How To Create Your Own Raised Herb Garden Planter

I LOVE the feeling I get every time I’m cooking and head out to my herb garden planter to harvest some freshly grown herbs. Something about having your own garden just makes home feel more like, well…home. Not only do fresh herbs offer a treat for your nose and taste buds, but they can be a visually appealing part of your yard. 

A few years ago, I built my first herb garden using Gronomics raised garden bed boxes, which transformed my approach to gardening. For a step-by-step walkthrough of the assembly process, check out Our Gronomics Raised Garden Beds (with Assembly Instructions and Pics!).

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You don’t need to use the Gronomics brand to build herb garden planter, of course. That’s just the one I chose after doing some research. If you’re handy with tools and wood you can make your own boxes, but these just happened to have everything I needed to get started (including a drastically reduced risk of sawing my fingers off or nailing my hand to a board!).

Today, I’m excited to share how you can use these remarkable boxes to cultivate your own delicious herb garden without the use of chemical fertilizers.

Here’s what I’ll cover in this article:

  • the benefits of herb gardening
  • choosing the right location for your herb garden planter
  • selecting the best herbs to plant
  • where to find gardening supplies
  • no more chemical fertilizers! (what I use instead)
  • planting your herbs with care
  • enhancing your herb garden with decorative elements
wooden crate with herb plants in pots sitting inside. More pots with plants sitting on table next to the crate

Benefits of Herb Gardening

Herb gardening offers a ton of benefits for beginner and experienced gardeners alike. Fresh herbs make food taste amazing, but they also positively impact your health, well-being, and the environment.

Here are some key benefits of herb gardening:

  • Fresh herbs punch up the flavor  Growing your own herbs ensures that you have access to the freshest possible ingredients right at your doorstep. Fresh herbs are unmatched in their ability to enhance the flavors of your dishes, making your culinary creations more vibrant and aromatic.
  • Herbs offer a variety of health benefits  Herbs are well-known for their medicinal properties, offering a natural way to boost your immune system, reduce inflammation, and promote overall health. Having a variety of herbs at your fingertips encourages the incorporation of these healthful plants into your daily diet.
  • Growing your own herbs saves money  Cultivating your own herbs can significantly reduce your grocery bills. Herbs at the market can be expensive, especially if you’re seeking organic options. A small investment in seeds or starter plants can yield an abundant supply that lasts throughout the growing season and beyond.
  • Herbs are suitable for container gardening  Not everyone has great soil for in-ground planting (ours is full of clay) or the space to create a large garden. Raised herb garden planters are available in a variety of sizes and shapes, making them suitable for backyards, porches and patios, or even indoors. Fill them with rich organic soil and you can have fresh herbs no matter where you live.
  • Gardening is therapeutic  Gardening is a very hands-on activity, which can help reduce stress, improve mental clarity, and provide a sense of accomplishment. The process of planting, nurturing, and harvesting your herbs can be a meditative and rewarding experience that allows you to connect more deeply with nature.
  • Growing your own food helps the environment  Whether you’re growing herbs, vegetables, fruit, mushrooms, or any other food, you’re making a positive impact on the environment. More home-grown food means less plastic packaging and a lower carbon footprint (transporting herbs and other produce from farm to market takes fuel, which means pollution). Furthermore, employing organic gardening practices can enhance biodiversity and support the health of local ecosystems.
  • Growing herbs at home is an excellent opportunity for learning  For families with children, herb gardening is an excellent way to educate young ones about where food origins, the lifecycle of plants, and the importance of sustainability. It encourages a hands-on learning experience and instills a sense of responsibility and care.
  • Herb gardens are aesthetically pleasing  Planters full of herbs adds beauty and fragrance to your outdoor space. They can serve as attractive focal points that contribute to the overall aesthetic and ambiance of your garden or patio area.

Choosing the Right Location for Your Herb Garden Planter

Selecting the ideal location for your raised herb garden planter is crucial for the health and productivity of your herbs. Herbs thrive in specific conditions, and finding the right balance of direct sunlight, water, and protection is key to a successful garden.

wooden directional sign (arrow pointing left) with words "Herb Garden" carved into it

Before I started assembling our garden boxes, I scouted our backyard for the ideal place. Here are some things I considered :

  • Sunlight  Most herbs require at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight each day. Observe your outdoor space to identify areas that receive several hours of sunlight. South-facing locations often provide the most consistent light exposure throughout the day. However, if you live in a particularly hot climate, some afternoon shade might be beneficial to prevent overheating.
  • Accessibility  Place your herb garden in a location that’s easily accessible for regular maintenance, watering, and harvesting. The convenience of having your herbs close to your kitchen or patio door means you’re more likely to use them and take care of them.
  • Drainage  Good drainage is essential for healthy herb roots. Raised planters naturally improve drainage, but if your planter isn’t up on legs, consider the surface underneath and around it. Avoid placing your planter in areas where water tends to collect, ensuring that excess water can easily escape without causing waterlogging.
  • Wind protection  While herbs enjoy good air circulation, strong winds can damage plants and dry out soil quickly. If your garden area is prone to high winds, position your planter near a wall, fence, or hedge to serve as a windbreak.
  • Room for growth  Consider the mature size of the herbs you plan to grow and make sure there’s enough space for them to spread out. This includes not only the space within the planter but also the space around it. Avoid overcrowding and leave adequate room for air circulation to prevent disease.
  • Eye-pleasing  Think about how your herb garden will integrate with the rest of your outdoor space. A well-placed herb garden can enhance the beauty of your yard or balcony, contributing to a pleasant and inviting atmosphere. 
  • Soil quality  Choose a high-quality organic potting soil that contains adequate nutrients. You’ll also want to learn what you may need to add to the soil for the particular plants in your garden. Doing these two things will help your herbs get the best possible start.
  • Environmental factors  Take note of any environmental factors specific to your location, such as local wildlife that may be attracted to or harm your herbs. Placing your planter in a spot that minimizes these interactions can save you a lot of hassle in the long run.

By thoughtfully considering these factors, you can select a location that not only meets the needs of your herbs but also fits seamlessly into your lifestyle and outdoor space. 

Selecting the Best Herbs for Your Herb Garden Planter

Choosing the right types of herbs for your garden planter involves considering both their purpose and the growing conditions. 

Herbs can broadly be categorized into two types: culinary herbs, which are grown for their flavor and use in cooking, and ornamental herbs, which are primarily cultivated for their aesthetic appeal. Understanding the characteristics and benefits of each can help you create a garden that is both beautiful and functional.

3 goblet-shaped terra cotta pots with herbs planted in them. Pots are labeled (left to right): parsley, mint, basil

Culinary Herbs vs. Ornamental Herbs

Culinary herbs are the cornerstones of kitchen gardens. These herbs are prized for their aromatic flavors and are used to enhance the taste of a wide range of dishes. Culinary herbs such as basil, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro require regular harvesting to encourage new growth and prolong the life of the plant. They are best positioned where they can be easily accessed for daily cooking needs.

Ornamental herbs, on the other hand, are grown more for their decorative qualities. These herbs can add texture, color, and fragrance to your garden. Many ornamental herbs also attract beneficial insects, including pollinators like bees and butterflies. 

Examples include lavender, with its beautiful purple spikes and soothing scent, and variegated sage, which adds a splash of color with its green and white or purple leaves. While some ornamental herbs may be used in cooking, their primary appeal lies in their aesthetic contribution to your garden.

Popular Herb Varieties for Kitchen Gardens

When selecting herbs for your kitchen garden, consider the herbs you most enjoy using in your cooking. Here are some popular culinary herbs that thrive in raised planters:

  • Basil  A must-have in any herb garden, basil is versatile and grows well in warm conditions. It’s perfect for pesto, salads, and adding fresh flavor to tomato dishes.
  • Rosemary  This hardy perennial is not only delicious but also drought-resistant once established. Its needle-like leaves add a robust flavor to breads and Italian dishes.
  • Thyme  Thyme is a low-maintenance herb that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Its tiny leaves pack a flavorful punch in soups and stews.
  • Cilantro  Essential for Mexican and Asian cuisines, cilantro grows quickly in cooler temperatures. It’s often used fresh and can also be grown for its seeds, which are known as coriander.
  • Mint  With many varieties available, mint is incredibly versatile. However, it’s best planted in a separate container as it can be invasive and overtake other herbs.
  • Parsley  This biennial herb is a staple in many dishes, offering a mild, fresh flavor. It grows well in both sun and partial shade.

When planning your garden, consider the growth habits and needs of each herb to ensure they can coexist harmoniously. For example, some, like mint, are known to be aggressive herbs and are best grown in their own containers to prevent them from spreading fast and overtaking other plants. Additionally, grouping herbs with similar water and sunlight needs can make maintenance easier and more efficient. 

Incorporating a mix of culinary and ornamental herbs can create a garden that is not only practical for cooking but also aesthetically pleasing. With careful selection and placement, your raised herb garden planter can become a vibrant focal point of your outdoor space, offering both beauty and bounty.

Where to Find Your Gardening Supplies

Creating your own raised herb garden planter is an exciting adventure that begins with gathering the necessary supplies. From essential gardening tools to the seeds that will grow into aromatic herbs, preparation is a crucial step in gardening. Local garden centers, nurseries, and online retailers are treasure troves for gardeners, offering a vast selection of seeds, young plants, and gardening essentials that cater to novices and seasoned green thumbs alike.

  • Local garden centers and nurseries  These establishments are ideal for those who prefer to handpick their gardening supplies. Staffed by experts, local garden centers can provide personalized advice tailored to your specific gardening needs and local climate conditions. Here you can find a wide range of herb seeds and young plants, including common varieties and more exotic options. Additionally, these centers often stock high-quality gardening tools, organic soils, and larger containers suitable for creating an impressive outdoor herb planter.
  • Online retailers  For convenience and a broader selection, online gardening stores are unmatched. They offer the opportunity to shop a wide array of herb seeds and gardening supplies from the comfort of your home. Online businesses often feature rare and specialty herbs that might not be available at your local nursery, providing an opportunity to cultivate a unique and diverse herb garden. Moreover, many online retailers provide detailed guides and resources to assist beginners in starting their gardening journey.
  • Farmers’ markets  A local farmers’ market can be an excellent source of herb plants. Local farmers often sell young plants that are acclimated to the area’s climate, giving them a better chance of thriving in your garden. This is also a great way to support local agriculture and gain insights directly from growers about the best practices for planting and caring for your herbs.
  • Gardening clubs and societies  Joining a local gardening club or society can provide access to a wealth of knowledge and resources. Members often exchange plants, seeds, and tips on gardening techniques that are well-suited to the local environment. These communities can be especially helpful for beginners looking to learn more about gardening and for experienced gardeners interested in exploring new varieties.
  • DIY and home improvement stores  While not specialized in gardening, these stores often carry a selection of gardening tools, soil, and larger containers perfect for setting up a raised herb garden. They can be a convenient option for picking up basic supplies, especially if you’re planning to build your own planter box.

When gathering your gardening supplies, consider the specific needs of the herbs you wish to grow. Ensure you have the right soil type, tools for planting and maintenance, and appropriate containers that offer sufficient space for your herbs to flourish. With these resources at your fingertips, stepping into gardening or enhancing your existing garden space becomes an exciting endeavor filled with possibilities.

No More Chemical Fertilizers!

Back to my own planting. With my planter box chosen, it was time to start planning the actual garden. When I’ve gardened in the past, I always just used Miracle-Gro potting mix. I figured it was good because it already had fertilizers in it…just dump it in the pot and plant.

When I started learning more about chemical fertilizers, I began to change my mind. In Episode 37 of the Vegetarian Zen Podcast we touched on some of the damage that chemical fertilizers do to the environment. It quickly became important to me that my garden space be chemical-free!

With this in mind, I went online in search of a natural, pesticide-free fertilizer alternative to plant my little green leafy ones in. I decided to use natural, organic coconut coir bricks. The coco fibers are sold in compressed bricks of varying weights. These fibers are a byproduct of manufacturing by industries that use coconuts (think hanging garden baskets, doormats, etc). The fibers biodegrade after about twenty years, making them a natural and sustainable planting option.

Here’s how I use coco fibers and compost to create a planting matrix for my herbs and flowers:

Expand the Coco Fiber Bricks

  • Remove the bricks from their packaging and place them in a large tub.
  • Add water to the bricks: start with 2 gallons of water for each 650-gram brick. You can always add a little more water if needed, or drain off some water if you add too much.
  • Allow at least 30 minutes for the coco fiber bricks to expand.
  • Stir periodically to ensure that all fibers are fully expanded.
how to expand coco fiber bricks

Make the Planting Matrix

  • Use a good-quality organic compost material. If you compost at home, definitely use your own. We don’t have a composter, so I buy organic, locally composted material.
  • The ratio of expanded coco fibers to compost is 1:2. I use a small bucket to measure.
  • Combine your coco fibers and compost in a larger bucket or pot and mix well.

Once you’ve mixed your planting matrix, you can use it either to amend the existing matrix in your containers or start fresh in empty pots. If I’m adding a few herbs or flowers to a pot or bed that already has established plants, I’ll usually mix some fresh matrix into what is already there before placing the new plants.

mix the planting matrix

Plant Your Herb Garden with Care

Filling your planter with a variety of fresh herbs is a simple process that yields flavorful rewards. Start with a mix of your favorite herbs—basil plants, cilantro, parsley, and thyme are excellent choices for beginners.

Whether you’re using a raised planter or an herb pot, be sure there are ample drainage holes to prevent excess water buildup and place your planters in areas that receive hours of direct sunlight. Remember, a successful herb garden requires regular watering and the occasional boost from organic fertilizers.

Enhancing Your Garden with Decorative Elements

Transforming your herb garden planter from a simple container into a stunning focal point of your outdoor living space is an exciting process. Incorporating decorative elements elevates the aesthetic appeal of your garden and creates a more engaging and personalized environment. Here’s how you can enhance your herb planter with decorative touches, from functional trellises to enchanting lights and ornaments.

planter box filled with flowers in pots. Various garden decor in front of the box.

Adding Trellises or Climbing Supports

For herbs that exhibit vining or climbing growth habits, such as certain varieties of mint or creeping rosemary, incorporating trellises or climbing supports can add both function and beauty to your planter. Trellises come in a variety of materials including wood, metal, and bamboo, allowing you to match the style of your garden or outdoor decor. They provide essential support for your plants, encouraging upward growth and healthier, more productive herbs.

  • Aesthetic appeal  Choose a trellis design that complements your garden’s theme. For a rustic look, consider a wooden trellis. For a more modern appearance, metal might be the way to go.
  • Functional design  Beyond supporting plant growth, trellises can serve as a backdrop for your planter to create a visual partition within your garden or shield less attractive areas.
  • Plant health benefits  Using a trellis improves air circulation around the plants, which is crucial for preventing disease. It also makes harvesting easier and can increase exposure to sunlight, promoting stronger growth.

Decorating with Outdoor Lights or Ornaments

Adding outdoor lights or decorative ornaments can transform your herb garden into a magical evening retreat, enhancing the ambiance and extending the enjoyment of your garden into the night.

  • Outdoor lights  Solar-powered LED lights, fairy lights, or lanterns can be strategically placed around or within your planters to illuminate your herbs and create a cozy, welcoming atmosphere. Lighting not only highlights the beauty of your herbs and decorative elements but also allows you to enjoy your garden after dusk.
  • Garden ornaments  From whimsical garden statues to wind chimes and decorative stakes, ornaments add personality and charm to your herb planter. Select pieces that reflect your personal style or theme of your garden. Consider using ornaments that also serve a practical purpose, such as bee hotels or bird feeders, to attract wildlife and promote a healthy ecosystem.

When selecting decorative elements, consider the overall aesthetics of your outdoor space, the climatic conditions, and how the decorations will interact with your herbs. The goal is to create a harmonious and inviting space that stimulates the senses and nurtures the growth of your herbs. By thoughtfully enhancing your herb planter with trellises, lights, and ornaments, you craft an enchanting garden oasis that is as functional as it is beautiful.

If you listen to our podcast, you’ve probably heard me say that I don’t exactly consider myself to have a “green thumb.” However, starting my own herb garden has really changed that. It’s shown me that I can actually grow things! 

And you know what? You can do it, too!  

It doesn’t take a magic touch or any special skills. Just a little bit of planning and taking care of your plants can go a long way. Starting an herb garden has been a fun adventure for me, and it’s made me feel pretty proud of what I can grow. 

If you’ve ever thought about trying to grow your own garden but weren’t sure if you could, let me tell you that you totally can. Take a little bit of time to learn and plan and just enjoy the process. Who knows? You might end up surprising yourself like I did. Let’s get those gardens growing and make our homes a bit greener and more delicious with our very own herbs!

For more help with gardening tips, check out our interviews with two talented gardeners:

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