Easy Peasy Herb Fun: Which herbs on the balcony?
Just because you don’t have a garden doesn’t mean you have to miss out on fresh, aromatic spices. Just let the herbs move in on your balcony! Because even on your balcony or windowsill, many Mediterranean and native herbs feel right at home.
Why not try the following plants?
- Bay leaf
- Lemon balm
However, not everything thrives on the balcony. Rather less suitable, for example, are all those herbs that form deep roots, such as tarragon, wormwood or curry herb. These quickly get claustrophobic in small pots and die.
Which herbs to put where?
Most herbs on the balcony need a lot of light. In the strong midday sun, however, they quickly become too hot and need to be in the shade. West or east-facing balconies are therefore best suited.
There, the hot midday sun is eliminated and there is just the right balance between sun and shade. South-facing balconies are also ideal for sun-loving herbs such as basil, rosemary or thyme – but then please provide shade over midday if possible.
On a north-facing balcony, it’s a bit more difficult with the herb bed, but even here you don’t need to despair. If your balcony is mainly shaded, you have to make sure that the few hours of sunlight are ideally used. In order for the herbs to enjoy an extensive sunbath, it is best to place them higher up or on the outside of the balcony.
These plants like to look deep into their leaves: Which herbs to plant together?
As a general rule, only plants with similar requirements want to be next to each other. There are also a few loners that simply prefer to be alone and don’t want to share their space with other fellow herbs.
Some herbs like to live in mixed cultures with certain vegetable plants. For example, tomato and basil go well together not only on the plate, but also in the pot. The same goes for tomato and parsley, and cucumber and dill.
You have a lot of herbs that do not get along so well with each other but only little space on the balcony? Then perhaps herb spirals, herb pyramids, herb shelves or herb hanging baskets are right for you. They help you to grow many different herbs in a small space without causing neighborhood wars.
|Fit together||Do not fit together||Loner|
|Parsley & Dill||Dill & Basil||Lovage|
|Rosemary & Basil||Basil & Lemon Balm||Laurel|
|Oregano & Sage||Sage & Dill||Lemongrass|
|Parsley & Basil||Salbei & Minze||Lavender|
The right substrate
Just take a quick trip to the supermarket, buy a bag of soil and off you go with your own herb bed on the balcony? It’s not quite that simple! The little plants on the balcony lack compost and topsoil – things that are automatically supplied to them in the garden.
Although there are special herbal soils for sale, they are not suitable for all plants. The Mediterranean herbs need rather sandy and permeable soils. Other plants, on the other hand, do very well with these ready-made soils.
It is therefore all the more important that you pay attention to the right substrate for your balcony garden. But what do the little herb plants like? A tricky question indeed, because the choice of substrate always depends on the soil requirements of the respective herb.
When it comes to soil, you should always go for peat-free varieties – the balcony herbs get along better with this: all plants love peat-free organic soil.
Depending on the soil requirements, you then need to add additives such as sand, lava gravel, pumice or zeolite. These contain important minerals such as iron or magnesium and thus promote plant growth.
What you always need is a drainage layer to avoid waterlogging. Most herbs do not like permanently wet feet. Gravel, expanded clay or shards of clay are suitable for this.
For me, please a little more water: properly care for herbs on the balcony
If you think that balcony herbs have no special needs and are easy to keep, you are very mistaken! Because with these aromatic little plants there is so much to consider. The one or other diva among the kitchen herbs is quite demanding in between.
One important aspect is proper watering. Herbs on the balcony like it best when you water them in the morning with stale rainwater. The smaller the pot, the more often you need to replenish it. Automatic watering systems can save you a lot of work.
Your balcony herb bed is in full bloom and it’s time to harvest? Take it easy! Mistakes happen very quickly, especially here. Always harvest the herbs on a sunny morning, because then they have developed their full aroma. Also, always cut them only when they are dry.
The biggest enemies of your balcony herb garden are aphids, spider mites and whitefly. If you discover an infestation, you should immediately shower off the plantlets and rid them of the pesky pests naturally. For some beneficial insects, such as the ladybug, the little pests are a delicacy – they are happy to help you get rid of them.
Brrr, quite cold here: Overwintering herbs
When it gets cold outside and winter is just around the corner, it’s high time to send your kitchen herbs into a well-deserved winter break. You have to distinguish between annual and perennial plants.
Annual balcony herbs usually enrich your kitchen for only one season – they do not survive the cold winter. Classic such annual plants is basil, although here there are even perennial species.
In autumn you harvest the annual plants one last time. Shortly after that they will hang their heads and die.
Some of these herbs dry well, while others keep better in the freezer. Processed as homemade pesto or herb oil, they provide fresh flavors in your favorite dishes even in winter.
Perennial plants will stay with you longer with proper care. Here we distinguish once again between hardy and non-hardy herbs. Winter-hardy herbs for the balcony are:
- Lemon balm
These aromatic plants can stay on the balcony even in the cold season. To do this, place the pots on wooden boards or polystyrene sheets and wrap them in garden fleece or jute bags. In winter, herbs like to snuggle up – so feel free to place the individual pots close together before covering them.
Non-hardy balcony herbs need to be brought indoors for the winter. As temperatures approach freezing, it’s high time for these plants to move indoors. There, however, winter should still prevail for these plants – albeit in a somewhat weakened form.
That is, they do not need comfortably warm temperatures of 25 °C. Temperatures around 10 °C are ideal. Anything above that would confuse the plants and they get stressed. A cool stairwell, frost-free cellar, conservatory or greenhouse are best for the winter break.
Off into the fresh air: When can herbs go on the balcony?
After the cold winter, you probably can’t wait until you can put your little darlings back on the balcony and sow new seeds. In principle, this great moment comes in May. After the last frost, it’s warm enough outside for those much sought-after kitchen herbs.
Some plants are a little more hardy and like to get some fresh air earlier. Mint, for example, can be sown directly in a pot on the balcony as early as March. Thyme and sage can go out in April and enjoy the first sunbaths.
Get to the plants: The classics in detail
Finally, let’s take a closer look at the classics for the herb garden on the balcony.
Basil is a classic in Italian cuisine. The basil plant is relatively demanding. It needs plenty of water and nutrients to ensure a bountiful harvest throughout the summer.
You will achieve the greatest success if you start sowing in March. Plants that you can buy in the supermarket are less suitable for this purpose, because they are intended only for one-time harvesting.
Do not harvest single leaves, but also do not remove too much – the basil does not like that. Ideally, you cut off the tips of the shoots about 5 cm long. Now you can prepare a super good tomato salad with basil!
Rosemary is one of the Mediterranean balcony herbs and particularly likes it sunny and dry. It needs only little water and copes well with longer dry periods.
The best way to propagate rosemary is by cuttings. It takes a long time to sow and is often unsuccessful. In the fall, cut it back and send it into a well-deserved winter break.
Thyme is a relatively uncomplicated plant from the house of medicinal herbs. It likes it sunny and thrives best in dry and sandy soil.
In the fall, you should trim the thyme properly and let the individual branches dry well. This way you will have thyme for delicious tea all winter long and you can fight off an upcoming cold early on.
This refreshing herb is sown directly in the pot from March. Caution: it needs a lot of space, so better choose a larger container with about 10 liters of soil volume.
If you harvest the mint continuously – even a little more radically – it will keep sprouting new leaves. So nothing stands in the way of refreshing summer cocktails.
Parsley, along with chives, is one of the most popular kitchen herbs. It comes in many different types, from leaf parsley to root parsley.
Similar to mint, parsley also needs a relatively large amount of space. It forms quite deep roots, which is why the pot can be a little deeper. The plant needs a lot of water, but it does not like waterlogging.
It thrives best in partial shade. In too much sun, the leaves turn yellow and the harvest is accordingly smaller. Harvesting is done leaf by leaf or by cutting the plant back completely.
Oregano is another classic of Italian cuisine. After all, a pizza is not a real pizza without oregano!
It loves extensive sunbathing as well as dry soil that is low in nutrients. You can pluck off the leaves all summer long and create Italian delicacies with them. You can even eat the purple flowers.
Chives don’t mix well with other herbs, with a few exceptions. It needs a nutrient-rich soil that is always slightly moist. When harvested, radically cut back the plant – don’t worry, it will regrow in no time.
Like oregano, chives also form purple flowers that you can pick off without hesitation. They are a real eye-catcher for fresh summer salads and spice them up with flavor.
Herb garden on the balcony: It greens so green
Enough talk, now it’s time to get down to business! After all, the herb garden does not grow by itself. Whether Mediterranean or native – many herbs will find a suitable place on your balcony. But don’t forget: each plant has its own characteristics and needs sufficient attention. Your herbs will thank you with a beguiling fragrance and a rich harvest.
If you want to learn more about growing and caring for herbs on the balcony, you will find all the important information in these books.
How would it be if you only had to go out to the balcony or windowsill for a moment, cut off a few fresh herbs and add them to your food?
Especially for city dwellers, that’s a dream, isn’t it? I’ve lived in various big cities around the world for the past few years, and I’ve missed being able to just go to my parents’ garden to pick off a handful of parsley or basil like I used to.
With this motivation, I’ve been experimenting on my balcony for the past few months. I’ve tried different soils, seeds, pots and fertilizers. At first, more herbs died than actually made it to the pan but by now my green thumb has developed.
Growing your own herbs is not only fun, but also gives you the certainty that they have not been grown with chemicals.
And on top of that, herbs are nutrient-rich. Enough reasons to start your own herb garden on the balcony or windowsill. In a three-part series, I would like to tell you about my experiences and research with my own herb garden on the balcony. Let’s start in the first part with the selection of the appropriate herbs and the necessary accessories.
Which Herbs Do I Choose?
Just as in the garden bed, it is true for herbs on the balcony that a mixed culture is better than a monoculture. Planting different herbs next to each other is good for growth. Besides, you probably don’t want to season your food with the same herb all the time. The only thing you should consider is which herbs get along with each other and which ones can’t get along at all. I would consider the following points when choosing herbs:
Overwintering: there are annual, biennial and perennial herbs. Basil, dill and marjoram are annuals. Parsley can still be harvested in its second year. Chives, sage, oregano and mint are perennial herbs. Overwinter most herbs can be kept in a cool, frost-free, bright place like the stairwell or a mini winter garden on the balcony.
Water requirements: if you keep forgetting to water your flowers, you better plant a lot no basil, lemon balm or mint, because these herbs are extremely thirsty.
Sun: generally Mediterranean herbs need a lot of sun, whereas native herbs tend to stay in the shade or partial shade.
Space requirements: some herbs such as lemon balm, dill, sage, tarragon and lovage need a lot of space for the roots. Much more modest are basil, parsley and dill. Basically, biennial and perennial herbs need more space due to their growth.
Social behavior: yes, even herbs can not all together. The rule of thumb is that herbs with similar nutritional needs should not be planted next to each other.
Not at all compatible, because of the growth, are the pairs of herbs peppermint and chamomile, basil and lemon balm, thyme and marjoram, tarragon and dill, and fennel and coriander. Very good neighbors are sage and oregano, parsley and dill.
What Accessories Do I Need For The Herb Garden?
Depending on whether you want to grow the seeds like a full professional or buy ready-made herb pots or perennials, you will need different sized containers and also soil. If you want to grow the herbs from seeds yourself, then you should let them germinate in a small growing pot for the first 1-3 weeks before repotting them in a larger container. Basically anything is suitable as a container, as long as no waterlogging can form in it.
A classic flower box on the balcony railing, the terracotta pot on the floor, the hanging hanging basket on the ceiling or fancy allotments like the herb spiral or the apothecary garden with different rectangles or circles.
You should just pay attention to how vigorous the individual herb is, that is, how much room it needs for root space. Lovage and dill, in particular, require deep pots. When it comes to soil, there are big differences between rather sandy soil to very nutrient-rich soil with additives such as humus, coconut fiber or peat.
The plant soil used is the determining factor for herb growth. For herbs that prefer a lean soil, a mixture of one part sand and 3 parts plant soil is advisable.
For herbs with high nutrient needs, a mixture of humus and soil or special herbal soil should be used. You need to fertilize only the fewest herbs, because they are usually satisfied with the existing nutrients in the soil.
Only for herbs with strong growth, which are regularly harvested, can be fertilized once a month to spur growth. For this purpose, there are special herb fertilizers, although you can also take flower fertilizer diluted with water with a MIsch ratio of 1 : 10 (10 parts of water). Hybridized seed is trimmed for maximum yield and uniform growth by breeding in the laboratory of a biotech corporation.