I believe strongly in cultivating your own medicinal herbs and I’ve got quite a few in my garden. But what if you don’t have a greenhouse, or if your greenhouse already has full crops to feed your family? Many medicinal herbs grow very well in containers put on windowsills or elsewhere in the sun. I even have a couple of containers along the side of my driveway.
Growing Herbs in Containers
Not all containers are created equal, although if you purchase a commercial pot designed for this purpose, you’ll probably do ok.
My three main guidelines are:
- use a large container with room for roots;
- make sure it has drainage holes;
- choose a light reflective color (dark colors absorb heat and dry out the soil).
When growing plants in containers water is important. Plants require a balance of water. Not too much, or their roots will rot, but generally enough at all times to keep the soil moist. This is done by the use of rocks or other porous materials on the bottom to ensure adequate drainage and frequent watering.
The soil in a container dries out much faster than the soil on the field, and must be regularly watered. In the summer heat, regular watering is required, probably even twice daily if your pot is small or the sun is intensely hot.
Using a sterilized potting soil to start your seeds, and if necessary fill your containers. It will reduce weeds, and provide the plants with a fertile growing medium. Compost is also perfect, or a combination of black earth and peat moss. Thoroughly water the soil and allow draining before planting your seeds or plants.
How to Grow Yarrow
Yarrow is perennial and a member of the daisy family. It’s perfect for your container garden or windowsill. The plant is extremely hardy and can, once created, easily withstand cold weather. It needs a large container in the garden, 1 gallon or larger is best.
Yarrow is quickly grown from seed. To germinate, it needs light so place the pots in a warm, bright spot. Allow them to germinate for up to three weeks. Keep the soil moist but not wet.
The plant will grow in any standard mix of potting. Add in some compost or slow-release fertilizer and they’ll do well.
Yarrow prefers the sun but in partial shade it will also do well. It is best in east or west facing locations, and makes your vegetable garden a good companion plant. It repels pests while attracting insects that prey on common pests in the garden. Yarrow will grow 1.5 to 3.5 feet tall when it is mature, and will die down over in the winter.
Related: Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them
How to Grow Peppermint
Peppermint is a good option for window boxes or windowsill pots. It grows quickly, trails beautifully and will spread rapidly if you let it. For that reason, I grow all my mints in containers. Otherwise, the garden will be taken over.
Peppermint seeds can be sown in your pot. Peppermint likes water, but not the wet roots, so place in a well-drained soil. It requires rich soil and plenty of sun with partial shade in the afternoon.
I like planting a big pot of peppermint because I love the flavor in foods and teas, but there’s no need for a deep pot because the roots grow relatively shallow. This will do well in any container as long as the soil remains moist and well-drained.
How to Grow Wild Lettuce
Wild lettuce is a tall plant, growing at maturity up to 6.5 feet, so you’ll want this one on a large, stout pot. It is a biennial, which takes two full years to ripen and produce seed. It requires full sun or partial shade and rich moist soil at a pH of 7.
Wild lettuce seeds are available online and this is probably the best way to obtain them, unless you have a nearby source. Before sowing, soak the seeds for half an hour, then sow on the soil surface, and do not cover. Wild lettuce seeds need to germinate in light. Keep the soil wet but not humid. If the soil dries out at this early stage, the seedlings will most likely die.
In the early spring, I begin my wild lettuce indoors at a table. I put a plastic bag over the pot to serve as a miniature greenhouse and test the level of humidity daily. Remove the plastic as soon as it sprouts-up to four weeks later. Wait until the last date of frost is past before leaving them outside.
How to Grow Chamomile
Chamomile is a pretty plant to have on your windowsill. All summer long, it grows daisy-like flowers. This also produces a multitude of seeds and, if you grow it in the greenhouse, it can take over an area over time.
In a small container, the Roman chamomile (Matricaria recutita) grows compactly. German Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) requires more room, so use a big jar. Chamomile requires good drainage, so use a loose well-drained potting mix and position it in a pot with a drainage hole.
Sow seeds on the surface, and expose them. Chamomile needs to germinate by light. When the plants are formed, they require very little treatment beyond water and monthly feeding.
When temperatures rise above 90°F move the pot out of the sun and bring indoors when a frost is predicted.
Related: How To Grow Your Own SHTF Pharmacy
How to Grow Echinacea
Echinacea grows slowly from seeds, taking several years to flower.
Place the container in full or partial sun.
The plants are drought tolerant once they are established, but don’t allow the soil to completely dry out.
How to Grow Calendula
Calendula is readily available as a plant or as seed in garden centers. I recommend growing it from seeds because it grows easily. I directly sow the seeds into the growing pot.
Calendula prefers mixed with well-drained, organic potting soil or garden soil. Put the pot in a place of full sun, keeping the soil moist but not wet. Calendula can be planted in the fall for spring flowers, or in the spring for a long-lasting color burst all summer.
Related: Medicinal Herbs and How to Use Them
How to Grow Comfrey
Comfrey does germinate for a long time (up to 20 weeks). There is a deep root system in the comfrey plant so it needs a deep pot. It is hardy cold in zones 3 through 9. It will die back in the winter in colder areas, but in the spring, the roots will survive and sprout again.
Comfrey has a preference for full sun or partial shadow. It likes a well-drained and fertile soil pH of 6.0 to 7.0. It requires plenty of water and fertilizer high in nitrogen.
Look for a large, deep pot which will not tip over in a wind when choosing a pot for comfrey. The plant has a taproot that grows deep and grows to about five feet or more.