Creating an Edible Patio with Herbs
5 tips for patio herbs
Herbs need sunshine, but in midsummer they will do better with morning sun and afternoon shade, especially basil.
- Use good-quality potting soil and mix in a controlled-release fertiliser.
- Densely planted mixed containers may need daily watering in hot weather.
- For healthy, productive plants feed with a liquid fertiliser at half strength once a week.
- Regular picking and pruning stimulate growth, and also keeps herbs looking neat.
Modern, stylish and simple. A single container of mixed edibles acts as a base for a glass-topped coffee table. The herbs are easy to pick, and you can watch them grow while enjoying your first cuppa or a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Herbs: Lemon thyme and oregano are multipurpose culinary herbs that thrive with regular picking and are easy to keep neat. Use in salad dressings, to flavour pasta sauces and with vegetables, meat and poultry. Their aromatic leaves deter pests, making them good companions for the red and green frilly leaf lettuce and strawberries.
Good to know: The glass tabletop magnifies the sun’s rays, so make sure that the container receives slanted morning sun, not hot midday or afternoon sun.
It is uncommon to find a stoep, patio or deck without plants. And what better place to grow edibles, especially herbs that need minimal care and are good for picking all year round? This way you can have fresh, flavourful herbs at your fingertips!
Herbs couldn’t get fresher than this: a custom-made home chef’s trolley fitted with growing lights allows the individually potted culinary herbs in the plant boxes to grow and thrive indoors. It will work just as well in the patio braai area or outdoor kitchen and dining area (without the lighting). Just make sure the herbs receive plenty of natural light.
Herbs: Every home chef has their favourite herbs, but a good starting point for a culinary collection would be parsley, thyme (garden, lemon or variegated), marjoram, oregano, mint, basil (which needs to be kept small) and chives.
Good to know: Once or twice a week, take the pots out and water them, allowing them to drain before returning to the trolley. A drip tray or saucers under the pots will catch any residual water.
Rugged and rustic
The weathered, roughly textured containers turn this collection of braai herbs into a patio feature. Forget the advice that all pots should be the same colour or texture. If it works, it works! Another secret is not to have too many containers. Odd numbers (3 or 5) work best.
Herbs: Rosemary, garden thyme, sage and parsley are all good braai herbs. Use stripped rosemary branches as sosatie sticks, or just throw sprigs into the fire for the delicious aroma. For a simple marinade, use rosemary, thyme or sage with garlic, olive oil and lemon juice. Add chopped fresh parsley to salads and use in garlic bread.
Good to know: Be aware of each herb’s water needs. Parsley does best in moist, fertile soil. Sage doesn’t like wet feet or overwatering.
One way to draw attention to your potted edible garden is to choose a pot colour that pops! To enjoy the fragrance of lavender, rosemary, thyme and lemon grass, place the pot so that you brush past it, or rub the leaves with your fingers to release the perfume.
Herbs: Calendula is not just there for spring colour. It is a herb in its own right, and the power is in its petals, which help to heal skin infections and irritations. Other edible flowers include nasturtiums, pansies and violets.
Good to know: Lavender, rosemary and lemon grass will quickly outgrow this pot. Transfer them into a larger container or individual containers with edible flowers or trailing herbs like creeping thyme, golden oregano or pineapple mint planted around the base.
Growing basil in hanging baskets is unconventional, but regular picking and trimming will keep plants bushy and neat. Appreciate basil’s spicy fragrance by suspending the baskets at eye or shoulder level. It makes watering and picking easier too. Rub basil leaves on your legs and arms at night to keep mozzies away.
Herbs: Basil ‘Red Rubin’, ‘Dark Lady’ or ‘Purple Ruffles’ are decorative purple-leaved basils with an intense, sweet basil flavour. Add the leaves to salads, use in dressings or make basil-flavoured vinegar or oil for culinary use. Basil Herbalea ‘Red Ball’ or ‘Green Super Globe’ are compact, rounded varieties suitable for hanging baskets.
Good to know: Hanging baskets dry out quickly and should be watered daily during summer.
The white-painted trellis and suspended terracotta herb pots containing mint and oregano give this corner a country cottage feel. It is also a practical way to display herbs, provided the trellis and pots are fixed securely. There is good air circulation, the pots are at pickable height, and it is a great space saver for small patios.
Herbs: Garden mint is a delicious herb for herbal tea, salads and sauces. But it is also very invasive, which is why growing it in a hanging pot makes such good sense. Try other mint varieties like pineapple mint, peppermint, apple mint, ginger mint and basil mint.
Good to know: Mint likes moist soil and suffers if the soil dries out completely.
Edibles on wheels
Large, mixed containers can be heavy and hard to move. Not the Urban Box, a modular system on wheels, made from recycled timber pallets and painted in a range of funky colours. The box is big enough and deep enough for herbs, veggies and flowers (for the bees) to grow comfortably together.
Herbs: Rosemary is the anchor herb, with lemon thyme, chives, peppermint, celery and rose-scented geranium providing layers of flavours and fragrance. Nemesia, salvia and pyrethrum daisies attract the bees, with strawberries tucked into the corners along with loose-leaf cos lettuce.
Good to know: Being mobile, the box can be rotated so that all plants receive the sun they need.