Growing herbs in pots or containers are not the same as using an open garden or raised bed. That’s why it’s so important to use the best potting soil for herbs to make sure your herbs get exactly what they need to grow healthy and strong.
When you choose the soil for herbs, you can be sure that your plants are getting the kind of soil they need for strong roots, sufficient water, and adequate drainage. These are the most important characteristics in potting soil.
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What Soil to Use for Herbs in Pots?
To grow herbs in pots or containers, it’s important to use potting soil, not garden soil.
Potting soil actually got its name because it’s specially mixed for plants that are grown in pots. It’s not the same as garden soil and using the two interchangeably can lead to problems.
There are a few differences between the two but the main reason potting soil is different is how they absorb water. This is very important when you’re growing herbs or other potted plants.
Potting soil is designed to retain just the right amount of water for the pot while letting the excess drain. On the other hand, because garden soil is supposed to be spread out over a large surface area, it retains too much water for a container.
That’s not all, garden soils that contain clay can even harder and pull away from the sides of the pot, essentially turning into concrete which is obviously not good for your herbs.
One downside to standard potting soils is that they don’t contain a lot of organic ingredients. So, it’s important to choose a blend that has a nice mix of organic ingredients to make sure that your herbs are getting everything they need.
The Best Potting Soil For Herbs in Pots & Containers
There are a lot of options when it comes to potting soil, but if you want to know which products are the best for herbs in pots or containers, here are the very best ones around.
|FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil||38.5 Quarts||Buy on Amazon|
|FoxFarm FX14053 Ocean Forest Organic Potting Soil||12 Quarts||Buy on Amazon|
|Black Gold 1302040 All Organic Potting Soil||8 Quarts||Buy on Amazon|
|Espoma AP8 Organic Potting Mix||8 Quarts||Buy on Amazon|
|Miracle-Gro Expand 'n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix||8.4 Quarts||Buy on Amazon|
Best Soil for Herbs Reviewed
1. FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil
The best thing about this FoxFarm potting soil is that it’s ready to use right out of the bag. You don’t need to mix anything and the pH is already adjusted to allow for the best possible fertilizer uptake.
This potting soil has a nice mix of organic materials including earthwork castings, bat guano, and fish and crab meal sourced from the Pacific Northwest to provide the micronutrients that your herbs need to thrive.
Another reason it’s perfect for potted herbs is the texture. It’s a blend of forest humus, sandy loam, and sphagnum peat moss which keeps it light and airy to let excess water drain through and establish a solid root system.
2. FoxFarm FX14053 Ocean Forest Organic Potting Soil
This potting soil from FoxFarm is another great option that’s loaded with the organic ingredients that plain potting soil is missing. It includes earthworm castings that remove toxins from the soil and peat moss to help deliver nutrients and minerals.
The texture is great, too. A blend of sandy loam, sphagnum peat moss, and composted forest humus keep it light and airy so that excess water can easily drain through, and roots can grow strong to provide better support.
Plus, since this soil is ready to go right out of the bag, you don’t have to worry about adding any nitrogen fertilizers at first. The pH is optimal for fertilizer absorption and really helps your plants grow and thrive.
3. Black Gold 1302040 All Organic Potting Soil
Black Gold is an all-purpose, organic potting soil that’s perfect for potted herbs. It features a rich, loamy mix that includes perlite and pumice to create a light, airy texture that creates pores and airspace for proper root growth and water drainage.
As for ingredients, the mix varies regionally but contains a blend of about 50% Canadian Sphagnum peat moss, prelit, worm castings, and various composted materials like peanut hulls, rice hulls, pumice, cinders, or forest products.
This product is listed by the organic materials review institute. It’s quality tested and has a proven track record of performance that your herbs will love.
4. Espoma AP8 Organic Potting Mix
This organic potting mix from Espoma is great for indoor or outdoor potted herb gardens. It features a rich blend of sphagnum peat moss, humus, perlite, and Myco-Tone to help maintain proper water retention.
It’s also fortified with plenty of organic ingredients that help give your herbs everything they need to thrive including earthworm castings, alfalfa meal, kelp meal, and shrimp meal. This 8-quart bag also has a convenient zipper for easy storage.
5. Miracle-Gro Expand ‘n Gro Concentrated Planting Mix
Miracle-Gro is a well-known, trusted brand when it comes to gardening, and this Expand ‘N Gro planting mix is a perfect example of why. It’s a great choice if you’re looking for something to fill a large pot or container.
Not only does it hold up to 50% more water than basic potting soil, but it also expands up to three times when water is added to create a network of airspace that helps grow strong roots and drain excess water.
Keep in mind that this is a concentrated soil that’s supposed to expand and grow. Mix it thoroughly in a large container before using it with your potted herbs. Follow the directions carefully for the best results.
What is the Best Potting Soil for Herbs?
Although all of the products we chose will help your herbs grow strong, the best potting soil is FoxFarm Ocean Forest Potting Soil. It’s ready to use right out of the bag and the pH is already adjusted for proper fertilizer uptake.
Because it contains a mix of earthworm casting, bat guano, and crab, and fish meal, it contains the necessary micronutrients your herbs need to thrive.
That’s not all, the texture is specially formulated for potted plants. Because it uses a blend of forest humus, sandy loam, and sphagnum peat moss, it’s light and airy to support proper root growth and adequately drain excess water.
Soil Depth Requirements for Herbs
One of the most important things to consider when choosing a pot or container or your herbs is depth.
While it depends on the specific herbs you’re growing, most require at least six to eight inches of soil depth. Some require as many as ten.
Here are some of the most common herbs and how much depth they need to grow properly.
- Chives – 3 inches
- Oregano – 6 inches
- Tarragon – 6 inches
- Thyme – 6 inches
- Basil – 8 inches
- Parsley – 8 inches
- Cilantro – 8 inches
- Rosemary – 12 inches
- Mint – 12 inches
- Dill – 12 inches
- Coriander – 18 inches
- Sage – 24 inches
As you can see, soil depth varies greatly from one herb to the next. You should also keep in mind that these figures are the low end of the range and some of these herbs could use a few more inches.
How to Grow Herbs in Pots?
Growing herbs in pots or containers aren’t exceptionally difficult, but it’s important to follow the right steps to help your herb garden succeed.
Here are some tips to make sure you’re off to a good start.
Choose the Right Pots for Herbs
There are two ways to approach this. If you’re only planning to grow one or two different herbs or if you have a rack or planter you want to use, you can use a smaller pot for each herb. Just make sure that the pot is deep enough for the herb to grow appropriately.
Another option is to get a large, deep pot and group several herbs together. This is a good option if you want to grow multiple herbs and don’t want to keep each in its own container.
It’s very important that you choose a container that has adequate drainage, especially if you’ll be keeping them outdoors where they’ll be exposed to rain. Herbs do not like overly wet soil which is why drainage is one of the most important things to consider.
Some herbs have very specific requirements. For example, mint really likes to spread and needs a long of space so a long, wide window box is better than a small pot.
Choosing the right material is important, too. You should choose something that’s durable enough to set outdoors but lightweight enough that you can bring it in when the weather shifts. How well the material retains moisture is important, too.
Terracotta is a great choice because it’s relatively inexpensive and lightweight but make sure you bring it inside in the winter as it can crack. Plastic pots are also affordable and easy to move but they can break pretty easily.
Avoid stone or cement pots unless you live in a climate where you don’t have to worry about frost or if you have a permanent home in mind. These pots are great but they’re very heavy and difficult to move.
What Herbs Can You Grow Together?
Growing several herbs in one large pot can save space and, if they’re grouped properly, can actually save make it easier to care for them.
One good combination is putting Mediterranean herbs together. Because they all come from the same region, they have similar requirements for growth, like lots of sunshine and soils that are a little dry. Try grouping rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and marjoram.
There are also a lot of herbs that like a little more moisture than Mediterranean herbs. Try grouping basil, cilantro, tarragon, and parsley together and you won’t have to worry about overwatering.
You can also plant different varieties of the same herb together and get good results. For example, try putting peppermint, spearmint, and catmint together but remember that mint really spreads and needs room to grow.
How to Plant Herbs
Once you have your containers, fill each pot up to 1 inch below the ledge. Use one of the soils we recommended here to make sure it drains properly and includes the organic ingredients your herbs need to thrive.
If you’re starting from seeds, place them about ¼ inch deep in the soil. Use your finger to dig down below the soil, place about 5 seeds in each hole, then cover them. If you’re transplanting plants that have already been established, arrange them accordingly. Place tall plants in the center of the pot with smaller ones around the rim.
Whichever method you choose, make sure you label them with a popsicle stick or some other marker so you know what’s what was your garden starts to grow.
Once you have your seeds and plants placed, water the soil. If the soil level goes down, add more on the top until the level is at 1 inch below the rim again.
Maintaining a Herb Garden
As you notice the plants start to grow, remove any seedlings that don’t seem to be thriving. This gives the hardier plants more room and access to more nutrients because they don’t have to compete with other plants.
Keep your herb containers in an area where they will get at least 6 hours of sunlight every day but keep them indoors if there is a risk of frost.
Don’t overwater. Stick your finger about 1 to 2 inches deep into the soil. If it feels dry, it’s time to water. If you still feel some moisture, leave it be and recheck later that day or the next morning.
Prune any wilting or broken leaves periodically so the healthier ones can thrive.
One of the best things you can do to start a successful herb garden in a container is to understand that potted plants are different than plants growing in a garden.
The biggest difference is that potted plants require soil that drains easily and lets their roots grow freely. Good potting soil for herbs has just the right mix of ingredients to maintain the right amount of moisture and the organic materials needed for your herbs to thrive.
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