Starting a Planter Box Herb Garden

I’ve had the herbs I wanted to plant picked out for months: Thyme, oregano, chives and mint. I’ve had the location selected for a while too: Right outside the front door, on the thick railing that encloses my apartment’s landing stoop.

There was just the matter of choosing the right containers and soils for my herbs. Chives, thyme and oregano play well together. They all like well-draining soil, and do well to dry out between waterings.

Mint likes wetter soil, and will crowd out other plants if it is sharing a container. It does better on its own. Fortunately, I had a remedy for my mint dilemma. I had an old pottery container that was sitting empty. Perfect! I got a long, slender container to fit the remaining herbs.

I really wanted to make sure my herbs drained correctly. The planter I got to hold the chives, thyme and oregano had two large drainage holes in the bottom, but there was a deeper rim that would collect water and keep the planter too moist. I drilled small holes around the entire rim to ensure the container drained completely.

The composition of the soil for the herbs was equally important. I started with bagged “potting mix,” which is less dense than “potting soil.” Then I added perlite, a light rock made from puffed volcanic glass. Perlite keeps soil from compacting, and also helps it drain properly. My final mix was 60/40 percent potting mix/perlite. Because mint likes wetter soil, I used straight potting mix for it.

At the nursery I had selected two chive seedlings, two small thyme seedlings and a larger oregano plant (shown from left to right). Because oregano spreads the most, I planted it on one end. I anchored the herbs in my potting mix/perlite mixture, then topped them off with more mixture combined with an organic fertilizer. I mixed fertilizer into the potting mix for the mint, too.

The location for my herbs isn’t perfect. Thyme and oregano like lots of sun, and the balcony railing only gets sun in the late afternoon. We’ll see how they do. The location couldn’t be beat, however. When I want to pick a few sprigs of thyme, I barely have to step outside. Plus, the herbs are such a nice greeting at the top of the stairs.

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