Planting herbs in the ground is one way to grow herbs, but it certainly isn't the only way. If you're short of gardening space, growing an herb garden in pots is a perfectly good alternative, and you'll have pungent, aromatic herbs within easy reach on your balcony, deck or doorstep. Herbs are attractive plants that aren't difficult to grow, and can be effectively spaced between containers filled with colorful blooming plants.
Plan ahead. Don't plant sun-loving herbs with herb that prefer partial shade. Avoid mixing water-loving herbs with herbs that require dry soil.
Purchase small herb plants at a garden center or greenhouse. Choose compact plants with even color. Avoid straggly, leggy plants or plants with yellowing foliage.
Select a sturdy container. Although any container with bottom drainage will work, terracotta or clay containers work well for herbs because they are porous and will provide good air circulation to the roots. If you've used the pot previously, scrub the container with hot, soapy water and rinse thoroughly.
Fill the container with a loose, well-draining potting mix, such as a mix of equal parts commercial potting soil, perlite and peat moss.
Dig a hole in the potting mixture with a trowel. The hole should be approximately the same size as the herb's root system. Don't dig the hole too deep, as herbs planted too deeply will be more prone to rot. The top of the root ball should be even with, or slightly below the level of the soil.
Remove the herb from its container and place it in the hole. Tamp soil down lightly around the roots. Depending on the size of the container, you can plant more than one herb in the same pot. As a general rule, a 12-inch pot can safely accommodate three or four herb plants. A 16-inch pot can hold five or six plants.
Water the herbs immediately after planting. After that time, water the herb garden according to the specific needs of the individual plants. The nursery tags will list the plant's needs. If in doubt, most herbs do best if the soil is allowed to dry slightly between each watering. Check herbs in pots daily during hot weather, but never water excessively.
Place the pot where the herbs will be exposed to the appropriate level of sunlight. Read the tag in the nursery container for specifics. If you don't have the tag, it's safe to assume that most herbs require at least six hours of sunlight every day. If the plant begins to look wilted, move the pot where the plant will be in shade during the heat of the afternoon.
Fertilize the herb plants every third of fourth watering, using a balanced water-soluble fertilizer. If you prefer, you can add a time-release fertilizer to the potting mixture at planting time, and re-apply the time-release fertilizer every two months during spring and summer.
Harvest the herb garden as desired, as regular trimming will encourage the plant to continue producing. Harvest the herbs in the morning after the dew has evaporated.
Bring the herbs indoors before the first hard freeze in autumn. Place the pots near a sunny window or supplement low light with a grow light. Water the soil until water runs through the drainage hole, then don't water again until the top of the soil feels dry to the touch.