One-pot herb garden


I’m not one of those green-thumb people.  I really am not.  I’ve killed many a potted plant, among them cacti and even aloe vera.  So, it’s not without trepidation that I took this lovely one-pot herb garden home. 

I’ve been wanting to have potted herbs at home for a long time though.  Every Spring I mumble to myself, this year for sure, this year I’ll grow my own herbs.  I’ve grown tried of buying expensive, emaciated-looking herbs in little plastic packets from the store, yet every time I buy them in big bunches at the farmers market so much go to waste because I just don’t use enough at a time.

A few weeks ago I made my usual early Spring grumble in front of Cynthia at the garden.  Last week I went up there and there it was, a big "strawberry pot" filled with gorgeous, vibrant, vigorous-looking herbs, ready for me to take home.  Cynthia has made it especially for me.

Unlike my black thumbs, Cynthia’s are not only green they sparkle with
magic garden dust.  Everything she touches grows and grows and produces
the most delectable of produce.  Her Love Apple Farm–the kitchen
garden for Manresa–has turned me from a city-girl afraid of dirt under
her fingernails to someone who barely brushes off dirt from a
freshly-pulled carrot before devouring  it.


So, when she insisted even I could keep this one-pot garden, I chose to forget my old black-thumb days and believe her.  How hard can this be?  I live in (mostly) sunny California.  I feed my cat in the morning, then feed my Bob, I’ll just add watering my herbs to the routine and I should be set.  Well, I hope.  It’s only been a few days yet.  Check back with me.


I now have nearly all the herbs I need in my regular cooking: four kinds of basil (Thai basil, purple basil, regular basil and the mini greek basil), beautiful silver thyme, cilantro, parsley, tarragon, mint, and rosemary. 

If this pot survives and thrives, I might even get a second one, with room for one or two more herbs not in the first pot, like chervil and a couple different kinds of chive.  I’ll probably add more basil as well.  I use so much basil I could easily have the whole pot filled with basil alone.  I wonder if lemongrass will grow in one of this?  I might just give it a try.  Eventually you should be able to tell a story of my cooking from just looking at my potted herbs.

Have you got an herb pot or two?  What do you have?  Any advice for a novice like me?

Also, if you want to try making your own herb pots, Alanna at A Veggie Venture has some very good advice, and so do the hip kids at Apartment Therapy’s re-nest.

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32 Responses to “One-pot herb garden

  • dan said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 10:17am

    this year is also my first attempt at growing some herbs. i have sweet basil, thai basil, mint, chives, cilantro, oregano and thyme. I agree with you that it is kind of addicting and exciting as a first timer. I cant wait to actually be able to use them. the cool thing is I didn’t think I would notice so much progress but I can definitely see them growing every single day. right now it is pouring rain outside. I hope they are ok!!

  • Casey said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 10:33am

    I predict this is the beginning of a love affair. It’s so satisfying to go snip just the amount of herbs you need moments before you need them — and then there’s the whole world of herb flowers which you never can find at the store.
    J and I were at Love Apple Farm yesterday and I learned some new uses for herb flowers which Cynthia had learned from my favorite chef. Blogging about it soon.
    It’s raining in Santa Cruz? Herbs will be happy.

  • Casey said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 10:37am

    oops–careless reading. it’s raining at dan’s place, not pim’s.

  • Kitt said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 10:54am

    I suggest a big pot of Greek columnar basil. It grows like crazy (3-4 feet tall), and even more important, it doesn’t go to seed for a very long time. Regular basil has to be constantly pinched back, but not this stuff. It’s very fragrant and tasty.

  • robin said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 1:34pm

    I’d be interested to hear any tips you get from others or learn from your own experience—I too have a black thumb.
    Though I can always manage to grow mint.

  • oakley said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 1:39pm

    I used to have the east side balcony and had an okay herb “garden” there. Lemon Thyme thrived really well, and so did rosemary (although I think I unintentionally “bonsai” mine…it never grew in height but filled out the pot well). Cilantro got a bad case of aphids soon after it got to my balcony and died off. And my apple mint? That thing is a mutant, impossible to kill and grows like crazy too.
    I gave my herb garden away since my current apartment has a south window and no balcony.

  • oakley said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 1:42pm

    Oh I also did have basil, also in a smaller pot than it should be in, but it was doing bangin’ business…but then caught the aphids from the cilantro and died.
    As for the tips, rosemary doesn’t like as much water as the other guys, that’s one thing I came to know. Mint, you plant it and forget it. LOL.

  • Arruns said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 1:50pm

    You should expect the basils and the mint to crossbreed given enough time. Given the chance, the mint will throw runners and overtake the pot.
    Keep in mind that rosemary is a low water, poor soil plant and basil is water intensive, rich soil.

  • Casey said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 3:03pm

    oakley, I suspect you have the creeping variety of rosemary which never gets high, just spreads. I love it and use it to front some of my shrub roses beds.

  • Jackie said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 3:10pm

    Best of luck with this. I too tried to grow a one-pot herb garden this year and failed miserably. It started off gangbusters but everything died a few weeks later before any of the herbs were usable. I’m hoping your California weather will be a better help than what I was dealing with in the midwest.

  • faustianbargain said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 6:18pm

    pim, dont water them every day. every other day is probably keep them happier. good luck!

  • Kalyn said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 7:07pm

    Pim, you are going to absolutely love having your own fresh herbs close at hand! Have fun!

  • Lina said:
    May 12th, 2008 at 10:57pm

    Pim, I started my herb garden a few months ago and I love it. I have cilantro, basil, parsley, rosemary, chives, chamomile, mint, lavender, lemon balm and thyme. I water my herbs every other day except when it gets really hot I water them every day. I live in the bay area and the herbs are doing really good. Make sure that they get at least 6 hours of sun and you should be fine. Good luck

  • velops said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 12:50am

    Lemongrass is part of the grass family and therefore you can treat it like a lawn. Give it plenty of sun and enough water so that it doesn’t dry out.
    I would recommend that you give lemongrass it’s own pot. If grows fast and can bully other herbs for space and sunlight because it can grow up to 3 feet tall in a pot. My mom grows lemongrass in the backyard and it has taken over the area it grows in. refusing to let anything else grow near it, not even weeds.

  • Meg said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 1:08am

    Congratulations, Pim! I am sure you will quickly become an enthusiastic and successful herb gardener! A few things I have learned over the years:
    – as soon as you see the first flowers on basil, start pinching them off. Once the plant starts flowering, it puts all its energy into reproduction and stops producing leaves. I agree with your idea of having an entire pot devoted to basil – the bigger the better as it’s dead easy and so useful!
    – thyme and rosemary are the easiest to grow and just beautiful to look at with delicate purple and white flowers. Just buy the biggest bushiest plants you can find and water sparingly. They don’t like too much water or fertilizer. (I nearly killed one simply by feeding!) For some reason they seem to flourish for exactly two summers on my terrace and then die out. So don’t feel bad if yours do too.
    – if you grow mint, keep it in its own pot if possible as it will take over any container.
    – they aren’t herbs, but as long as you are balcony/window gardening, get yourself some strawberry plants! They are so pretty and easy to care for and they give you the tastiest fruit you’ll ever have. Plus, they are perennials and will come back every year providing you leave them out to catch the rain in the spring. If they can survive a Paris winter (with occasional snow!) I am sure they can survive CA winters!
    Enjoy! I look forward to hearing about your uses for the herbs!!

  • Siewyuk said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 2:18am

    i have thai basil, regular basil, lime, rosemary, coriander, spring onions and trying to get hold of lemongrass. spring onions are dead easy as i just throw some old shallots that are sprouting, into the soil and it grows really fast ­čÖé I just harvested a whole bunch of basil to make pesto and it was so fresh and tasty! remember to trim or prune your herbs regularly otherwise they lose their flavour. happy potting around!

  • Wally said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 2:28am

    You know having an apartment in Miami is great for growing herbs which I love. But, lately, I am spending so much time in NJ and traveling that it is hard to keep them. So I planted a garden too early in NJ this year, and the frost killed all of my peppers and tomatoes. Surprisingly, I still have most of the herbs. One place for plants and herbs, that I always use and swear by is While I have roommates and constant house guest to keep my two gardens cared for, I find their starter kits very helpful in having fresh herbs in cold climates. To be honest, have a few years of buying theirs, I have built my own.
    One note on Lemongrass, tried planting them – bought the plants, but could not justify the cost versus just buying it in a store. So hence, I buy them.

  • Helen said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 4:19am

    This is fab! I’ve just started growing my own herbs too on my balcony. I only have mint, rosemary, Greek basil and sage for now though. I’ve got really into the growing thing and planted tomatoes, potatoes and a bay tree too. It’s so exciting watching them grow!

  • Aaron Kagan said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 8:45am

    I’ve just transplanted some arugula and French sorrel that I started from seed indoors at the end of the winter. Generally, I find growing a little something that you can cook with just as easy as cooking it.
    Since you asked, here’s two bits of advice:
    1. Pinch off blossoms. It will make your plant do more of what you want it to.
    2. Dry your surplus. Just hang it out of direct light in an area with decent ventilation, and once it’s dry (but still green – brown means dead), you can store in glass.
    Happy growing.

  • nom said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 10:01am

    Je cherche Killme (yeah), ├ža fait un moment (yeah baby) que je l’ai pas vu (roll over, yeah baby yeah) et je crains qu avec ses rhumatismes (yeah) il a pas pu se lever (baby) de sa chaise (yeaaaaaaaaaaah), je m inqui├Ętes (yeah) beaucoup (yeah baby)

  • Carolyn Jung said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 6:58pm

    I thought I was the only one who had such a black thumb. I’ve killed plants that people say can flourish in a closed box. Oy!
    But this year, lo and behold, a miracle happened. A tomato plant from last summer that by all rights was supposed to perish over the winter, is now green and lush, and boasting five good-sized green tomatoes on it. I don’t know how it happened. I’m just amazed that it did.

  • Thip said:
    May 13th, 2008 at 8:52pm

    I only have kaffir lime tree at home. It doesn’t have any leaves right now. Hopefully, the leaves come back soon.

  • sabina said:
    May 14th, 2008 at 12:19am

    hey darlin…well although i grow things well enough some herbs are more tenacious than others. tarragon is challenging to grow, which is why you don’t see that much around, due to the seeds being quite fragile. i believe that the only reason i have some that is finally doing well, is because last year’s failed attempt produced enough seeds to yield volunteers.
    cilantro needs more water than parsley or oregano although they are happy near each other. i like to plant basil, near tomatoes and marigolds for companion plant benefits, which discourages pests that might nibble on their bounty. well almost, boy and dog nibble on their bounty a plenty.
    i too have a strawberry planter (give the inventor a genius award) that i filled with succulents, it’s very lovely as are your lush herb clusters, a brilliant idea indeed.

  • Maya said:
    May 15th, 2008 at 6:23am

    Good luck with the herb garden Pim!
    I have just planted some herbs and 3 varieties of tomatoes, some hot chillies, bell pepper and eggplants this past weekend in pots and set them on the patio. My advise is simple – don’t forget to water them!! ( clay pots dry out quickly).

  • Mark said:
    May 15th, 2008 at 12:38pm

    i’ve not had much luck with herbs on my nyc apartment windowsill, but i do have some there right now – just some thyme, oregano and sage, as well as a lemon verbena plant, which i got on a whim at the greenmarket, and i really like. i’ve found that the leaves are lovely thinly shredded as a garnish for both carrot soup and carrots vichy. i was thinking they’d be nice to infuse a panna cotta or a creme anglais too. it is also quite visually appealing – looks like a tiny tree …

  • Robin Bergman said:
    May 15th, 2008 at 10:31pm

    Even though I have grown many herbs over the years, mostly outdoors and a few indoors on my screen porch, the season here is so short (Boston) and I’m away on business so much (relying on house sitters to hopefully keep plants watered properly) I finally broke down 6 weeks ago and bought an AeroGarden. It’s hydroponic, and it keeps the plants moist for you. It has lights that blink approximately every 2 weeks to remind you to refill the water and add the nutrient tablets. I have herbs growing in the kitchen (2 kinds of basil, parsely, mint, dill, chives, oregano)… the selection of herbs came with it. I’d love to pick and choose next time as I’d love Thai Basil and Vietnamese Coriander, Shiso, etc… and maybe some edible flowers. I like chervil, too, and maybe lemon thyme, cilantro. So far, the herbs are thriving! I’ve just started cooking with them. Made Avgolemeno Soup using the dill, want to make basil ice cream w/the basil and something with chickpeas and mint, lemonade with mint, etc. Even though having to plug it in and use power doesn’t totally appeal to me, after many failures and the same experience as you buying herbs, I think it’s worth it so far!
    Good luck with yours, they look gorgeous! If I lived in CA I would try that, too!
    You can also start seeds in it and replant outdoors, or get pods and put your own seeds in. I’d love to find a good seed source for the more exotic herbs (shiso, thai basil, vietnamese coriander, etc, as I’ve only gotten them as small plants at the nursery). I’d love to grow nasturtiums, too, and mesclun salad mix…

  • Tea said:
    May 19th, 2008 at 10:49am

    What a very cute herb garden! Such a sweet gift.
    I think cilantro is the one you have to watch. It will “bolt” in the heat (shoot up and go to seed). This is not all bad as you can use the seeds for cooking–coriander–but by that point it stops producing leaves to use. If you clip the leaves (and use them, of course) it will produce more baby leaves. Here’s some more info.
    I’ve decided that happiness is a garden of fresh herbs–hope you have fun with yours!

  • Huebscher said:
    May 25th, 2008 at 12:34pm

    cilantro probably won’t bolt as quickly in the south bay as it does here in texas.
    after pinching it back for the last 3 months, I just lost the battle. I yanked all of it and put in vietnamese coriander.
    also awesome patio plants, even with the hard freeze we get in winter: K-lime and meyer lemon.

  • Andrea said:
    May 29th, 2008 at 10:36am

    That’s so funny, we have a pot exactly like that one! However we (and by “we” I mean my husband) keep putting the wrong stuff in there, like squah (what was he thinking!?) and strawberries (the few that live get carried off by squirrels). It really is meant for herbs, and I think I’ll show hubby your picture and try that. I’ve had some success with herbs but you’ve inspired me to try again and be more intentional about it. Thanks abd good luck! You will LOVE culling your own herbs. Try some parsley too. –Andrea from rookie cookery

  • Rico said:
    November 20th, 2008 at 2:12am

    I just love the idea of one pot herb centre, however it looks a little small if you want it for cooking, but as decoration and fragrance centrepiece it looks fantastic.

  • steve Cuvin said:
    December 29th, 2008 at 11:58am

    Pim, hi. I was given a jar of “Tomates Vertes a la Melisse” from Manresa as a gift. I tried to find online some info that would indicate the best uses of such a confiture, on toast, as a chutney, with meat?…, without luck, but I did come across your blog, which confirmed what Manresa was, and who Pim is, at lest to a certain extent.
    I am grateful to come across your blog, for being someone raised in Paris and New York, and a lover of food and the experience of cooking and eating, I am quick to appreciate such a fine sense of culinary intuition and love.
    I would be equally grateful if you’d be kind enough to share some of the uses of the green tomatoes with lemon balm.
    Thank you

  • Tiffany Pendant said:
    February 8th, 2010 at 10:27pm

    The pictures say it all, what a wonderful party this is! Great job!

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