A green space for urban gardeners

Configuring a planter box of herbs and assorted edibles

DSC00227DSC00353DSC00358Nothing is foolproof when it comes to the garden. (And I’ve been fooled enough times to prove it!) But, planting what will soon grow into a lush container of herbs and edibles is about as simple as it gets.

Today I assembled purchased plants, sprouts grown from seeds and seeds to sow directly for my two planters, which will feature herbs, edible flowers (and some leaves) and chives. I use 36-inch planters that attach to the short, 5-feet sides of my balcony railings. (The long, 12-foot side will boast three boxes of flowering and ornamental plants.)

My main goal for these two planters is utilitarian — to grow things that I like and that I will definitely use in the kitchen. Next, I try to work out an arrangement that will be visually pleasing. I’m very big on symmetry, so not only do I attempt to create it within the planters, but I try to make the planters mirror each other on that front.

Therefore, I have some elements that repeat and I try to set plants with similar growth habits opposite each other. Here is a rough sketch of my planter box layout, followed by the list of herbs/edibles at each numbered spot:


1. Salvia black & blue: tall spikes with striking flowers will add height and a focal point at the very center of the box.

2. Nasturtium: My sprouts are healthy and well-established. (Both the leaves and flowers are edible.)

3. & 4. Marjoram and tarragon seeds, respectively.

5. & 6. Marigold.

7. & 8. Sage sprouts and lemon thyme, respectively.

9. & 10. Chives. The lavender-toned blossoms will contrast nicely with the yellow of the marigolds.

My second herbs/edibles planter is the same at positions 1, 2, 5, 6, 9 and 10. I planted cilantro seeds at position 3 and an apple mint I found at the nursery at position 4. Greek oregano is at position 7 and parsley seeds were planted at position 8.

The seeds I sowed directly into the planter were covered with a thin layer of seed-starting mix and then spritzed with water to keep the mix from blowing away in the high Chicago winds. I’ll keep you posted on how long it takes for them to sprout — it’s bright and sunny today, so hopefully they’re off to a good start.

Do you have a proven mix of plants for your containers? I wanna hear about it, so please leave a comment…

[Photos, from top: Salvia black & blue, lemon thyme and nasturtium seedlings.]


  Stephanie wrote @

Good idea to have a big planter… so that all those nice plants can go in. One big planter also makes the garden look neat right? I like the way you mixed and matched the plants. Oh, marigolds are edible too?

  Avis Weathersbee wrote @

Hi Stephanie,
Since I don’t have much floor space on my balcony, hanging planters over the outer edge of the railing helps me extend the garden without taking up the space that I can use for chairs. Lemon gem marigolds are said to taste best.

  Jo wrote @

Interesting to hear about the edibles you are growing. It’s nice to have something visually pleasing as well as useful in the kitchen.

  Erin wrote @

Hi! You inspired me to do a write up on how I organized my herbs. I divided mine among several planters based on their water requirements and if they needed to be in their own pot (for overwintering, or if they would otherwise overrun everything else – MINT!) I just published it on my blog, and linked back to you 🙂


  Avis Weathersbee wrote @

Thanks for the link and I enjoyed your post. Your herbs look great! Its nice to read what another balcony gardener is doing with her space. Cheers!

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