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My Top 10 Herbs for Container Gardens

Updated on January 12, 2015

Herbs at Your Fingertips.

Herbs add flavor and zest to any meal. But that's not all they do. Most herbs used for culinary purposes also possess medicinal properties and can be used alone for healing or help boost your immune system and provide nutrition when added to your favorite dish.

Herbs can be expensive when bought in the grocery store or health food store. You can grow all the herbs you need in just a wee bit of space, or grow a larger array in containers on your patio or porch.

Here are my top 10 herbs that are must-haves for me not only for cooking but also for treating whatever ails me.

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Three of My Top 10 Herbs

Here are my top 10 herbs in no particular order because, in my opinion, their order of importance changes with the needs of my body.

  • Mints

    All kinds of mint: lemon balm, peppermint, spearmint, hyssop just to name a few. Mints are all anti-spasmodic and carminative. They also help break down fats for better digestion making them perfect for use with lamb, pork and game meats.

    Lemon balm is sedative and helps with mild depression and is also a mild hypotensive. It has been shown to lower blood pressure and reduce heart palpitations caused by nerves. It makes a tasty, beneficial tea. The dried leaves lose their medicinal properties, but retain their flavor. If you want to preserve some of summers bounty, stuff fresh leaves in ice cube trays, cover with water and freeze. You'll have fresh lemon balm all winter.

    Peppermint is the strongest, most medicinal of the mints and is often used with bitter herbs to make them taste better. It is stimulant and helps "wake up the mind" for better focus.

    Spearmint is the best of the mints for culinary uses. Line cake pans with the fresh leaves for a mild mint flavor to cakes. Freeze mint tea in ice cubes for use in iced tea and punch. Spearmint is often added to apple juice to make apple/mint jelly. Spearmint is also carminative and anti-spasmodic, but is milder than peppermint.

    Hyssop is useful in treating respiratory conditions such as asthma, cough and bronchitis. It's taste is strong and may be more palatable if mixed with peppermint. It is a good addition to meat, vegetable, and pasta dishes, but use it sparingly as it is very strong.

    Growing requirements: Part shade, protect from afternoon sun, moist neutral to acid soil.

    Perennial: Unless you live in a tropical or sub-tropical climate store your mint containers in a garage, insulated shed or basement during the winter to prevent freezing.

    Mints are prone to cross pollinate. Plant different mints in separate pots and place containers of other herbs between them.

  • ParsleyThat lovely garnish on your plate at restaurants is so much more than a garnish. It's most commonly known as a digestive aid, kidney cleanser and breath freshner. It can be added to soups, stews, pasta dishes or casseroles. Parsley helps blend and enhance the flavors of other seasonings.

    Growing requirements: Shade, moist soil, will grown in most any well drained soil as long as it's kept slightly damp and the weather isn't too hot. Parsley will seem to die out during the hot summer months if you live in a warm climate, but it will come back and thrive during cool weather as long as it's not exposed to prolonged freezing weather.

    Biennial: Parsley goes to seed in the second growing season and usually reseeds itself. To get your parsley going, plant it for two seasons in a row and you'll probably have parsley forever. On another note, you may see it coming up in adjoining containers if the seeds drop there.

    Parsley comes in curly leaf and flat leaf varieties. The taste may be a little different and some cooks prefer the flat leaf for cooking and the curly leaf for garnish. The properties are the same

  • Sage: That lovely pungent, aromatic herb that is so well known for poultry and pork seasoning is also very medicinal and a wonderful beauty aid. There is an old saying, " If a man grows sage in his garden why should he die?" It is considered a panacea but most notably used for laryngitis, tonsilitis and other cold and flu symptoms, night sweats, hot flashes and has even shown to alleviate excess saliva production in those with Parkinson's Disease due to its drying effect. Just smelling it can promote mental alertness.

    Many people believe that sage tea used as a final rinse after shampooing will prevent gray hair. It can be used topically to relieve symptoms of psoriasis, dandruff, eczema, oily scalp and other skin conditions.

    It can be used sparingly in meat, fish and vegetable dishes. It is carminative and improves the digestion of fatty foods. Before the days of refrigeration, it was used as a food preservative.

    Growing requirements: Full sun, any well drained soil. Allow to dry out between waterings.

    Perennial: Store container in a sheltered place to prevent freezing during the winter.


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Four More of My Top 10

  • Sweet Basil: This perfect compliment to tomatoes, pasta dishes and other Italian and Mediterranean dishes is also a medicinal powerhouse. It is antibacterial, antidepressant, carminative, nervine and sedative. It has been used to treat alcoholism, drug overdose, anxiety, respiratory problems, mental fogginess and sinus congestion. Outdoors it can be rubbed on the skin to repel annoying insects or pots of the plant set on a patio or porch are said to repel flies and mosquitoes.

    Growing requirements: Partial shade. In very hot climates protect from evening sun. Any well drained soil. Keep slightly damp, but don't over-water.

    Annual: Allow to go to seed and collect seeds for next year.

  • Rosemary: The refreshing evergreen scent is uplifting and balancing. Rosemary aids in relieving depression and anxiety. It is also a circulatory stimulant and will aid in preventing or alleviating capillary weakness. This aromatic herb was found by Rutgers State University to be a more powerful and safer food preservative than BHA and BHT. It helps prevent food poisoning.

    Like sage, rosemary is a very beneficial beauty aid. As a skin toner is is rejuvenative. When used on the skin it helps strengthen capillaries.

    It is a perfect seasoning for vegetables, breads, soups, and meat dishes. Cooking with rosemary aids in digestion of fats and starches.

    Growing requirements: Full sun. Any well drained soil, but prefers alkaline. Rosemary is called Sea Dew because it grows well along the sea coasts of Greece. Allow to dry out before watering.

    Perennial: Store container in sheltered place to prevent freezing during the winter.

  • Thyme: This pungent, aromatic herb is another staple to Italian and Greek cooking. Add it to soups, stews, vegetables and meat dishes.

    It also packs a powerful punch in the medicinal department. Antibacterial, astringent, antiseptic, immune stimulant. . .the list goes on and on. It is an excellent choice for appetite loss, respiratory ailments, indigestion and various types of parasites, notably hook worms and round worms. Topically it is useful for treating acne, athlete's foot, insect bites and stings and many more common skin problems that may be caused by fungus or aggravated by bacterial infection.

    Growing requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Any well drained soil. Allow to dry between waterings.

    Perennial: Store container in sheltered place to prevent freezing during the winter.

  • Oregano: A staple in Italian, Spanish, Mediterranean cooking oregano is a wonderful digestive aid. Add it to soups, stews, meat or pasta sauces, meat, poultry, vegetables. In fact oregano can enhance just about any entrĂ©e or side dish.

    In addition to being a digestive aid, oregano can be used medicinally for respiratory ailments, and topically it can be used on bruises, sprains and painful joints. Leaves can be chewed to alleviate tooth ache.

    Growing requirements: Full sun, any well drained soil. Allow to dry somewhat before watering, but don't let it get too dry.

    Annual: Replant or reseed every year. If you live in a sub tropical climate, oregano may survive as a perennial.

. . .And Finally, The Last Three of My Top 10

  • Marjoram: A close relative of oregano with most of the same culinary and medicinal properties. Some cooks prefer the slightly milder taste of marjoram. Medicinally it has the same properties as oregano, but is much better suited for relaxing sore muscles. Make a small pouch of the dried or fresh herb and float it in a warm bath to sooth and relax muscles.

    Growing requirements: Full sun, any well drained soil. Allow to dry somewhat before watering, but don't let it get too dry.

    Annual: Replant or reseed every year.

  • Chives: The bright green leaves of chives add color and a mild onion or garlic taste to salads and other cold dishes. If they're used in cooked recipes, add them at the very end of the cooking period as heat will deplete their taste. The medicinal benefits of chives may be similar to onion or garlic, but they are so mild chives isn't used medicinally.

    Growing requirements: Full sun, average to rich well drained, neutral to alkaline soil. Keep evenly damp. Chives like cool weather, so if you live in a hot climate protect them from afternoon sun.

    Perennial: Store container in a sheltered area during the winter to protect from freezing. Chives are prolific and propigate by root or underground rhizomes. Thin them out in the spring if necessary

  • Peppers: There is a wide range of peppers from sweet bells to mild cubanels to hot jalapens and serranos to the fiery Tai dragons and African birds eyes. Literally every culture in the world uses some kind of peppers in their culinary arts.

    All hot peppers contain some capsicum and are medicinally beneficial to the heart and circulatory system, revving up your metabolism, and helpful in reducing pain. Topically applied, hot pepper will stop bleeding and block pain receptors making it helpful for arthritis, wounds and sprains.

    Growing requirements: Full sun, rich, well drained, neutral to acidic soil. Keep evenly damp(not wet) and protect from strong winds and afternoon sun in very hot climates.

    Annual: Replant or reseed every year.

Gardening Comments

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    • Beaddoodler profile image
      Author

      Jennie Hennesay 2 years ago from Lubbock TX

      Thank you Lovely C. Glad to be of some help.

    • Lovely  C profile image

      lavenderLove 2 years ago from Philippines

      very informative...I myself is planning to grow my own herbs ..but I just don't know how to start..this article of yours really helps a lot...

    • Beaddoodler profile image
      Author

      Jennie Hennesay 2 years ago from Lubbock TX

      Thank you Buildreps. I haven't mistaken one herb for another. . .yet, but lavender is one of the herbs in the herb blend "herb de provence". Makes me want to experiment with recipes now.

    • Buildreps profile image

      Buildreps 2 years ago from Europe

      Very nice list of herbs, Jenny. We grow some of these herbs too, like chive, parsley and mint. We also grow rosemary, but I recently mistaken lavender for the rosemary. Unbelievable isn't it? Nevertheless gave the lavender the meal a very pleasant and typical taste :)