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Herbs in pots can be moved around your garden as needed.

Top herbs for pots

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Having fresh herbs at your doorstep saves money and adds flavour and diversity to your cooking, and Penny Woodward has some tips to get you started.

Whether your garden is big or small, growing plants in pots means that you can change the garden in small ways with careful placements of big or small pots. Herbs do well in pots because many are tough plants that like heat and good drainage. Quite a few are small and creeping, or compact and taller, meaning they are adaptable to pots of different sizes.

Many herbs have different species and cultivars, so if you have a small pot, then look for a smaller growing cultivar. If they are in pots they can be stationed close to the kitchen door for easy access, kept near the barbecue to repel pests (see box below) or moved into sunnier or shadier positions, depending on the time of year. They also look good, and smell and taste even better, and are just generally lovely to have around.

What to choose

I’m often asked about my favourite herbs and have to admit they change over time. Currently, the herbs I would take with me to a desert island are parsley, sweet marjoram, French tarragon, fennel and thyme, but specifically Thymus capitatus which is also known as Mediterranean wild thyme. There are some others, too, that I think should be used more, such as lovage, salad burnet, hyssop, cretan savoury and watercress.

Herbs to repel pests

Some useful pest-repellent herbs can be grown in pots and pieces picked as needed, or the pots can be moved around to help keep pests away. Try the following:
• Tansy (Tanacetum vulgare) (below) repels both flies and ants. Grow in a pot by frequently used doors, break off leafy branches and spread on shelves to keep ants away.

127 Tansy by Gap Photos Ernie James

• Southernwood (Artemisia abrotanum) leaves help to keep mosquitoes away and if you have chooks, cuttings added to nesting boxes will repel pests.
• Pennyroyal (Mentha pulegium) will also repel mosquitoes, rub the pleasantly scented leaves on exposed sections of skin, and spread leaves inside or outside to repel ants.
• English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) also repels mosquitoes, brush against it or crush leaves to release the scent into the air.
• Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) repels flies and fleas.


Penny’s full article about growing herbs in pots first appeared in our August/September 2021 issue (OG 127). There’s a selection of back issues available here — you can also subscribe and get the most recent issues delivered to your door!