Transplanting herbs from the garden to containers

Spring has finally arrived. The sun is starting to shine, everything is turning green and starting to grow, and I’ve been getting really anxious to do some gardening! Tending to plants brings so much joy into my life. Join me today in the beginnings of my first attempt at container gardening.

Wheelbarrow of herbs ready to plant

I’ve been so thankful for the privilege of a very large gardening space these past 6 years. So much food has been grown, harvested, processed, and enjoyed at our dinner table. No matter how big my gardening space, I always seem to want MORE SPACE!!! Well, this year I get to practice self control because I’m going to be doing container gardening! I’m excited about this new venture, as well as a bit nervous. I’ve never been good with house plants, my chickens love to eat perlite out of my pots outside, and there are so many deer that hang out close to my house.

First things first, I pulled all of my favorite herbs out of the garden we had last year and gathered them up on the tailgate to keep them away from the chickens while I organized the potting situation. My favorite herbs that survived the winter include: Oregano, Chinese Chives, Thyme, Tri-colored Sage, Orange Mint, and some good old Catnip for Macchiato. The Catnip didn’t actually survive the winter, but I found some new starts coming up so I grabbed those.

Herbs on the tailgate for transplanting

Tailgate potting bench for transplanting herbs

I remember it being very difficult to get the Chives growing strong so I don’t want to risk loosing those. I dug out all 3 clusters of them, carefully avoiding their roots. I also pulled my most productive Oregano plant. The Thyme was just pretty, thriving, and calling my name. (Can anyone relate!?) I don’t actually use it all that much in my cooking, but I love the tiny pink flowers when it is in bloom.

The Oregano and Chives were given to me by a former piano student along with some Strawberry starts. I saved the Strawberries too. I have a hard enough time keeping Strawberries alive in the ground, I’m not very confident with my ability to help them thrive in pots, but I will try my best! Maybe they will even do better for me!!

Transplanting herbs and starts from the garden to containers

My Tri-Colored Sage was a favorite herb last season. It makes some of the most delicious breakfast gravy and it is my husband’s favorite herb (probably because of the breakfast gravy!). We are still using dried sage that I harvested from this plant. I was shocked to see it had survived the winter, though it doesn’t look too good right now. I’m sure it will improve in time with some tender loving care!

In my digging around, I came across 3 volunteer pansies and 2 succulent type plants (no idea what they are!) so I saved those too. There is something about plants, I just want to give them all a happy place to grow and thrive! It is so hard for me to thin my veggie starts, or pull up unwanted volunteer plants in the garden. They’re trying so hard to grow, I wish I could just give them all a home!! Well, these 5 plants won me over this time. I don’t have very many plants yet so, for now, I have room for them and will take care of them.

I made a quick run to Wilco for potting soil to make sure I’d have enough soil to pot everyone up nicely. What an adventure that was! Wilco is pretty new to town, and they moved into an existing old building with a TINY parking lot!! Just two rows of parking, with the busiest main drag of town out front, and not much space back to the building either. Then of course they have their load out zone in the corner of the parking lot too. Very crowded space to say the least! I don’t think they were anticipating full ton, dually farm trucks pulling in and out of there like I was today!

After inching my way back and forth out of my parking space, I was speeding back across the countryside to my precious herb plants that were waiting for their new home. I was pushing for time too because I only had about one good hour of daylight left. The late evening sun helped to brighten things up until it would disappear behind the distant coastal mountain range, so I knew I had some time and it was just beautiful out!

Evening Chicken coop with sun rays

Relocating the planter boxI decided to plant most of the herbs in the planter box I built last year. But first, I was going to have to move the planter into a sunny location. Do you ever go out and start working on a project, determined you will do it by yourself? Without needing to ask your husband for help!? Maybe it’s just me, but I feel like I’m always asking him for a tool, some of his wisdom, or a strong arm. I’m so glad he’s there for me, and he’s always happy to help, but sometimes I just want to do it myself without bothering him! Well, I tried, but moving this planter was not one of those things I could do alone! I dug all the soil into the wheelbarrow to make it light enough to move, but then discovered the wood was sopping wet and the bottom was starting to fall out….so I gave in and asked for help. 🙂


New planter location in the sun

I was able to fit most of the homeless herbs into this planter. I did my best to arrange the plants attractively, keeping their full grown size in mind. Of course, I can keep these herbs trimmed back to be whatever size/shape I want, but I wanted to balance the tall plants mixed in nicely with the short plants. I’m sure it will look better after the plants have established themselves and filled in a bit.

Herbs resting in loose potting soil

Placing some of the herbs in the planter, and some of the herbs in the wheelbarrow with the potting soil, allowed me to visualize the end result as I arranged the plants, swapping one out for another and getting them all placed just right. Working from left to right, I made sure to get the potting soil in firmly around all corners of the plants. I added another handful of soil to the top of each plant, right above it’s original root ball, underneath the greenery. This helps to keep the plant from drying out, by having the same type of soil on all sides, especially the top.

Thyme herb root ball

These herbs were living in some pretty hard clay soil, so I tried to carefully remove as much of that soil as possible without disturbing the roots too much. This accomplishes a couple of things. First, it encourages new growth from the slightly damaged roots. Secondly, it takes off the bulk of the root ball, allowing me to plant them closer together in their new planter. Third, these herbs don’t exactly thrive in clay soil, so I am glad to get rid of it!

Finished herb planter

With these guys all planted, I turned my attention to the flowers that I just couldn’t resist buying on my quick run into Wilco! I’m planning to get lots more flowers next week at Fred Meyer’s Fushia Saturday, but I was more than ready for some spring blooms!!

As you can see, these little beauties are pretty much root bound too! When this happens, it can be tricky to get them out of their pots as the roots kind of grab onto the sides of the container. Just give them a gentle squeeze from each side, flip them upside down, sliding your fingers around the greenery to catch the plant as it comes out of the pot, and then flip the pot upside down and give the bottom a little tap. The plant should come right out! If not, you could also try sliding a knife or another thin object around the sides of the container, much like you would get fresh baked muffins out of the muffin pan.

Pansies in planterOnce you get the plant out of the container, if the root ball is this snug, it’s a good idea to tease the roots a bit. I just grab the bottom of the plant, and pull the sides away from each other, as if I was cutting the root ball in half. I only let this tear go up about 1/2 inch. Then I turn the plant and repeat the same idea. This leaves me with a 4 way break in the root cluster. If you don’t free the roots in this way, they may not figure out that they have lots of room to break free and reach deep into the soil for water and nutrients.

And then finally, my work was done. A satisfying planter filled with tasty herbs, a beautiful pot of flowers on the porch to serve as spring eye candy, and a happy gardener. Spring is officially here. I have gardened, and summer can come on over!

What have you been up to as you welcome this wonderful season of spring? I’d love to hear about your projects too! Please share in the comments.


Leave a Reply 4 comments

Pam Cox - April 5, 2017 Reply

Happy to see the old stone planter still nurturing flowers. I hope all your transplants happily thrive.

    Suzanne Cox - April 6, 2017 Reply

    Thanks! They seem to be adjusting to their new home nicely. I can already see some new growth. 🙂

Lisa - April 5, 2017 Reply

Enjoyed this post! Happy Spring (finally)! I’m anxious to get some outdoor planting done too 😉

    Suzanne Cox - April 6, 2017 Reply

    Thank you Lisa! Happy Spring to you too!! Hope you can find some time, and a nice day, to get some of your planting done soon.

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