Winter’s long, cold nights are ideal for plotting next spring’s plantings. Seed catalogs are out in mailboxes, and the snowy ground is full of potential. This is the season for dreaming and planning. Are you thinking of creating a patio herb garden this year? Grab a blanket, a pen, and some paper, and write down which of these 17 favorites you’d like to try.
If you’re anything like me, winter garden plans tend to focus around what you need now. During these long, cold months, I tend to use up herbs just like firewood. Cooking and healing herbs are always out and in use. As winter goes by, it becomes obvious which herbs are best loved and most wanted in our house.
In fact, planning our summer garden around the herbs I use up quickly is a great way to pass the winter!
Planning for a Patio Herb Garden
Whether you have acres of land or merely a balcony, a potted patio garden is an ideal setting for herbs. When planning your spring patio, fill it with herbs that will delight you all year long. Whether your goal is culinary, medicinal, aesthetic, or aromatic, planning your herb patio now will help you bring it to life when the snows melt.
Focus on plants that fit your purpose, as well as the space available, and grow well in pots or window boxes. A patio garden is best suited to annuals and portable herbs. Save the elder bushes and Monarda for your in-ground garden!
My favorite herbs combine practicality, aesthetics, and hardiness to create an apothecary of delight. Planning your herb garden now gives you a change to dream big later. Remember, you can always cull plants that don’t find your space. Right now, it’s time to go through piles of seed catalogs and daydream a little bit.
These herbs are primarily culinary plants, though as you’ll see they’re not all limited to the kitchen. It’s always a good idea to fill your herb garden with plants you like to eat. Give yourself the joy of fresh seasoning this summer, and a home-grown spice rack all year long.
Chives are among the first plants to pop out of the earth in spring, and thrive happily in pots as well. Their bright green, spicy stems are fantastic with cheddar and bacon in biscuits. In addition, chive flowers are pretty, purple additions to spring salads. You can dry chives easily on screen for year round use, or throw them in the freezer and add them to breads and soups while still frozen.
Although primarily used in contemporary kitchens, rosemary is far more than just an ideal companion for roast chicken. It’s a memory aid, a mood booster, and a cold remedy. Traditionally, rosemary sprigs were burned on the first of May to send evil spirits fleeing.
Grow rosemary in a sunny spot on the patio, and hang small bundles of harvested rosemary to dry in a dim, airy corner of the house. You’ll be throwing this refreshing herb into soups, teas, and steamy baths all year long.
This low, creeping plant is a culinary dream. Thyme is a great addition to homemade sausage and tomato sauce, and is also a powerful cough remedy. Just steep a handful in a jam jar of raw honey and take a spoonful at the first sign of congestion.
Give thyme a low, wide pot to grow in and plenty of drainage. If you’re dreaming of summery gin and tonic recipes this winter, plan on planting this wonderful herb. Then, when your thyme is in bloom, muddle leaves and flowers, slice up some peaches, and build the perfect patio G&T.
This is almost everyone’s favorite potted herb, so start your list of essential basils now. In fact, let’s plan to fill up a sunny section of the patio with just basils!
Well-loved Italian basil is just the beginning. Try bush basil, red basil, lime basil, and my favorite: Thai basil. Then, in August, mix up some Thai basil pesto and freeze it. This time next year you’ll be eating thatpesto on toast with coconut curry soup. What could be better?
Cilantro is another ideal herb for the patio garden, as its fresh scent and bright green leaves add vibrancy to your space. It’s also great for impromptu taco nights, as well as for cleansing toxins and heavy metals from the body. If you like to start the new year with a detox, grow cilantro in the garden, freeze it in airtight bags, and add the frozen herb to smoothies in January.
There are few summer breakfasts that can beat dilly eggs with arugula and fresh radishes. In fact, dill is one of the most essential garden herbs. We grow it in pots beside the patio table so it can be harvested mid-meal. Scatter ferny dill between the flower pots on your patio for a striking look, and harvest the seeds in autumn for flavoring homemade pickles.
Planning your medicinal planting in January gives you a chance to assess your wintertime needs. In our family, colds, coughs, and the occasional mood booster form the backdrop of the home apothecary. Your needs may be a bit different, but now is the best time to take a look around and decide which healing herbs to cultivate.
This ancient and beloved healing flower should be in every serious medicinal garden. Yarrow is an ideal cold fighter and immune booster, and is also widely known to reduce bleeding and heal wounds. Traditionally, yarrow is also used to distract the evil eye, repel witches, and aid in divination. It can be dried for uses in teas and oils, tinctured, or steeped in raw honey for long-lasting, shelf-stable remedies.
Also known as pot marigold, calendula is ideal for patio growing. This warm, sunny flower is one of my favorite plants to pore over in winter seed catalogs. Calendula is perfect for winter body balms, as it softens and soothes dry wintertime skin. In addition, it’s ideal for easing sore throats and cold sores.
An herb for all seasons, mint is an essential on your summer patio. Use it to mix up mojitos in the summer and whip up some mint jelly in the fall. In the winter, add this versatile herb to cold care tea blends for kids and adults.
Just about everyone’s favorite relaxation herb is also a beautiful and bee-friendly addition to any garden. Let chamomile trail along between the dill and basil. Collect the blossoms all summer long, dry them, and have cozy pots of tea through the long winter nights.
11. Lemon Balm
Another soothing addition to the herbal medicine chest, lemon balm is great for holiday stress. This herb’s fresh, lemony scent is a mood booster in the pot or in a tea. If you’re feeling the winter doldrums this year, add a pot or two of lemon balm to your garden plans.
12. Cayenne Peppers
Think of how pretty these bright red peppers will be scattered around your patio. The bright red veggies contrast nicely with yellow calendula and leafy cilantro. Furthermore, cayenne is a fantastic herb for cold season. Grow these bright, beautiful peppers, then dry them or steep them in honey. This healing plant will open up your sinuses and boost immunity like nothing else.
Edible Flowers and Fragrant Fillers
We’re in the dream stage of planning, so let’s fill in the edges with some useful herbal beauty-boosters.
Nasturtiums fill spaces with cascading vines of colorful, spicy, edible flowers. Steep them in vinegar or sprinkle them on salads for a colorful burst of flavor. These trailing flowers hang well in wall planters or balcony boxes.
Tuck pansies between pots of low-growing thyme and bunching basil. Pansies can be candied and used to decorate summer cupcakes or made into a sweet, flavorful syrup. They’re high in vitamin C and A, making them a great addition to the cough and cold remedy list. Save some syrup for boosting children’s immunity and mood during winter months.
15. Lemon Verbena
I would grow this herb for scent alone, but it’s also visually stunning, flavorful, and a healing powerhouse. Plant it in a large pot with good drainage and let it grow tall in the sunlight. You’ll love it for seasoning fish, chicken, and rice dishes, and for adding depth to pitchers of homemade lemonade!
Lavender is the ultimate fragrant herb, and another amazing addition to lemonade. In addition, it mixes well with mint, thyme, and lemon balm as a cold-fighting tea. Fill as much of your patio as possible with pots full of this herb, and keep in mind that it loves growing beside lemon verbena and chamomile.
While you’re planning for this summer’s patio of herbs, look up some recipes for lavender ice cream—it’s worth the effort, I promise.
Borage, the starflower, was known as a token of bravery and courage long ago. Now, this pretty, fairy flower makes a fantastic cough syrup and a flavorful addition to salads and cocktails. Bees love this tall, graceful herb as well: draw them to your patio with borage. If you happen to be planning a step toward beekeeping this winter, borage makes a fantastic honey flower.
After you’ve made a list of patio herbs you can start gathering pots, ordering seeds, and planning for spring planting. It’s exciting, isn’t it? After months of winter, we’ll be out amidst our herbs in no time.