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

    we don’t have much of a yard, so we opted for the potted herb garden as well. to decide what we would plant, we took a look at our spice rack and picked out the jars that always seemed to empty the fastest. we started out with just basil and chives.
    Hubby loves to make his own home-made pesto; we re-use jars from store-bought pesto/jams to store our home-made stuff. and the extra basil leaves are dried out, chopped up, and put into our spice jar for future use in home-made pasta sauce. we haven’t harvested the chives yet, but they’re definitely looking pretty lush!

    • Pamela says

      If you’re really loving pesto and have a plethora of basil…I made batches of pesto last year and froze it in ice cube trays. Then I popped the frozen cubes into a zippered freezer bag. I still have a few cubes after using it all winter.
      P.S. I did go light on the olive oil, figuring I could always add more to the defrosted cubes.

  2. Lisa says

    Love herbs, and galvanized tubs too, looking good on that balcony!

    I’ve made my own small raised beds from scaffolding boards. They are non-treated and cheap, since scaffolding yards happily sell the boards that are not safe for use anymore.

    Unfortunately my combo of laziness+ not-so-green thumb is proving permanent. Dito the planted things too late. Radishes seem to be a safe bet, but I should have known better than to sow calebass. If I don’t even know what it is, chances are I won’t be able to make it grow.
    My favourite this year is the chocolate mint though. Can’t stop rubbing it, just to get the scent (There is no way to make that sound anything but dirty.).

  3. says

    I planted the hill with herbs and peppers: mint (spear and pepper), oregano, thyme, sage, lemon grass, tansy, borage, basil, tarragon, parsley, lavender, pomegranates, and rosemary. Up top side, I planted eggplant, raspberries, tomatoes, squash, and some compost volunteers which look like melons or gourds. We get full sun, so it’s the best place to grow veggies.

    Exciting stuff!

  4. Beth says

    apparantly we started a few weeks late for our area
    (Jacksonville FL) however, my green thumb took over and we still planted Banana Peppers, tomatoes, corn, watermelon, cucumber, beans, pumpkin, parsley, and okra. So far everything is growing amazingly… but the only “fruit” we have harvested was a few banana peppers! but everything has blooms on it so more to some! yay! I was hoping to have watermelon for July 4th but dont think thats going to work out. boo…

  5. says

    My dad is the super gardner of the family, so we let him do most of the gardening (blueberries, raspberries, fruit trees, pepper plants, tomatoes, potatoes, spinach, and way more) but we have a small garden that we planted a ton of cilantro in, two baby raspberry plants, and lettuce. We also have some herbs spread out over our yard, mixed in with our daughter’s soon to be minitature garden to add some fun variety (two types of lavender, dill, and some others). We are also going to get some spots ready for blueberry bushes but the ground needs to be worked on for a year or so before the plant gets put in (according to my dad – it’s a trick that’s worked wonders for him!!!). Good luck with the herbs and finding the “sweet spot.”

  6. amc says

    We grow plants on the deck in clear rubbermaid containers. Once you drill drainage holes, they work for any plant and are so much cheaper than wood patio boxes. Potatoes & kale are the new additions to our garden this year. Both are doing great so far.

  7. says

    Good that you already knew to isolate the mint some.

    Well, what am I NOT growing…

    – five kinds of tomatoes
    – raddish
    – green beans
    – gooseberries
    – rapsberries
    – cucumber
    – dill
    – various mints
    – rosemary
    – thyme
    – cilantro
    – 3 different kinds of salad
    – 2 kinds of cabbage
    – 2 kinds of eggplants
    – chili
    – bell peppers
    – blueberries

    Oh, and did I mention it is all done on my 200 square feet roof terrace? Urban gardening all the way.

    There are some pics here: though the text is in Danish.

    Hope you have great success with your little edible garden.

  8. says

    Haha I read the label wrong twice, I was like “what is Colonial Oregano?” Makes much more sense now. Hilarious.

    I tried to transplant some of my aunt’s Lemon Balm, which apparently helps to keep mosquitoes away, but I think it was a big fat fail.

  9. Liz A. says

    Living in Phoenix, our planting season is almost over. I ahve managed to get about 500 pounds of tomatoes from three plants. I might be exagerating about that weight…but it is also possible that this is true. This is my first spring planting at this house, and I think that my hosue was once a nucleur reactor site or something…things grew bigger and faster than I have ever seen.

    A word about the mint…it’s like a bully in the clasroom, and will suck all available space out of that tub. I recomend a consistent discipline schedule…trim early, trim often…let her know whose boss…

  10. Pam the Goatherd says

    Since Katrina already warned you about the oregano spread I’ll just say that I love galvanized tubs and yours looks really nice filled with the herbs sitting on the balcony to nowhere.

  11. Suzy says

    I have tomatoes, okra, and strawberries that are somehow not only alive but seem to be thriving. My romaine lettuce is extrememly bitter (it has gotten way too hot in Alabama for lettuce). And, I killed my iceburg lettuce on the deck with a pair of scissors. I am claiming my husband as an accomplice..he said it would be fine to cut it back that far…

  12. Mandy says

    Great idea for planting herbs, I may have to do this!! Right now, I’ve got Chinese Eggplant, yellow bell peppers, blue lake green beans, cucumbers, and super sweet watermelon growing. Got some baby tomatoes, one eggplant, a few cucumber flowers, and one watermelon flower. Going on vacation next week, so I’m sure it will go crazy while we are gone, but my sister will be here to hold down the fort, and my mom will come supervise the sprouts while we’re gone. I’m hoping to have some stuff to take with us (going camping with the IL fam) cuz nothing beats produce you are growing yourself!

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