Balcony herb garden so super simple you’ll love it | Roost
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Super simple balcony herb garden you’ll love

Fresh basil can make a boring pasta sauce taste fancy and a summer cocktail taste fresh. But buying fresh herbs can be shockingly expensive: basil, chives and dill can cost nearly $14 per ounce (per ounce!). The good news is that you can save a ton of money by doing it yourself. Here’s how to plant a simple balcony herb garden at your apartment. 

Why start a balcony herb garden

There are plenty of great reasons to start a balcony herb garden, the first being that they are cheap and easy to grow. Even someone who has never gardened will find that growing herbs can be pretty rewarding; it takes a minimal amount of skill to turn a little seed into a bushy basil plant! 

Some of the great benefits of an herb garden are:

  • You’ll save money. Grocery store herbs are expensive and often go bad before you can use them all whereas you can snip only what you need from your lovely rosemary balcony plant for that perfect pasta sauce.
  • Tending gardens has great health benefits and has been shown to help reduce stress as well as get you out in the sunshine for some much-needed vitamin D. 
  • Herb gardens make a nice, inexpensive decoration to any apartment balcony adding greenery and something beautiful to look out at while you’re at home. 
  • Herbs have powerful, familiar fragrances that are wonderful to have around – think, basil, mint, rosemary, and more.
  • Fun to share with your neighbors. As your herb garden takes off, you’ll have plenty to share with your friends and neighbors.  Dried herbs can make fun gifts too! 

If you like to cook, having your own herb garden will up your dinner game. From pasta sauces, to omelets, soups and salads, herbs can really help make the meal. If growing an herb garden inspires you to want to cook more, here’s a great book about cooking with herbs that also includes a guide to growing and maintaining an herb garden.

Cooking with herbs: Herbfarm cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld
Herbfarm cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld

Drinks are another wonderful way to get the most out of your herb garden. Summertime mint for your mojitos, rosemary-gin concoctions, and basil strawberry daiquiris…herbs can make your drinks taste fresh and unique. If you’re looking for ideas and recipes, take a look at The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart.

Herbs and mixology: The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart
The Drunken Botanist by Amy Stewart

How to start your balcony herb garden

The first thing you need to decide is if you want to begin with seeds or starter plants. Seeds can be fun but more challenging to get started. We recommend an herb seed starter kit if you want to do seeds. It comes with a variety of herbs and everything you’ll need to get going.

Balcony herb garden starter kit for people who want to start their herb gardens with seeds
Planter’s choice 9-herb window garden starter kit

If you decide to skip the seed step and go straight to the starter plants, all you’ll need are the following:

Your starter herbs. Any Lowe’s, Home Depot, variety store, or local nursery will have starter plants available.

Rosemary starter plants for your apartment balcony herb garden
Rosemary starter plants for your balcony herb garden

Not sure what herbs you want to grow? Here is a list of some of the most popular herbs and some ideas for how to use them.

HerbTypeBalcony lightGood for
BasilAnnualFull sunpasta sauces and pesto
Chamomile AnnualFull sunTeas and oils
ChervilPerennialPartial shadeOmelets to rich creamy sauces
ChivesPerennialFull or Partial shadeSoups, dips, baked potatoes, seafood
CilantroAnnualFull sun or partial shadeSalsas, stir-fries and curries
DillAnnualPartial shadeSalads, fish, egg, vegetables and meat dishes, sauces and dressings
LavenderPerennialFull sunAromatherapy and oils
Lemon VerbenaPerennialFull sunRoasts, poultry, salad dressing, soups
LovagePerennialPartial shadeSoups, stews, pork and poultry
MintPerennialPartial shadeTeas, mojitos and salads
OreganoPerennialFull sunTomato based dishes and meats
ParsleyBiennialFull sun or partial  shadeBulgur salads, accents to food
RosemaryPerennialFull sunMeats, tomato sauce, soups
SagePerennialFull sunPork, poultry, stuffing
ThymePerennialFull sun or Partial shadeStews, sauce, vegetables and meats
Wild garlicPerennialPartial shadeOmelets, dips, sauces and more

Containers

Avoid containers that are too small because they won’t be able to support your little herb buddy as it grows.

Also, avoid porous materials such as terra cotta. Although terra cotta satisfies your sense of old-world Mediterranean, they do not hold water well and your soil will dry out much faster. Go for larger ceramic containers that will stand up to wind, be roomy enough for a couple of plants, and won’t dry out at the first sign of a warm day.

Another great option that we love are stackable planters that allows you to have a pretty big little garden on your balcony. Added bonus – it just looks like terra cotta but it’s made of plastic which means better water retention.

Amazing Creation 5 tier garden tower for growing herbs on your balcony
Amazing Creation 5 tier garden tower for growing herbs on your balcony
Roost Tip! Make sure to plant your herbs in containers with drainage holes. This will save your herbs from becoming waterlogged. 

Dirt

Not all dirt is equal when it comes to your balcony herb garden. Shop for soil-based compost rather than peat-based. Peat compost is lighter, dries out quickly, and because of the high amount of carbon that is stored in it, is bad for the environment.

Soil-based compost, on the other hand, is heavier, which helps keep plants from blowing over on a windy balcony. It also retains water better which means that your herbs won’t dry out as quickly if you forget to water them.

Tips to help your balcony herb garden thrive

1. Know your light

Most herbs grow best in full sunlight or partial shade. So before you spend a dime on seeds or starts, you’ll need to figure out how much sunlight your balcony gets. Is it an east, west, south, or north-facing balcony?

South and west-facing balconies will be great for hardier, sun-loving plants such as rosemary, lavender, tomatoes, basil, and sage. One thing to remember—you may need to water twice on really hot days during the summer to keep them from becoming too parched.

If you have a full sun balcony but want to grow partial-shade herbs, consider creating a make-shift shelter for some artificial shade. This BeGrit sun block is nice because it allows partial sunlight through and comes in a variety of sizes. Besides protecting your herb garden it will help keep your apartment cooler in the summer as well. (Make sure to check with your landlord or property manager about any balcony covering rules.)

BeGrit sun block to protect herb gardens on South and west-facing balconies
BeGrit sun block to protect herb gardens on South and west-facing balconies

Another great sun protection option that looks a little more “au naturelle” are artificial plants. Your balcony just got even more green, with no watering required!

East-facing balconies will be great for partial shade herbs such as parsley, mint, dill, and cilantro. 

North-facing balconies may be the toughest to grow an herb garden on. Mint will be a great choice for a northern balcony. If you have a window inside that gets better sun than your balcony, you might want to try growing your herb garden indoors instead..

2. Start with starters

Planting seeds and nurturing them into full-grown plants can be pretty rewarding. But it’s also more time-intensive and takes more care and intention. That’s why we generally lean towards starters.

Starters are plants that have been nurtured through their most delicate stages of life by professional gardeners and are ready to be planted and grown by the time you get them. Although a starter will cost a little more money than a pouch of seeds, you will need less setup equipment and care to get them thriving.

There is also no waiting period—you bring your starter home, plant it in a pot, and you’re off and running.  No worrying about the best time to plant then waiting for sprouts to appear (or maybe they never do).

3. Watering tips for your herbs

  • Try to water between 6 am to 10 am – this will maximize the amount of water absorbed and won’t evaporate in the heat of the day.
  • Spread water evenly on the soil rather than concentrating at the base of the plant to avoid excess water being trapped around the roots.
  • Larger containers will hold more water for longer periods – check to see if the soil is very moist or dry to determine if you need to water.
  • Feed your herbs a bit of fertilizer, 5-10-5 or 10-10-10 strength, a couple of times per year.
  • Always read the instructions that your herb comes with for the exact watering needs of your plant.

4. Snipping, pinching, and trimming herbs

For herbs like basil, experts recommend snipping them from the top down. But for other herbs like oregano, thyme, or mint, you can snip wherever you like. To keep your herbs looking healthy and full, regularly snip and prune. Trim off any damaged leaves and pinch leaves just above the leaf node to energize other buds to grow.  

How and when to plant your balcony herb garden

For most renters, you can grow herbs year round with a bit of effort. If you live in a temperate climate, you can keep them on the balcony.  If your winters are freezing, then let your herbs move indoors for the season. Alternatively, you can  look into a mini greenhouse cover for protection and to extend your growing season.  

A mini greenhouse cover is a great way to protect your herb gardens during the freezing winter months
A mini greenhouse cover is a great way to protect your herb gardens during the freezing winter months

At the very least, make sure to wrap pot bases in something insulating, like blankets, to protect the roots from freezing.

Looking to add more than just herbs? Here are some of our favorite low-maintenance plants to consider adding to your balcony or patio. Plants plus herbs are a great way to extend your living space and bring a bit more calm and relaxation to your home. 

How to enjoy your fresh cut herbs

Once you have fresh herbs from your balcony, a whole world of recipes awaits.  Let your herbs get to about 4-6 inches before you start snipping leaves, or at least have enough leaves that they can sustain growth. The best time to snip your herbs is before they flower. 

Chopping your herbs small and crushing them in your hand releases the flavors. Add them at the end of your recipe for the best results, otherwise, the heat can destroy flavors.  Try infusing olive oil, making a basil Caprese, adding to a homemade soup, or even a Pork tenderloin. 

Roost Tip! To help fresh cut herbs last longer, wrap the stem in a damp paper towel, seal in a plastic Ziploc bag, and refrigerate.

A balcony herb garden for any apartment

While it might seem a little daunting at first or that you don’t have the space, planting a simple balcony herb garden can be done nearly anywhere. Once you have your supplies in hand, all you need is a little bit of water and sunlight to grow some tasty plants that make your taste buds—and your budget—happy.

A quick note! Our goal is to gather and share info that’s up-to-date and helps you make great decisions as a renter. That said, the information you get directly from a provider could be a little different. Make sure to review their terms and conditions directly; and, if you see anything here that needs to be updated, please let us know! Advertising disclosure
Last Updated: May 24th, 2022