For the first time in years, I have a covered front porch again and the perfect place to showcase an herb garden. I looked at lots of commercial patio herb garden planters but decided, in the end, to go a different way. I’ve been wanting to plant something in a piece of upcycled furniture for a while now, and an herb garden seem like the perfect opportunity to put that idea into action. I’m in love with how it looks next to our front door on our porch. It would also make for a great balcony herb planter.
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First things first, find your beautiful, but damaged-beyond-repair, piece of furniture. When I started my search I was originally looking for a chest of drawers with 5-7 drawers or even an old vanity, but I ended up falling in love with this nightstand (and its mere $20.00 price tag).
It was already painted white and even had cute hardware to boot. And, it clearly had a rough previous life, so, no guilt about my plan to leave it exposed to the elements on my covered porch. My best guess is that it lived with an unruly rabbit, guinee pig or other small furry animal as the paint (and a good bit of wood) had been chewed/scratched away at the base of the legs and the smell was definitely in need of a good airing out. But, nonetheless, it was perfect. It took less than a day outside for it to stop smelling like pets and after a thorough wipe down, it looked way more than adequate for its next task.
We decided it was going to live on our covered front porch, next to our front door because it looked simply charming up against the red brick backdrop there.
Once we had it in position, it was time to convert it to a planter. First, we had to add some support to the drawers, so they would hold up to being left in a permanently extended position. I wanted the bottom drawer to be almost fully extended and the top drawer to be extended out about half that far. To add our support we first removed both drawers fully:
Then we added some scrap 2X2s vertically to the inside on either side.
We then used some scrap 3/4″ board pieces on top of that. You could use really use any scrap wood here depending on what you have on hand and what fits between the side of your drawers and the inside of your piece of furniture.
Then we put the drawers back, adjusted them to how far out we wanted them to be extended, and screwed them in place, into the freshly mounted support wood, using our RYOBI drill.
Note: Always have a plan in place for what planters you want to use inside the drawers BEFORE you secure the drawers. In my rush of excitement I didn’t even pause to think about this step and nearly caused an unnecessary headache when trying to fit my planters into the drawers. In the end, I was able to make it work just fine, but this step could have just as easily needed to be redone because of my error.
Next, consider how you want to plant.
Planter vs Pot
You could use your drawers one of two ways for this project, you could either fill each drawer with a collection of potted herbs or turn each drawer into an elevated planter bed by filing it with soil and planting your herbs directly in it. There are pros and cons to either of these options.
Herb Planter Bed
If you choose to fill each drawer with soil, you will be able to plant as many herbs as you want in each drawer and you will have a slightly easier time watering them, as their roots will be able to reach for water in a much larger area. However, you will be watering directly into the drawer each time. This will definitely cause some wear and tear on the furniture long term. The inside of drawers on most modern pieces of furniture are made with particle board, instead of solid wood, which will not hold up to this kind of treatment forever. Also, if you go this route, you will want to drill some drainage holes in the bottom of each drawer in case of occasional overwatering.
Herb Container Garden
The other option you have, is to use your drawers to simply house a container herb garden. To do this you put solid pots in your drawers and then put plastic, well draining pots, inside of those. This not only allows you move things around whenever you want, but it also allows you to replace any plants, at any time, with minimal effort. This option will also protect your furniture from being routinely damaged during each watering. However, it does mean that you’ll have to water your herbs more regularly. Since they are each living in a much smaller vessel, their roots won’t be able to reach as far to get more water on their own. Also, it will limit the growth of your herbs, as they cannot gradually infiltrate the rest of the drawer as they could in the raised garden bed option above. Lastly, you will be limited on how many herb varieties you can fit into each drawer.
After considering both of these, I decided to go the container garden route.
I used 6 of these 4.25 inch galvanized planters from IKEA for only 79 cents each.
I love that these planters are short enough that the entire height of them is hidden behind the drawer face, so you don’t even see them from the front. I also found it extremely helpful that they were made of metal. Remember above when I reminded y’all to test fit your planters first. The flexibility provided by the metal planter is the only reason we didn’t have to redo my drawers. I was able to turn these planters upside down and shimmy them in along the side of the drawer before turning them right side up again once in the drawer. If I had planned ahead and extended each drawer 3/4″ more it would have saved us from this annoyance.
Growing herbs in pots for beginners
If you are new to growing plants in pots, keep these few things in mind to set yourself up for long term success.
First, use a two pot setup. One decorative outside pot with a solid bottom (no drainage holes) and an inner pot with good drainage holes. Most of the time you can just use the plastic pot you bought the plant in as the inner pot and skip the trouble of repotting at all.
Next, check daily to see if they need water. Not all herbs require the same amount of water. Some herbs are drought resistant like garlic chives, onion chives, lavender, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Others, like tarragon, cilantro, basil and parsley require lots of watering. But no matter who they are, they don’t like overwatering! Overwatering is one of the most common problem beginners have, but if you follow these steps you’ll be well protected from it.
How to water potted herbs
Touch the soil and If the soil feels dry thoroughly water the plant. You can do this two ways. You can either remove the inner pot/plant and water the plant. Then allow it to drain and return it to its decorative counterpart. Or you can water the plant in its decorative home and check back a few minutes later to see if any excess water has collected in the inside of the decorative pot. If it has, simply lift the inner pot out and dump out the excess water in the outer pot before returning them together again. For either of these techniques it is important to apply the water directly the soil at the base of the plant and avoid getting substantial amounts of water on the foliage. With an outdoor potted plant this is somewhat less of a concern, as excess water on the leaves will evaporate in a short time, but it is still a good habit to be in as this is definitely important with decorative indoor plants and succulents. You could also bottom water your herbs, and never have to worry about getting extra water on the foliage. Bottom watering is when you place the inner pot in a vessel of water and allow it to soak up whatever water it needs. The water level should cover most of the sides of the inner pot but not be overflowing the top. This is by far the most foolproof method of watering potted plants, but does take some extra time each day.
Whenever I get a new plant, I start with the first method and remove the inner pot to water it. After a few waterings, when I’ve started to learn the new plants water needs, I switch to watering my plant directly in its two pot setup and check back a few minutes later to double check myself and see if any water has collected.
Now comes the most exciting part, picking your plants! I decided that I liked the look of 3 plants per drawer, but you could easily fit more if you needed more variety in your fresh herbs. I also, picked up a perfect rectangular basket at the local thrift store knowing that I could find a way to plant a few more herbs in that and then rest it on the top of the finished upcycled herb garden.
Which herbs are best?
Isn’t that a loaded question! I’ve found that the answer largely depends on the person. The best herbs for you are the ones YOU want to cook with or have around. Love cooking up italian dishes with fresh thyme, oregano, parsley and basil, plant ’em! Enjoy your summer mojitos with fresh mint muddled in, plant it! Do you dabble in cooking curries or other unique Thai or Indian dishes, then plant some lemon grass, cilantro, and thai basil. For my garden, I chose Chives, Parsley, Thyme (and Lemon Thyme), Basil, Cilantro, Rosemary, Sage, and Dill.
I also have three types Mint (Peppermint, Spearmint, and Sweet Mint) going right now, from a “Plant your own Mint” station at our daughters’ Kentucky Derby themed birthday party this past spring. Because I wanted to continue to use all three varieties, I decided to give them their own dedicated space in a wooden crate next to the herb garden instead of making space for them in the main herb dresser.
One important note about Mint, while were on the subject, is that Mint is invasive, meaning it has a tendency to take over whatever container it is planted in. Because of this, never plant it directly in the ground, unless you want it to fill the whole surrounding area. If you do want to plant it in the ground or in a planter with other herbs, you may want to consider planting the whole plastic pot with the mint. That will discourage (but still not fully prevent) it from creeping into the surrounding area.
Decide which plants will go where:
I decided the top drawer was going to have my two varieties of basil and my cilantro:
And the bottom drawer was going to have my rosemary, sage, and dill:
Leaving Chives, Parsley, and Thyme to be planted in my basket on top of the nightstand.
I ended up turning my basket into a planter bed of sorts by using a foil tray and lid from the Dollar Store. This way, I could give the appearance that the herbs were planted directly in the basket, but still create a double planter setup that would allow for both good drainage as well as protection for my basket and furniture from any overwatering. I love planting in unusual containers and finding creative ways to still ensure good drainage. You can read much more on this in my Teacup Succulents article or my Gardening Ideas article, where I show you how to plant with drainage in any container. For this container, I found a foil tray and lid that fit snugly inside my basket and then poked holes in the bottom of the foil tray using screw drivers; first with a small screwdriver and then with a larger screw driver to expand the holes. Then I laid out my plants; a row of flowering chives in the back, parsley in the middle row, and my creeping thyme along the front. All that was left was to fill in around the plants with fresh potting soil and place the finished product inside the basket.
I should also note that when I found this basket it had the perfect shape but was unfortunately red, so I first had to give it two quick coats of paint with Slate Ultra Matte Rustoleum spray paint. Complete game changer. This color sprayed on so beatifully… this is definitely a new favorite color of mine and I can’t wait to use it again!
Now that our basket is filled and our potted herbs are tucked securely in their drawers, its time to style my front porch herb garden. I added a custom “HERBS” label to the basket using white vinyl letters cut with my favorite da skinny font on one of these hanging chalkboard signs. I had originally planned to label each of the herbs individually but in the end, opted to go without, for a cleaner look. I also decided to store our galvanized watering can on the ground to the left of it. The final touch came in the way of our large pineapple sculpture.
Why the pineapple?
My husband gifted me this gem when we lived outside of Savannah, Georgia and we were quite literally surrounded by quaint pineapple decor. After our first few months there we finally asked a native and found out that pineapples are historically a sign of hospitality in Savannah. Right then and there we decided we needed one for ourselves and our home. I love the look of this one, but the size has always made it a bit of a white elephant. I have to say, though, I think it has found its true calling atop our shabby chic herb garden! The height it adds creates the perfect visual appeal.
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Other patio herb planters
DISCLOSURE: THIS POST CONTAINED AFFILIATE LINKS (*). MEANING, I WILL EARN A COMMISSION IF YOU GO THROUGH THEM AND CHOSE TO MAKE A PURCHASE. PLEASE NOTE, THAT I ONLY INCLUDE LINKS TO PRODUCTS THAT I BELIEVE WILL BE HELPFUL TO YOU AND NOT BECAUSE OF THE COMMISSION I RECEIVE. REST ASSURED THAT THERE WILL BE NO ADDITIONAL COST INCURRED TO YOU IF YOU CHOSE TO MAKE A PURCHASE THROUGH ONE OF MY LINKS.
Now that you’re ready to take on the outdoors, its time to check out these other great outdoor projects: