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Kitchen Garden Containers

We were so glad to have Cindy Shapton, author of The Cracked Pot Herb Book and frequent gardening expert contributor to Tractor Supply Co’s ‘Know How Central’, come share with us about Kitchen Garden Containers a few weeks ago. Cindy knows her stuff and shared with us an easy formula to designing your herb pots as well as a list of herbs and their uses (one herb can have several different uses I learned!). Below is an overview Cindy graciously shared with us from her talk!

photo via Better Homes and Gardens

When designing a container kitchen garden, pick a mixture of plants using various colors, shapes, textures and flavors. It’s okay to think outside the pot, anything goes. Just keep the mature size of the plants in mind so they have enough room. However, if this concept is scary, try the following basic formula:

  • Vertical interest: Choose a plant that is tall for the center of the container, a real show stopper. Add a small trellis or something for vegetables or flowers. Examples: Tomato, lemon grass, tomatilla, chives, okra, sugar snap peas, cucumbers, scarlet runner beans, pumpkins

  • Mid-section: Use plants with lots of texture, blooms and/or foliage, fill It out. Examples: basil, peppers, eggplant, calendula, savory, parsley, beets, radish, greens, mini sunflowers

  • Bottom fall out: Plants with natural drooping tendencies go around the edge, cascading down the sides as they grow. Examples: prostrate rosemary, thyme, cucumber, oregano, mint, alyssum. In other words, you will need a thriller, fillers and spillers.

In other words, you will need a thriller, fillers and spillers. It’s okay to have theme pots as well like ‘Salsa’ with jalapeno, tomato, onions and cilantro or a ‘Salad’ pot with lettuce, radish, tomato, cucumber and pepper – you get the idea. Throw in a few seeds now and then to keep the produce coming when other plants fade or get pulled for dinner.

And finally: Water, fertilize, deadhead and harvest your container kitchen garden on a regular basis. Growing healthy food just outside the back door is a great way to supplement the dinner table and shave a few bucks off the grocery bill. Bon appetite!

List of Herbs and Many of Their Uses (most of these are offered at Riverbend Nurseries):

Basil – Ocimum basilicum: Sun, annual… stem cutting, seed, nursery plant

  • Improves growth and flavor of tomatoes; intersperse between and around tomatoes (all varieties seem to work). This tender annual is chummy with sweet peppers and asparagus while repelling flies, mosquitoes, tomato hornworm and mites. Pots on the patio make scents…

  • Sow seeds of basil with lettuce greens and harvest together as baby greens or micro greens.

  • Rub on skin to keep pests at bay

  • Cut flower arrangements

  • After dinner tea

Chives – Allium schoenoprasum: Sun, perennial…

  • Plant near fruit trees to prevent apple scab.

  • A lovely and beneficial perennial border for strawberries.

  • Improves growth and flavor of carrots. Doesn’t get along with peas and beans.

  • Discourages Japanese beetles and squirrels (when planted near bird feeders).

  • German Chamomile – Matricaria recutita: Sun, annual… Considered the ‘plant’s physician’ in the garden keeping all nearby neighbors healthy. Attracts hoverflies and parasitic wasps.

Catmint – Nepeta mussini: Sun to part shade, perennial…

  • Interplant with Arugula or any crop where flea beetles are doing damage.

Catnip – Nepeta cataria: Sun to part shade, perennial…

  • Smothers nearby weeds, discourages squash bugs, aphids, flea beetles, Japanese beetles and ants.

  • Provides food and shelter for helpful insects. May attract cats (which could be good if they in turn catch moles).

Cilantro – Coriandrum sativum: Sun to part shade, annual…

  • Chinese Parsley, coriander (the seeds). Sow seeds directly every couple of weeks.

  • Repels aphids from nearby plants while being immune itself.

  • Makes spider mites and potato beetle think twice before invading neighbors. Refuses to grow well if Fennel is a neighbor.

  • Root used in Thai cooking. Seed in coffee cup.

Dill – Anethum graveolens: Sun, annual… Herb of the Year 2010

  • sow seed directly early spring then successive plantings.

  • Plant near cabbage, lettuce, onions, and cucumbers.

  • Plant extra as it is a natural host (food source) for butterflies and attracts lady beetles.

  • Use leaves (weed) and seeds – paper bag to dry

  • Chew seeds for breath freshener

  • 1 T of seeds has more calcium than 1/3 cup skim milk

Lavender – Lavandula angustifolia: Sun, perennial…

  • Plant near cabbage.

  • Attracts lacewings, honeybees and other beneficial insects. Repels fleas and moths.

  • Rumor has it that ticks don’t like Lavender either.

Mint – Mentha piperita: Sun to part shade, wily perennial…

  • Repels cabbage moth, mice, flea beetles, ants. Good with tomatoes and cabbage.

  • Keeps aphids off nearby plants. Peppermint planted in and near shrubs discourages red ants.

  • Attracts and shelters beneficial insects. (Containing invasive mint in a pot is always a good idea)

Oregano – Origanum vulgare: Sun, perennial…

  • On friendly terms with the whole hardy bunch of cool season Cole crops and grapes.

  • Has been reported to bamboozle cucumber beetles.

Parsley – Petroselinum crispum: Sun to part shade, biannual (treat as annual)…

  • Plant with roses, dispels rose beetles.

  • Adds vigor to tomatoes, asparagus and strawberries.

  • A host plant for the black swallowtail butterfly.

Rosemary – Rosmarinus officinalis: Sun, tender perennial…

  • Good with cabbage, carrots and beans.

  • Prostrate (trailing) varieties planted in borders kills slugs. (Needles are sharp and tough on their tender bellies)

Sage – Salvia officinalis: Hardy perennial, full sun.

  • Plant or layer every three years. 2-3’ tall.

  • Discourages ticks, carrot flies and cabbage moths.

  • Good with rosemary, carrots and cabbage. May argue with cucumbers.

Thyme – Thymus vulgaris: Sun, perennial… Good anywhere in the garden accentuating aromatic qualities of other plants and herbs.

  • Kills bacteria, dispels beetles.

  • Especially good near cabbage, broccoli, brussel sprouts.

  • Beneficial honeybees can’t resist.

Yarrow – Achillea millefolium: Sun, perennial… A real super hero in the garden.

  • secretions from the roots give disease immunity to surrounding neighbors while intensifying fragrance and flavor of nearby herbs.

Books Cindy recommends:

and for adults, she recommends (besides her own book!) Lasagna Gardening with Herbs by Patricia Lanza

It was a pleasure to have Cindy be apart of our Spring complimentary class series at Riverbend Nurseries! Cindy Shapton is a garden writer, speaker, herbalist, designer, master gardener and a contributing garden expert to Tractor Supply Company’s ‘Know How Central’. She teaches classes on kitchen gardening, herbs, medicine making and foraging on her farm in Fernvale,TN. Sign up for newsletter on her Facebook page or website,

Cindy is the author of “The Cracked Pot Herb Book”– Simple Ways to Incorporate Herbs into Everyday Life. Available locally and on her website.


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