Making An Herb Garden In A Metal Tub

Our (continued) indecision about where our vegetable and herb garden should permanently go at our new place means we missed the boat on planting anything this spring (check out our edible gardens of years past here and here). But in an attempt to grow something this year, we’ve come up with a temporary solution. And it involves this galvanized tub:

We figured we’d just do a potted herb garden this year, with only a few “edible essentials” for our kitchen. Which is why we picked up a foursome of local and organically grown herbs (parsley, oregano, basil, and mint) at the farmer’s market this weekend for $12. Speaking of which, you can read more about our trip to the market on BabyCenter today as part of their “Big Day Out” this Saturday.

But back to the tub. It was about $8 at Lowe’s (way cheaper than any planter of that size) and to turn it into our herb pot, we figured it could use some holes for drainage in the bottom. They were a cinch to make with my little cordless drill.

To make them a bit bigger, I also wiggled a big nail around in them too. Oh yeah, and I made the holes in a heart shape. Maybe I was feeling romantic? Maybe I was subliminally professing my love for galvanized tubs? Or it was an ode to the L in YHL? Either way, this photo is about the most any of us will ever see of it.

Update: A few savvy commenters recommended that we test for lead just to be sure it wouldn’t leech into our food if it was randomly present in the metal. We just used one of those $4 Lead Test Sticks from Home Depoton to test the seams, the inside, the outside, the bottom, and even the holes that we drill and it was negative. Whew. So that’s definitely something to test for if you’re not sure how pure your galvanized tin is (and you’re using it for edible herbs)!

Also for drainage, we put a layer of gravel on the bottom (they were leftovers from the patio project). Hopefully they’ll keep the majority of the soil from dripping out of my hidden hole-y heart.

Before adding any dirt, we did a quick “dry run” of the herb placement. The taller guys (basil and parsley) went in the back, and oregano got some special space on the side – since my oregano tends to get bushy. Yeah… not so sure I like the sound of that last sentence.

Of course, if things do well (i.e. grow big and strong) this tin could soon get a bit cramped. But hopefully we’ll achieve “full” and not go as far as “so full it’s bad.” But if so, we can always transplant things into their own larger dedicated pots. You know if anything gets all diva on us. And we’re keeping the mint from spreading like crazy by separating it in a buried pot (a tip we learned a while back at the farmer’s market from a friendly local gardener).

You can see dirt in the bottom of the pic above. That’s some organic potting mix that we snagged at Lowe’s. It was about twice as much as the regular stuff ($10 vs $6, I think) but we figured since we’ll be consuming these plants it was worth going the slightly more natural route (since they were organically grown up to this point).

We usually would use our nutrient rich compost pile, but since moving our DIY compost bins got a little jumbled while we got settled so we don’t appear to have enough “ready” soil to use just yet (aka: things are still breaking down).

Here are the plants all in and soil-ed up:

Since the patio (which also got a bit soil-ed, as you can see) isn’t very sunny, we decided to put the pot on our balcony-to-nowhere (right off of our living room and kitchen). Despite being between two sections of house, it gets a remarkable amount of light – almost the closest thing to full sun that we have on our mostly shaded property. Plus it’s pretty darn convenient to the kitchen.

The beauty of having our herb “garden” potted this year is that we can move it around to test other sun spots if we find that this one isn’t doing the trick (since we’re still trying to wrap our heads around sun patterns here). Heck, it might even help us decide where to put a more permanent garden next year (gotta find that sweet spot). And if we decide to keep this potted version around, it’ll still look good on the larger deck that we plan to build out here eventually. Maybe even as an oversized centerpiece on an outdoor table?

And since no herb garden story is complete with an artsy close-up of your plant labels – here we go!

If you’re wondering, Colonel Oregano is not some weird variety of oregano. It’s just me being weird. I decided it’d be funny to take our simple popsicle stick labels and give them the Clue-character treatment. You know like Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard? Here’s my whole cast of made up herbs / suspect names. Yes, I’m what Sherry’s dad likes to call “a strange bird” (he’s also the man trying to single-handedly bring back the term “sick puppy”).

Next year if we decide to grow peppers it will be tough deciding whether to give it the “Sergeant” or “Doctor” title. Though the idea of a Dr. Pepper plant sounds pretty awesome, so maybe I’ve already made my decision.

What are you guys growing this year? Anything sprouting up particularly well or deliciously? Anything not showing as much promise as you’d like? Anything murdering someone in the conservatory with the lead pipe?

Psst- Don’t forget to check out the rest of our Farmer’s Market adventures here on BabyCenter.


  1. says

    So, Miss Mint is a bit of a tart, and likes to spread herself around. Insidious is the word, I believe. Make sure to pinch off any of flowers she may grow. You do not wish her seed to blow off into your lawn, or you may never get rid of her!!!Very smart to keep her in a pot, but sequestering her to solitary may be even better.

    • WendyK says

      I vote for solitary confinement for Miss Mint. I don’t know what type Miss Mint is, but the mint that I have would fill a tub that size in just one summer all by itself, sending runners over the top of the little pot and through any holes in the bottom. In fact, I started with a 2″ pot last spring, put it in a HUGE pot much bigger than your tub, and the pot was entirely filled and root bound by fall. I’ve been giving away mint to any takers, along with a stern warning not to plant it in the ground.

    • Chris says

      I made the mistake of planting mint in the ground a few years ago and it completely took over my garden. Smelled lovely, but took some mighty digging to correct. Lesson learned.

    • Tia says

      Love it! Yes, mint is an awful weed! I put it in a decorative pot, about 5 feet from another pot on the porch that had rosemary. That hussy Miss Mint spread her legs soooo far across the concrete porch that she rooted herself in the rosemary pot 5 feet away.

    • Amanda says

      We had the same problem with our oregano – actually, our oregano killed our mint and then summarily cracked and broke apart the clay pot we put it in. It was pretty e-vil.

  2. Kate says

    We didn’t garden this year since we just bought our house. Last year we had a garden plot here at my work (you can get a free 10×10 plot every year – awesome perk!), but we knew we wouldn’t have time this year. Next year we’re looking forward to creating a little garden in our backyard.

    I keep meaning to buy a tomato plant or two for our deck, but I keep forgetting! I’m afraid now it might be too late, but I might still go pick one up and try to squeeze a few tomatos out of it.

  3. Reenie says

    Good idea on the Mint. I had no idea she came back every year…..and spreads like crazy. I thought I had her all dug up ~ but nope, she’s baaaack!!! HA!

  4. says

    I have been wanting to make a potted herb garden for my backyard so badly. This definitely gives me the inspiration to do it. Is it possible to find herbs at Lowes or will I need to find a farmer’s market? (I am a novice in the gardening department.)

  5. sara says

    if you lightly tap the bottom of the hydrangea with a hammer and split the bottom of the stem after you cut it and then make sure the stem is kinda short then they last longer..also cool dry place.

  6. Alison says

    Oddly enough, I did almost the same exact project on Sunday! My herb garden in a similar galvanized pot has basil, oregano, thyme and rosemary. Also- we have mint in the yard that is taking over, so good choice with quarantining it!

  7. says

    Great way to still get some fresh herbs this time of the season. We may have to try this. All we have is a planter full of mint (fresh Mojitos anyone?).

    Thanks for sharing!

  8. says

    Don’t forget your fall crops! A second harvest of cold weather veggies, lettuce, peas, broccoli, etc. do great when planted mid summer to harvest in the fall.

    We’re planting quite the garden this year. 6700+ square feet of garden actually. Most for eating/canning with the remainder for decoration at our October wedding. We might have taken DIY wedding a step too far when we decided to grow the decor… :)

  9. says

    I actually started a pot garden in my backyard this year! That’s a garden IN pots…not a garden of pot. Hmmm…should think of another way of putting that. Anyway…so far I have tomatoes, a blueberry bush, and some herbs as well! We actually just enjoyed the fruits of our labor last night with some fresh picked tomatoes!! SO sweet and juicy!

  10. Katrina says

    FYI: Oregano is part of the mint family – it can spread the same way mint does. If you plant it in a garden it is also best to plant it in a pot. I know. From experience.

    • says

      Really??? Good to know! Maybe that’s why ours get so bushy every year (they tend to mound in our garden instead of spreading like mint).


    • Katrina says

      Maybe it depends on the variety or only does it after it gets established. Mine mounded the first year, became a larger mound the next year, but then took off the third year. We did find if we kept it trimmed back and didn’t let it flower (after we dug it up and replanted it in a pot) that it was a much more manageable size in our small beds.

  11. Morgan says

    Two things. First, genius idea to make a galvanized tub into a planter. I even like the way it looks better than terracotta. What garden couldn’t use a little bling? Secondly, John – you are hilarious! The heart? Clue characters? Strange bird/sick puppy? You guys crack me up!

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