No-Waste Herb Gardening: 5 Tips to Grow Herbs in Small Containers

The kitchen herb garden sounds a bit idyllic, a bit witchy. Imagine being able to step out the door or reach up above the sink to your personal growing spice rack, snip off some fresh rosemary or basil when you need it, and toss it nonchalantly into the culinary masterpiece of your choice. Yet the prospect of growing herbs can feel daunting. These tips will help you get a kitchen herb garden started even in the smallest of spaces. 

1. Capitalize on Window Space

Window herb gardens offer a ton of versatility; even apartment dwellers with a kitchen (or near-the-kitchen) window can make this option work year-round. Invest in a sturdy suction-cup window shelf or hanging window herb rack and seeds or small plants from a local nursery. Check here for window style inspiration that makes self-sufficiency look sexier than ever. 

2. Keep it Simple 

Herbs are fairly easy to grow. But it’s easy to get caught up in the Pinterest-perfect ideal of a gorgeous herb garden and lose sight of your goals. If you’re new to growing herbs, start with two or three varieties you know you’d use frequently in the dishes you already cook. You can add on more “exotic” herbs once your base selections are well-established. 

3. Learn a Handful of Preservation Techniques

Having farm-fresh (or pot-fresh) herbs is fabulous, but so is having dried herbs, especially if your goal is long-term self-sufficiency. You can purchase or make your own herb drying racks, then dry your own herbs to keep indefinitely. Small batches of dried herbs are a great way for those in a small space (and with small plants!) to work toward self-sufficiency and stock up on essentials.

4. Get Creative with Unconventional Pots 

Don’t want to go out and purchase a fancy herb garden setup or new pots? You don’t have to. You can plant herbs in tea cups, unused coffee mugs, mason jars, or even water bottles; practically any container will work. If your chosen container doesn’t have holes in the bottom to let water drain out, make sure to line the bottom with rocks and/or incorporate Perlite in the soil, and water just enough to keep soil lightly moist. 

5. Propagate Like a Boss  

When your herbs go to seed (produce flowers and bloom), snap off the flower heads and collect seeds to start anew. Many herbs can also be propagated in a simple jar of water; to do this, snap off a tender stem of fresh growth, remove the bottom few leaves, and stand it up in a cup or jar of water. Not every cutting will grow roots, but some will, and these can be replanted in soil to start new plants.

If you’re growing in very small containers, you’ll need to replace plants a bit more frequently than you would growing outdoors or in larger pots. That’s okay! Especially if you’re preserving and propagating your own herb plants, you’re moving toward self-sufficiency. Still struggling? You don’t have to get it right on the first try. If your first attempt at growing your favorite herbs doesn’t last long, give it another shot–and don’t be surprised when the results far exceed your expectations.