Horticulture Magazine

10 Herb Garden Ideas for Indoor & Outdoor Growing

rosemary blooming in focus

Keep your kitchen cupboards stocked and your culinary creations spiced with these ingenious herb garden ideas.

There’s nothing quite like a bunch of freshly chopped herbs to bring a dish to life. Whether it’s a handful of basil for pastas and pizzas, a sprig of rosemary and thyme to liven up your lamb or a sprinkling of coriander to invigorate stews and infusions, having herbs on hand and on demand should be a top priority for any amateur chef.

Thankfully, growing your own herbs at home is a straightforward enough endeavour for even the most inexperienced of horticulturalists. They’re resilient, require little in the way of maintenance and take up next to no room, meaning that a small (or non-existent!) garden shouldn’t be an impediment to you crafting your very own herb garden with everything you need to concoct wonderful culinary creations in the kitchen.

Below is a rundown of 10 of the best herb garden ideas to suit all environments and levels of competence. Not so confident in your green-fingered abilities? Choose a self-watering option. Don’t have a whole lot of room to play with? Consider a wall-mounted or window-hanging alternative. Committed to sustainability and doing your bit for the environment? An upcycled garden is the way to go. Whatever your needs and your preferences, there’s an option to suit.

1) Windowsill selection

basil and thyme growing on a windowsill in white ceramic pots
Window dressing

A windowsill is a perfect location for a herb garden. It’s the ideal compromise between being out of the way but also within easy reach when it’s needed, plus the plants will be ideally positioned to absorb as much of the sun’s rays as possible. Since space is still likely to be an issue in a ledge as narrow as the one bordering a window, it’s a good idea to pick three or four of your most used herbs and plant them here. You can accommodate the rest in one of the other suggestions listed below.

If your sill is large enough, you can choose standalone pots like the ones pictured above, even adding more containers if the dimensions allow it. On the other hand, those with reduced space could benefit from a hanging planter that fits right into the nook of the window. Not only will this free up space below them for placing kitchen tools and utensils, but it can also create an attractive design feature framed by the window backdrop.

2) Self-watering gardens

an indoor planter system with various potted herbs
Herb cultivation made easy

For those with little experience in the garden – or with little time to devote to the activity – there are plenty of new-fangled options on the market which turn horticulture into a cakewalk. Some of the most innovative and convenient of these gizmos include self-watering herb gardens, which remove the need for you to remember to continually keep them hydrated. You can even make your own DIY self-watering planters with a little bit of ingenuity and creative thinking, although these generally aren’t quite so technologically advanced.

The beauty of self-watering herb gardens – aside from the obvious convenience they offer – is the sheer range of options available to you. If you want to go the whole hog, you can plump for a sophisticated model which regulates not only irrigation, but light exposure, temperature and humidity, too. A more modest option is pictured above, which still contains a large amount of herbs but in a more rudimentary system, while the back-to-basics approach can turn an old glass or plastic bottle into a bespoke self-watering planter with just a little bit of elbow grease. The choice is yours.

3) Recycled planters

recycled tin cans with salad and herbs growing from them
Waste not want not

Speaking of reusing old bottles, an upcycled herb garden can be a great way to boost your sustainability credentials and create a quirky home feature, all in a single stroke. Both wine and soft drink bottles work well here, but the options are virtually endless. Mason jars are particularly effective for a modern aesthetic, while tin cans (like those pictured above) are great at accentuating an existing shabby chic décor. You can even repurpose your finest china tea cups by planting herbs in them for an elegant display!

No matter the medium you eventually choose to house your herbs, just remember to ensure that you thoroughly clean the receptacles beforehand, you use good quality soil to bed them in and, most importantly of all, you create a hole in the bottom of the makeshift pot to allow for easy drainage. Otherwise, your herbs will soon become waterlogged and drown, which isn’t conducive to them lasting the test of thyme (sorry!).

4) Al fresco upcycling

a wood pallet labelled with different plants including oregano, chives, thyme, rosemary, dill, basil, cilantro, mint and parsley
Repurposed pallets make great herb gardens

Your sustainability efforts don’t have to be confined to an indoor setting, either. Wooden pallets can be easily transformed into a fantastic impromptu herb garden by flipping them on their side, filling the apertures with soil and planting your favourite specimens in the slats. You might find that your local garden centre is willing to donate a spare one to you free of charge – especially if you’re a valuable customer of theirs – but even a nominal fee is a small price to pay for this ingenious home planting solution.

Other ideas for upcycling furniture include turning old ladders, bedside tables or chest of drawers into new and unusual herb gardens, simply by making the most of rung and drawer space to cultivate your creations. Guttering is another excellent material then lends itself well to the purpose; simply chop a drainage chute into manageable sections, drill holes in the bottom and fill with soil. Given that they’re designed to be positioned off the ground anyway, they’re an ideal option for a hanging herb garden outside your back door.

5) Wall-mounted herbs

vertical herb garden in an urban garden
Vertical herbs maximise the dimensions of your garden

If space really is at a premium in your back yard, a vertical herb garden is the ideal way to ensure your kitchen never runs out of its essentials whilst still not encroaching on the limited dimensions available to you. You can use bespoke products like the one in the photograph above, while an adapted shoe organiser is the perfect shape and size for repurposing as a planter. The canvas material is strong enough to support the herbs and soil, but porous enough to allow excess water to drain away in times of heavy rainfall.

On the other hand, you don’t have to go for a design quite as grand or as ambitious as either of these options. Even individual plant pots welded to the wall with metal or iron brackets will function exceptionally well in giving you access to the herbs you need in the space you have to work with. Whatever type of structure you go for, just make sure it’s fixed securely to the supporting wall – otherwise, your herbs could come crashing down around your ears.

6) Potted herb garden

various plants and herbs in different types of pots
Small but mighty

If in doubt, it’s always an idea to keep things simple. The diminutive dimensions and the meagre maintenance requirements of almost all herbs mean that going down the old-fashioned potted route inevitably brings dividends for indoor or outdoor planting. With the herbs contained in individual pots, you can easily move them around to take advantage of plentiful sunshine in the summer months or bring them indoors when the mercury plummets and the heavens open. As such, potted herbs are a straightforward solution to your gastronomic growing needs.

It should be remembered, of course, that different herbs have different requirements when growing them in pots, so it’s important to tailor your approach to the plant in question. For example, some prefer well-hydrated soil mixtures, while others prosper in a drier medium; some like lots of sunshine, others do better in shade; some can only cope in high humidity, others prefer a crisper climate. Again, the versatility of potted herbs means that you should be able to accommodate those specifications with a little forward planning.

7) Mobile herb garden

yellow wheelbarrow outdoors with plants growing from it
Chives on wheels

Speaking of portability, you could always take the idea to the next logical step by planting the herbs directly into a movable receptacle. An old wheelbarrow is perfect for this, since it’s already been designed to cart loads around the garden. Simply drill several drainage holes in the bottom of the barrow and fill it with compost, then arrange your favourite herbs as artfully as you like. Come rain or shine, you’ll be able to ferry your garden to a sheltered or exposed spot as the situation warrants.

Other options for creating a mobile herb garden include tool trolleys, small wheelie bins or even an old bicycle, since the basket in front of the handlebars can serve as an excellent and offbeat window garden. Alternatively, you can quite easily fashion your own; all you need are a few pieces of wood, a set of castor wheels and the knowhow to put them all together. With this kind of bespoke design, you can be as simple or as sophisticated as your abilities allow.

8) Companion planting

spring onions and parsley planted together
Spring onions and parsley are the best of bedfellows

Another idea for how to arrange your herb garden for optimum impact is through companion planting. This is the practice of pairing herbs with one another (or with other plants in the garden) to deliver mutual benefits for both. For example, certain herbs give off unique aromas which common pests find unpleasant, thus deterring them from desecrating your crops. Others exude scents that attract pollinators or other friendly creepy-crawlies, while there are even a number of herbs that can enrich the soil with important essential oils.

Perhaps best of all, some herbs will enhance the flavour of other herbs and crops in their vicinity. Basil, chamomile and tarragon are some such options, while garlic gets on amiably with almost all other plants. Mint, chives and coriander are all adept at repelling aphids, while catnip and lavender bring bees and butterflies by the bucketload. Just remember that certain herbs – such as fennel – are not quite so user friendly and will benefit from being cultivated alone, so read up on possible pairings before you plough ahead.

9) Herb spirals

a herb spiral garden
Play to the strengths of your herbs in a compact configuration

If you don’t have a whole lot of room to work with, a spiral herb garden can be a great option for cultivating your culinary vegetation. The beauty of this arrangement lies not just in its space efficiency, but also in the freedom and flexibility it offers you to cater to the requirements of different plant types. For example, you can position those herbs which prefer full sunlight at the top of the spiral and stagger ones which thrive in partial shade further down the chain, thus satisfying all comers in the same design.

The spiral featured above is a mid-sized variation on the theme, but you can play with the dimensions according to the space that’s available to you. For really tight spots, you can even dispense with the kind of rockery aesthetic replicated above and instead create a pyramid from different sized pots, planting different herbs in each level. This maximises the space, offers differing levels of shade and even allows for a trickle-down irrigation system, ticking a number of boxes with just one design.

10) Hydroponic herbs

basil growing in a hydroponic system with wool
Soilless growing with the wonders of hydroponics

Hydroponics is becoming an increasingly popular method of growing plants among both green-fingered novices and commercial businesses, chiefly due to the fact that it’s a great way to cultivate crops in a smaller space. It also dispenses with the use of soil entirely, meaning it requires one less resource, with all the nutrients dispersed among the water and a continuous airflow ensuring the root network remains oxygenated at all times.

As with the self-watering avenue outlined above, there are all kinds of store-bought hydroponics kits with varying degrees of capacity and technological capability. There are deep-water systems, drip systems, ebb and flow systems and aeroponic systems, each with its own features and advantages. And best of all, the herbs will grow up to 50% faster than via a traditional growing medium, there’s no mess from the soil and you don’t have to worry about watering them on a constant basis! A weekly or even biweekly check on the nutrient levels in the solution is all that’s needed to keep your chives thriving and your fennel flourishing.

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