The following post and photography were created in collaboration with Lauren Schulte. To see more of her bites and meals, visit her Instagram @TheBiteSizePantry.
If you know you know. Cooking with fresh herbs is the way to go. Fresh is always the best if you really want to notice the flavors in your dish, but it’s not always easy to get your hands on fresh herbs, or if you do happen to have some on hand, keeping them fresh over time can be a challenge. I have some simple tips and tricks and a tutorial for how to grow your own fresh herbs and maintain their freshness over time.
My DIY stacked herb garden is perfect for a small patio, an apartment balcony or positioned near your back door. It’s also a perfect small do-it-yourself project for quarantine living. All the herbs that I used in my planters are from Millcreek Gardens, which are in season and easily found at your local Heinen’s. I used the following herbs (2 of each): Common Sage, Rosemary, Greek Oregano, Dill, Chives, Sweet Basil, Dolce Fresco Basil, Genovese Purple Basil, Mojito Mint, Spearmint, Thyme, and Lavender. These herbs are spaced approximately 2 inches from each other and are planted in a series of three stacked planters and another couple series of 2 stacked planters (a total of 7 clay pot planters).
Materials for the DIY Herb Garden
You’ll want to start by filling each clay planter with potting soil. You’ll only need one large bag for this project, plus a cup or two of your desired plant food. I chose to use a local organic plant food mixture, but any brand will do just fine. I dug holes in the soil for each individual herb and put a couple Tbsp. of the plant food in each hole. Adding the plant food before you place the herb into the planter ensures that each herb will get a good amount of plant food for optimal growth and overall health.
Choosing the Perfect Pots
The first step to creating a stacked herb garden is selecting the appropriate pots. I played around with various sizes until I found the perfect few. The exact sizes depend on how large you want your garden to be and what is available to you at home or your local gardening store. I used one large, three medium and three small glazed pots. The largest pot will be the base of your stack, pot two will be the next largest and will be set in the middle or off-center on top of the soil in the large pot. You will repeat this layering effect with your smallest pot by placing it on top of the soil in your second largest pot to obtain the stacked look.
Assembling the Herb Garden
Next is the fun part, putting it all together. Start by stacking the pots from largest to smallest based on how I just described and add the gardening soil to each, about ¾ of the way full. Then, start adding your herbs to the bottom pot working your way up to the top pot. Take into consideration the size and style of each herb you plan to use. I tried to vary by the heights of each herb to keep it looking interesting throughout. You will be thrilled with the outcome, I promise! To find the perfect spot for your stacked herb garden, choose a spot that gets a little morning shade with plenty of afternoon sun and make sure to water your herbs every other day (if there is no rain in the forecast).
The Perks of a DIY Herb Garden
Another bonus of growing your own herbs in pots is you can pick what you need instead of buying large bunches of each and risking some of the bunch going unused. To avoid throwing herbs out too quickly, you can wrap what you don’t use in damp paper towels and store in an airtight container in your fridge. This will help to extend the life of your herbs by at least a week, if not a little longer. You can also freeze fresh herbs in ice cube trays filled with small amounts of olive oil. This is great for when you use oil and herbs in your cooking because you can just pop out an olive oil and herb cube right into your hot skillet. I made a Tomato, Avocado, Mozzarella Stacked Salad over the weekend and loved being able to use chives from my new stacked herb garden! Just think about all the recipe possibilities you can achieve with a DIY herb garden at your disposal.