herbsYou can honor the “moms” in your life and express your enthusiasm for their culinary creativity by treating each to a gift that will express your love throughout the year. Ditch that expensive bouquet of flowers that won’t last more than a week for the beauty and aroma of a container herb garden that will reward you with smiles and home cooked goodness well after Mother’s Day on May 12.

We all know that fresh herbs are the “secret” ingredients that moms use to turn a plain meal into an exceptional one that creates a memory for a lifetime. So do your moms, and yourself, a big flavor favor by bringing that freshness right into the kitchen (or nearby).

Putting together a container herb garden is quick, easy, and inexpensive (not that you want to be cheap when it comes to mom). Better yet, container herbs take little care, so mom doesn’t have to be a gardener to achieve success. Here are the basics you need to create your own special herb garden.

Choosing the Herbs

Herbs generally fall into two large families-mint and parsley.

The mint family includes some of the easiest to grow. Seed, cuttings, transplants, and root divisions can be employed to successfully propagate this family. Spearmint, peppermint, lemon balm, bergamont, basil, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, and thyme are all part of the mint family. Many of these make excellent teas in addition to being a flavor ingredient in recipes.

The parsley family includes parsley (Italian and curly), dill, fennel, anise, cilantro (coriander), and angelica. Plant seeds directly or purchase transplants for best success. This family of herbs tends to have a stronger flavor, so be sure the flavor is one mom likes before you decide to get adventurous. Many palettes, for example, find cilantro to taste soapy. Definitely not a flavor to give mom if it doesn’t suit her taste buds.

There are, of course, many of other herbs (culinary and medicinal) to choose from including chamomile, tarragon, chervil, lavender, sage, borage, chives, lamb’s ear, and even dandelion. In the end, selection all comes down to a matter of taste. In planning your container garden, select 3-5 different herbs with a flavor profile that you (and your mom) know and love.

Selecting a Container

When it comes to selecting a container for your herb garden, I recommend that you use your imagination. Since this IS for mom, you might want to “craft” something especially for her using recycled, found, or a hidden treasure from your youth. Whimsy seems to go naturally with herbs… (or is it Herbs?) Cut loose and have some fun!

The important thing is to be sure that the container has adequate drainage and a depth not less than 4 inches. The overall size of the container depends upon the cumulative size of the root balls in your herb garden with 20% added to accommodate plant growth. Will it be a half wine barrel, a decorative pot on the patio, or an herb wall growing in the kitchen?

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A wine barrel densely packed for a summer of cooking.

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Color, aroma, and taste in a single pot!

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An herb garden with a touch of whimsy. Perfect for a sunny spot on a kitchen counter. This tea cup planter makes cooking with fresh herbs a “snip”!

Potting, Watering & Feeding

When it comes to selecting a potting mix, drainage should be your first consideration. Herbs don’t like being drenched, dare I say drown. In fact, most herbs are drought tolerant and perfectly happy if you forget about now and then, thus my earlier emphasis on low maintenance. Purchase, or create, a mix that includes high quality compost (60%), perlite (20%), peat moss (10%), and sand (10%). Add a small amount of worm castings to the mix to provide the nutrients and biology that will sustain the herbs. Take care not to over-fertilize! Herbs are robust, resilient plants that don’t like to be pampered. Plant them and forget them! (Well almost.) Easy peasy.


Herbs tend to be sun worshipers that need 6+ hours of light per day. However, too much sunlight, especially during afternoon hours, can turn your container into a root oven. And we all know what that means. Dead herbs, and tears for mom. Be sure that mom’s herb garden is strategically placed to get enough sunshine without having to bear scorching temperatures. A little shade is a good thing!

Make Your Mother Happy!

You are now ready to start your container herb garden for mom. This is a garden that your mom’s, and Mother Earth will appreciate.

Happy Mother’s Day!

~The Dirt Dude