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

    I absolutely love this!! We have a garden as well, but I loved seeing it in a galvanized tub- what a great affordable alternative to a planter! And the very best part? The names. Clue is my favorite, favorite movie ever- and (just about) everyone I encounter has never seen it. Love it!! I will have to try this out somehow in my home. This put a smile on my face and I know I will smile and laugh about it all day!

  2. Donita says

    That looks so cute……I want one. ;-) I would have to have rosemary though, as it is supposed to stimulate hair growth *on your head*, and mine gets thinner by the year. LOL *just a little FYI there*.
    My husband plants a box garden every year. This year he planted, tomato’s, several different kinds of peppers, kohlrabi, summer squash, decorative gourds and pumpkins, carrots, SO FAR. He will add a few more things, like radishes. We have strawberries as well. This year, he tried something different. To keep the cats from doing their business in his freshly planted garden. He made taller *removable* sides for each box, made arches and stapled plastic. They are like mini greenhouses. We shall see how this works. ;-)

    • Jessica says

      LOL….I’m going to start giving my little one rosemary baths and fill her baby pool with rosemary….no hair! I just want to put her hair in pigtails….and no hair!

    • Donita says

      Potion for hair growth……put one cup olive oil in a glass bowl with handles. Place the glass bowl on top of a pan of water. Heat the water until the oil is warm. Then take about 6-8 sprigs of Rosemary, strip the leaves *whatever those are called* off the stems. Heat the olive oil and rosemary for a few minutes. Then stain the rosemary off, let it cool. The recipe said to use the entire cup of oil….*OH MY LORD* my hair is VERY SHORT and VERY THIN right now. I will use about a quarter cup and rub into scalp. Leave on scalp for 15 minutes, then wash hair as usual. I haven’t tried this yet, BUT plan to soon. The rosemary is supposed to stimulate hair growth.
      I just heard another tip * a must for little girls hair*. My pastors wife just told me of a family of five girls she knew. They all had long thick beautiful hair. She asked how they kept their hair so beautiful, long and thick. The mom said she used HOOF MAKER from a Farm/Feed Store. I myself used it years ago, for my finger nails, did not know you could use it in your hair. You just rub a bit in your scalp, let set for a few minutes, then wash hair. TUESDAYS TIPS for DIYing long thick hair. LOL

  3. says

    Love the idea of using the galvinzed tub. Its much more attractive than my miss-match of random pots.

    This year my basil is flourishing as well as my oregano, sage, and marajoram.

  4. LINDSEY says

    Are you guys worried about health risks involved with planting in the galvanized tub? I saw this on Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution, but when proposing the idea to my boyfriend, he said he’d be leary of planting in the galvanized metal!

    Did you guys research this? Have any insight? I love the look and would LOVE to have one of these on my back porch as well!!!

    • says

      We never thought about it but someone mentioned that we should test it for lead so I’m about to do that right now! We’re definitely not into planting organic herbs with organic soil in a dangerous container- yikes! We’ll report back as soon as I finish the lead test (thank goodness I have those little $4 test sticks on hand).


    • says

      Update: no lead! Whew. We tested the seams, outside, inside, and even the holes we drilled in the tin and it was completely negative. Thank goodness! Further googling around about planting things in galvanized steel said that it was completely safe (many farms use galvanized tins for tomatoes actually) although they didn’t recommend high heat food prep within a galvanized steel container (especially with acidic liquids) since it could leach at extremely high temps (500 degrees plus). So no open flame under a galvanized metal tin of spaghetti sauce! And of course if you have a cheaply made metal trash can it could have trace amounts of lead so doing a lead test just to be sure is always smart (test sticks are around $4 at Home Depot).


  5. mrs.origami says

    I’ve got a cherry tomato plant, and a basil plant. there are some other herbs popping up but not enough to use any of them..the basil and tomatoes are awesome though!

    Love the galvanized pot you used for your herbs.

  6. sarah says

    Hi, Your portable garden looks great! If I can make a plug for NOT purchasing vegetable/herb starts at big-box stores . . . Two years ago, nearly every tomato plant in southern New England, from little home garden plots to nearby organic farms, was wiped out by a terrible tomato blight. A summer without tomatoes. Can you imagine it? Regional agriculture organizations believe the fungus began in tomato starts (the baby plants you buy to start your garden) raised in the south for big-box stores and distributed throughout the eastern part of the country. The fungus can’t live in the hot south so it’s not a problem there, but it can live up here in cooler temps and there was even fear that it would overwinter and wipe out the following year’s crop if we didn’t have a good, hard winter to kill it. The summer with no fresh, local, organic tomatoes was truly tragic, especially for family farms that rely on CSAs and farmers markets for the bulk of their sales for the year. We had to pull up and bury all the plants so the spores wouldn’t travel in air. So please consider the importance of local, organic sources for your garden starts. The closer to the farm, the better. It’s a good rule to live by for pretty much everything we eat! Thanks.

    • says

      Thanks for the tip Sarah! We had fun at the Farmer’s Market (and got to support local organic farms) so we’d definitely recommend that route to anyone interested!


  7. Sarah says

    You just wanted to snap more pics of those amazing curtains huh? ;)

    I’ve been trying my hand at gardening this year, so far we have tomatoes, basil, rosemary, broccoli, and strawberries. I’m going to try to plant some green beans tonight…hopefully it’s not too late! OH – and Target has some awesome planters on clearance now. I grabbed 2 about the size of your tin one for $6 a pop! <3 Target!

  8. Jess says

    This is my spring/summer living in Dallas, Texas (having spent the rest of my natural live in the Hoosier state) and I completely missed the growing season. I walked into the local greenhouse and asked where their veggie plants were and the employee laughed at me — yes, laughed! They had three very sickly little guys in the back that I took home with me. They were doing great initally, but have since started looking sickly again. This might have to do with the 1-2 punch of 100 degree June days and no water for 2 weeks while the hubs and I were on our honeymoon in Tahiti (I remembered to have someone feed and water the cat. That has to count for something). Next season, we’re going to build a raised garden with an integrated watering system on a timer. Probably.

    I think this weekend I’m going to risk getting laughed at again and go see if the greenhouse has any herbies left. Then maybe I’ll head next door to the Home Depot and see if they have any galvanized tubs – imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right?

  9. Elias says

    So my hubby’s tip is to do all your planter box filling in the grass, so the dirt spillage doesn’t have to be cleaned up off the patio! (I saw the dirt on the patio in your picture). It’s a pain to move my buckets and stuff into the grass, but it does make for less clean-up.

    Also, we fill the bottom of our planters with packing peanuts (styrofoam). Doesn’t add any weight, takes up a lot of the empty space, provides drainage- it’s perfect!

    Just a couple tips for ya!

  10. CandiL says

    Weeds…that’s all I know how to grow!! And there is a tree growing out from under my front porch…gotta chop that down ASAP!!

  11. Jessica K says

    What section of the store can I find these galvanized tubs? I searched the website, but nothing came up.

  12. says

    Unfortunately We don’t have a garden like you. But have a big balcony full of flowers and now we have some vegetables. I hope we can eat our cute tomatoes. But as soon as possible I will have a pot like you… I love it.

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