Parsley, sage, rosemary and... one pot?
April 2, 2008 9:23 AM   Subscribe

Basil, parsley, mint, sage, rosemary: which combinations will work best when potted together in a balcony herb garden?

The herbs are in the standard starter peat-pots; I've got a couple of long 12in planters that hold three abreast. I've also got a couple of larger round pots. So, I'm not sure whether to plant the perennials and annuals separately, or group them according to whether they prefer full sun or partial shade, or whether to keep separate the ones with a reputation for being invasive (mint).

I'd gladly add a few more herbs to these five, especially if that would allow for better combinations.
posted by holgate to Home & Garden (12 answers total) 48 users marked this as a favorite
I wouldn't worry too much about it. They'll all do well together and if one gets out of hand, the amount of work to prune it back by hand won't be excessive.

See if you can find some lemon thyme. It's easy to grow and quite delicious, and it's a flavor that doesn't dry or travel well. I like to throw a bruised sprig or two in the shaker when making a martini.
posted by ikkyu2 at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Great selection, and fresh herbs from the balcony are a treat to cook with. I think you have two easily grouped sets of plants. The basil, parsley and mint will all appreciate more moist soil than the sage and rosemary. I'd pot them up in a standard quality container mix in planters with good drainage, and be assiduous in watering especially in hot weather. The sage and rosemary are Mediterranean herbs, and will appreciate a bit of sand added to their mix and somewhat less watering. Also, the first group will do fine in partial sun, while the sage and rosemary will do better in higher light.

I've found it no problem to pull out annual herbs out of pots that also hold perennials and just put new plants in their place. That said, the mint can be enthusiastic and might like its own planter ;)
posted by vers at 9:33 AM on April 2, 2008 [3 favorites]

Maybe the basil and parsley would be good together in the same pot.

Whatever you do, though, keep the mint in its own separate container. Mint tends to be very invasive of other plants around it and can easily take over a container/garden.
posted by pushing paper and bottoming chairs at 9:35 AM on April 2, 2008

Best answer: Personally I'd keep them all potted separately, even if that means putting individual pots into the planter. I'd use plastic pots to conserve moisture, then put those in something more decorative if you want.

Rosemary will become a small woody shrub if you keep it happy. Sage is kind of like this as well. As you mentioned, the mint will grow like crazy. Basil is a much softer plant, and will likely need more water than the others, especially on very hot days. It's just easier to keep them all happy in separate pots, IMO.

If you have to, just put them all in the planter. None of these are particularly easy to kill, and you'll certainly get them all through the spring-summer-fall season.

Also, plant more basil than the other stuff. You'll likely use more of it.

All of these will do best in full sun.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 9:35 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Plant one of the planters with just basil and maybe one with just parsley. You'll probably use both pretty quickly. Definitely keep the mint separate. I have a three year old mint plant that's completely root bound every year, even though I thin it out every season.
posted by electroboy at 9:41 AM on April 2, 2008

Rosemary will become a LARGE woody shrub if you keep it happy; I have one in my yard that was bought at about 5 inches tall and is now about 4 feet tall, and gets pruned every year to keep it at that size. Of course, in a container it won't go as crazy, but I'd put it and maybe sage together, definitely basil on its own or with other tender herbs. You might also like chives (garlic chives are yum!); they grow like mad, multiply every year, and have interesting flowers if you let them. They're great to snip a few fresh ones onto a baked potato or into your stir-fry. Personally, the mint, I'd toss out.
posted by TochterAusElysium at 9:50 AM on April 2, 2008

Fresh oregano is a beautiful thing, so if you can get your hands on some I'd recommend it. Seconding lemon thyme, and I'd also recommend flat-leaf vs. curly parsley (but that's purely my own bias). I would also (and do) keep them all separately planted. It just makes things easier if you have to change it up for whatever reason.
posted by cooker girl at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2008

Mint will swallow everything. Keep it far way from everything else.

(Throw out the mint?! Heresy! Use it to make Vietnamese summer rolls all summer, put some in lemonade, blend it with olive oil and marinate lamb in it before grilling...)
posted by desuetude at 10:00 AM on April 2, 2008

Another use for extra mint: chop it up and freeze some in water to make mint ice cubes. Serve with iced tea instead of standard ice cube.
posted by true at 10:51 AM on April 2, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: A quick FYI about rosemary- it's a very slow grower... so if you don't want an imbalanced look to your pot with the sage (which I thing is a good suggestion) you might purchase an older, larger rosemary and a smaller sage...
posted by InstantSanitizer at 11:19 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks so much: lots to go with here. I've grown herbs in garden plots and pots before -- mint, chives, chervil, borage, savory -- but the balcony setting is a little trickier.

I'm tempted to plant together, because I've got potting soil and perlite for drainage, but I also see the advantage of keeping things separate, albeit in bigger plastic pots.

So, if I choose to plant, it'll be parsley and basil in one planter (and probably +1 basil), rosemary and sage in another, perhaps with lemon thyme and/or oregano for company, and the mint on its ownsome. And if I keep them separate, it'll still be the same grouping, just in the bare planters.
posted by holgate at 11:45 AM on April 2, 2008

Response by poster: A seven-week follow-up: I kept the basil, parsley and mint separate (pots-in-a-planter), and while the basil isn't doing so well -- I have a load of seedlings coming up to supplement it come pesto season -- the others are fine.

Planting the sage and rosemary together was a mistake: I now have a very sad-looking rosemary and a very happy sage plant that's obviously stealing all the goodness from the soil. Time to repot the rosemary in the hope of saving it.
posted by holgate at 8:46 PM on May 21, 2008

« Older Hymne A L'amour   |   career guidance much? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.