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My daughter and son-in-law built me a big, high-off-the-ground wood box for planting herbs…

Joyce Asked

My daughter and son-in-law built me a big, high-off-the-ground wood box for planting herbs. I need to know what kind of dirt to fill sections with, and do I need rock on the bottom of the box? Also, do you have some kind of planting guide help? I am excited about getting it going this spring, so I need the right kind of help to get it planted. Thanks for any help to guide me on the way.

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The Gardener’s Answer

What a sweet gift your daughter and son-in-law made for you! Functional and something you can enjoy for years to come. Growing herbs in containers is so much fun and incorporating them into your recipes benefits everyone.

You will want to fill your raised bed with quality potting soil and compost for nutrients. Do not use topsoil as it will not allow for proper drainage. Are there drainage holes or slats between the wood for drainage? If so, no rocks are necessary.

Be sure to place the planter in an area where it will receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day. To determine how much soil/amendments you’ll need, measure the length x width x height of the planter in feet. Most bags are sold in cubic feet so this will help estimate how many bags you’ll need. For example, a 4×4 foot planter will need approximately 4-5 bags. Hen manure and worm castings are great choices for nutrients, but be sure you add more potting soil than amendments. A rough estimate to follow is one bag of amendments per 2-3 bags of potting soil.

After the planter is filled, the fun can begin! Choose herbs that you like to cook with, and then decide if you want to start them from seed or buy actual plants. Take into account the growth habit of each herb and incorporate upright, spreading, and trailing herbs. Plant the taller ones in the middle and the trailers on the edge. Basil, thyme, rosemary, cilantro, sage, lavender, and parsley are the most common herbs, but for a detailed list of herbs we can grow in Kentucky, click here. This publication is available from our Cooperative Extension Service.

The only herb I would recommend avoiding is mint. Plant this in its own container, or it will take over. Some herbs are considered hardy perennials so keep this in mind when choosing the herbs you want to incorporate.

I love being able to go into the garden and choose herbs for the next meal, and I hope you will, too!

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