Looking to spruce up your patio and add instant access to delicious herbs without having to trek to the grocery store? If you're lacking the space for a full-on garden, container gardening may be the way to go.

Jennifer Gibson, a horticulturist at The Good Earth Garden Center in Little Rock, highlights what you need to consider when taking the container garden plunge, all the items needed, the go-to herbs and how much maintenance you can expect to keep it thriving:

  • First things, first: Gibson suggested if you already have a container to plant in, measure it before you go plant shopping. If you don’t have a planter, consider what style you would like and also how large it will need to be. "You want it to fit in proportionately with your existing space," she said. Also think about where the planter(s) will be and if the plants need to be tall, cascading down the sides, or both. Next, figure out how much sun the planter will be getting and remember, herbs like sun, Gibson said.
  • Must-have items: Essential items for a superb container garden are a container with good drainage; a drainage stone 1 to 2 inches deep in the bottom of container; a little weed fabric to cover the gravel and keep the soil separate; quality potting soil; and plants. "You want a potting mix that is well-drained and promotes root growth and general plant health," she said, "[and] always use a professional grade potting mix, because you are aiming for professional results!" Something else that is beneficial to herbs and plants-- mix in some Espoma Bio-Tone Starter Plus to give the plant a boost. "This natural plant food contains humates, beneficial bacteria and mycorrhizae for root development," Gibson said.
  • Ideal herbs: Gibson said a majority of herbs go well in pots, but there are some you just don't want to mix. For example, mint grows pretty aggressively and will take over its neighboring plants, so plant this herb alone. She suggested planting herbs with similar needs together -- for example, both thyme and oregano do not like too much water or fertilizer, while rosemary and basil both like to dry out between waterings. You can also pot your favorite herbs separately, and group the pots together to give the plants more room to grow, Gibson added. 
  • Maintenance:  What's great about container gardening is the fairly low maintenance, especially if you're using the herbs regularly. Gibson said some light pruning will be necessary as the plants grow, but if you are cooking with the herbs, that should be enough.  For flowering-mixed containers, you might need to cut back mid-season if the plants are getting leggy and blooming has ceased. She recommended checking the container daily for water needs. "A large container will need water approximately three times a week and a smaller container will dry out faster and require more frequent watering."
  • Get everything in one place: The Good Earth has a large variety of containers, the perfect potting mix and just about any plant you can think of!  At The Good Earth, the staff separates its plants based on the sun requirements, so if you need plants for a shady area, head to the shade section, Gibson said. If sun plants are what you are looking for, bring a sun hat, and begin the search. Brand-wise, she suggested the Proven Winner series of plants, which have been carefully selected for their heartiness and offer a variety of striking textures and colors. "Mixing some of these in with a larger statement piece in the middle works very well," she said. 

Gibson gives a rundown of several great color and texture combinations below.

Shade:

  1. Hick’s Yew, Impatiens, Variegated Ivy, Moneywort
  2. Bird’s Nest Fern, New Guinea Impatiens, Polka Dot Plant, Irish Moss
  3. Maidenhair Fern, Heuchera, Impatiens, Torenia

For sun:

  1. Angelonia, Bacopa, Moneywort, Wave Petunia
  2. Red Stars Cordyline, Ageratum, Silver Frost, Million Bells
  3. Chinese Fan Palm, Verbena, Sweet Potato Vine

For more information and extra tips, call (501) 868-4666 or click here.

Good luck with your new gardening adventure!