If you’re fortunate enough to have a balcony, backyard or front porch, planting herbs is a no-brainer. They’re affordable and can grow anywhere — even if your space is limited.
I maximized the vertical space on my tiny Toronto balcony by planting the herbs in tiered macrame plant hangers. I made the plant hangers with 3mm cotton rope hung from a gold metal ring. If you’re crafty, they’re surprisingly simple to pull together. The plant hangers on the left and right were created with just four strings, and didn’t require any fancy knotting techniques (if you can tie your shoes, you can do it!). If you’d rather have them delivered to your door, order some online for under $10.
Which herbs should you get?
I started my garden with the five classics — mint, oregano, rosemary, basil and chives. Fortunately, most herbs are well-suited for a balcony garden, preferring full sun and regular waterings. I plan to give mine a sip of water every few days (unless there’s a rainfall, which does the job for me).
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Other annual herbs that would work well include fennel, dill, cilantro, parsley, lavender, sage and thyme. You can grow herbs from seed but the simplest method is to buy them ready-made in plastic pots. You can find them at most grocery stores when the weather warms up, but I’d recommend getting them from a garden center where they’ll be a little hardier. I spent $25 to fill all eight pots.
What pot should you plant them in?
I purchased six-inch diameter tin pots from the dollar store for $1.50 each. Herbs love to have drainage, so I bought a metal drill bit and put three holes in the bottom of each pot. You can easily swap these out for terracotta pots, which already have a drainage hole, plus the porous material allows air and water to move through the walls (preventing soil disease and root rot). You can find them at the dollar store, craft store or hardware store for under $5 a pot. Keep in mind, herbs are quick to multiply. The larger the pot, the more you’ll get.
How do I plant them?
Start by gently removing the herbs from the plastic pots they came in. Purchase some potting mix and place a handful at the bottom of the tin pot. Place the herbs in the middle of the tin pot and then pack potting mix around the sides of the plant until it’s firmly in place. Give it a good watering to help everything come together. Then place them in the macrame plant hangers and you’re done!
Basil is a classic in Italian cuisine for a reason. You can garnish pizzas with it, dress up a homemade tomato sauce, or chop it into a simple salad with tomatoes, balsamic vinaigrette and bocconcini cheese. Yum! Give your basil full sun with lots of water. Basil is extremely sensitive to the cold, so wait until the weather warms up before bringing this herb outside.
Chives are one of the best herbs to start with because they grow like a weed and barely need any attention. We had chives in soil on the balcony over the winter that grew back on the first sunny day without any care (and despite being covered in snow all winter). They have a zippy onion taste that adds fresh flavor to any dish. Mix them into a salad dressing, potato dish, or garnish your pasta with their bright green stems. Chives prefer full sun with evenly moist soil.
Rosemary is known for punching up poultry dishes and savory stews. It is also incredibly fragrant and looks just as good lining your sill as it does in your soup. Rosemary will do best with six to eight hours of direct sun. It’s native to the rocky hillsides of the Mediterranean and doesn’t do well with wet roots. Plant it in well-draining soil that dries out between waterings.
Mint is a perennial with very fragrant, toothed leaves that release a fruity, aromatic taste. It’s a staple in my house for garnishing cocktails and enjoying sweet mint tea on our newly decked-out balcony. Mint thrives in light soil with good drainage and prefers to stay evenly moist. Most mint varieties will tolerate some shade, but they do best when they have lots of sun. Mint grows wildly fast, so if you’re planting it in a large pot or garden, be sure to space out the plants at least two feet apart.
Oregano comes from the mint family, but grows just as easily as chives. It has a spicy, somewhat bitter flavor that is a signature in many Italian, Spanish and Mexican dishes. It grows best in well-drained soil with full sun. Be careful not to overwater oregano — it prefers to dry out completely between waterings.