread out, so you will have to take them out of the pot every year and cut their roots back, otherwise they'll become root-bound and shabby. They aren't really "trailing" plants per se, but do they flop over the sides of their pots in an attractive way after they reach a certain height. In Zone 6 and warmer, rosemary, thyme, and sage may even be evergreen (but if they do die back in the winter, don't worry, they are probably fine!) Put your thyme in front, and have a pot of chives for color, too (everyone says you should cut the flowers off your chives, but I never do, except when I harvest some of them to make pretty pink chive-flavored vinegar.) The only herbs I have ever had trouble growing are marjoram and terragon. For some reason I just can't get those to "take"! But try them anyway - you might just have a touch that I don't have!
  • Terry Terry on May 19, 2013
    Thyme and Chives also do well. I left my Chives out in the pot during the winter for the 1st time this year in zone 5, they are better than ever. Parsley and Cilantro are also good...just depends on what you like. Love the smell of Rosemary but I have not been able to keep it growing outside over the winter, and it doesn't do great indoors. Heed Sleepy's advice on the 1 plant per pot if you want to keep it growing year round.
  • Terry Terry on May 19, 2013
    Here are Chives and Cilantro in pots
  • 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) 360 Sod (Donna Dixson) on May 19, 2013
    In a 12" pot you can plant 1 chive, 1 oregano and 1 thyme. If you put a Rosemary in a pot you will need a very large pot and can expect for it to maintain well for about 3 years or so. Basil, cilantro, flat parsely, and curly parsley are short lived with a life expectancy of 1-2 years. Sage does 'ok' in pots but is somewhat more finicky with water (too wet or too dry).
  • Shaun Shaun on Oct 03, 2013
    basil and oregano are the best- easy to grow and smells amazing.
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