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. Melissa C. says

    We are fortunate to live in an area with lots of farmstands within walking/riding (and driving) distance of our home, but finally went the farm share route and are splitting it with another couple (still way more produce than two adults, a toddler, and the pending arrival of an infant need in a week) since neither of us is really good at making things other than weeds grow. We’re loving the locally grown organic produce that gets picked up weekly and that we’re supporting a local farm.

  2. says

    I live in the UK, in a Flat (apartment) I bought a living salad which was meant to only last for 10 days, i’ve had it for 2 months… also i was given 2 tomato plant seedlings, which have grown to about 4 ft tall on my kitchen windowsill! they even have a tomato growing on them!
    the person who gave me the seedlings are so jealous as theirs are still about 12inches tall! haha – monster plants!

    Also whats the vents on the floor infront of the slidey door?


  3. says

    My husband walked out the back door early one morning to let our dogs out and watched as a giant mule deer ate all my tomato plants. It was a sad day in the Wright house. I’ve notice he’s also been snacking on my lettuce, but there’s plenty of it to go around. We still have peas and carrots and I just went out and bought some more tomato and cucumber starts and put them in a front flower bed. I’m hoping that putting them up close to the house will deter our ‘neighbor’. Oh, I am also nursing some ground cherries. They barely managed to survive a SUPER late frost. We’ll see what becomes of them.

  4. says

    I’ve been growing basil, but started mine from seed, so they’re not very big yet. Hoping they sprout up a bit more so we can actually use some without taking the whole plant for one use!

  5. Laura says

    We have done the same thing both last year and this year for herbs (& I think we used the same tub from Lowe’s!). It worked out really well for us except that we ended up having to cut down the number of plants we put in it because they were all getting too big. Now, the tub only has chives and cilantro and our rosemary, basil and oregano are in our “big” garden. I wish y’all were growing cilantro- I would love to see if it would survive the summer up in Virginia! It’s just waaayy too hot here in Georgia for it to last much longer than a couple months :( Sending good gardening vibes y’alls way!

  6. says

    We have a “pot garden” too this year! Mine is more because we have “chickens of mass destruction” that eat EVERYTHING. So I repurposed an over-the-door shoe rack and dug out all the extra pots we have to try and get some herbs and veggies this year. So far so good! I’m actually going to have to transplant things tonight because it has all done a little too well so far!

    Here’s our unglamorous, but effective shoe planter.

  7. Erika says

    I love your little herb garden!!
    I have my first “real” garden this year, and so far it’s doing great. I’ve already harvested squash and cucumbers, and before long I’ll have corn, okra, tomatoes and peppers.
    It’s so fun to watch things grow!

  8. Anita says

    This is awesome- I’ve been dying to plant some herbs on our rooftop terrace and this is the perfect inspiration. One question – do the herbs last more than one season?

    • says

      All of them are bi-annual or perennial except for the basil (annual) although sometimes things don’t come back due to the winter. I think it varies by zone though.


  9. says

    I love the idea of using the tub for this! I have a couple herbs — a lone rosemary plant and a single sprig of thyme — that desperately need permanent homes before I kill them. Once we get our back patio going, I just might have to borrow this idea… definitely going in my inspiration folder.

  10. says

    We got some awesome and very large plastic pots at Wal-Mart this year that we drilled holes into the bottom and are using them for all of our current planting. They look so great, no one can believe they aren’t ceramic. Score!

  11. Heather W. says

    You just inspired me to break out my small wooden barrel that I use to plant my “pizza” garden of oregano, tomatoes, basil and hot peppers. I also took a wooden spatula from the dollar store and painted it to look like a piece of pizza and painted pizza garden on it to stick in the barrel. It is very cute. I just found this in my shed over the weekend and thought about breaking it back out this year. Consider it DONE! Thanks for the inspiration!

  12. says

    That is super cute, and I love the idea of growing herbs in pots right near the kitchen.

    My only concern (and this is almost certainly being overprotective) would be the tub. Our super-duper-organic-super-hippie neighbor has told us that we shouldn’t grow food plants in metal containers as they often contain lead.

    Now obviously you guys are adults with credit cards and can do whatever you want. But since you seem the type to have the little lead test sticks around, I thought I’d pass it on.

    With any luck at all, it’s just my neighbor being slightly too much of a tree hugger.

    • 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).