A Recipe for Endless Fresh Herbs without Endless Watering

Woo hoo, it’s that wonderful time of the year once again!…

At least in our hemisphere, it’s a glorious time when we see the earth literally bursting with new life, freshness and vibrancy. I love this exhilarating season that compels me to alter my cooking style to accommodate all the wonderful produce that is so abundantly available.

For me, fresh herbs pair beautifully with spring and summer produce and add another layer of delicious flavor to this delightful seasonal cuisine. Although I enjoy cooking with fresh herbs all year long, I have to control myself a bit during the cooler seasons since most of my herbs are taking a long winter’s nap and the herbs are expensive at my local grocer, many of them having been imported from who-knows-where.

Come spring and summer though, my heart and my palate are thrilled to be able to utilize an almost endless supply of fresh herbs – growing right on my back deck! There is one slight problem, however, that I used to run into shortly after the lovely baby herb plants began to grow. This “problem” involved my laziness, or maybe it sounds better to call it my busy-ness. Whatever you blame it on, you too may struggle with this problem. It’s called “the hot summer sun”.


It’s usually not long after the first spring whiffs of honeysuckle or lilac for a string of warm, eighty-degree days to creep into our forecast. And all it takes is one or two of these hot sunny days and a busy schedule, on my part, to turn my beautiful potted herb garden into a dismal, wilting mess! Sure, a little water will do a decent job of reviving, but often, it seems that the plants are never quite the same.

A number of years ago my brilliant husband came up with an amazing solution to my problem. It’s simple, yet highly effective and now I never worry about my little herb friends, no matter how scorching the weather is. My herbs are as beautiful in the middle of the hot Southern summer as they are in May. I shared this post last spring, but since then, we have had a ton of new visitors to The Café so I thought we’d share it one more time as you get ready to do your spring planting. Oh, and be sure to check back for some fabulous fresh herb recipes this week; Herbed Potato Rolls and a wonderful Herbed Ricotta Tomato Tart – we had both for dinner tonight and they were a huge hit!

Herbed Potato Rolls


Herbed Ricotta Tomato Tart

Endless Herbs without Endless Watering

This is Scott, Chris’ resident photographer and confidante (translated – husband!). If you’ve followed The Café for a while you might have been wondering; “Where does this girl get all the herbs and flowers that she uses as garnishes and ingredients in her recipes and photos?” Well, today we’ll explore the answer – It’s called an Herb Rack Drip System.

Years ago, as a Mother’s Day gift, I wanted to build an herb garden for Chris. As I was planning it, I realized that there were several flaws to the designs I had previously seen in magazines and gardening books. Most people grow their herbs in a regular garden, a raised bed, or in pots directly on their patio or deck. Each one of these plans was OK, but had shortcomings. I also noticed that if we put herbs out in the backyard garden, Chris would seldom walk out to get them because when she was cooking she usually needed them ASAP.
If you were a fly on the wall in our house, you’d know that Chris and I run on two wheels most of the time, so expedience is of the utmost importance! I tried moving some of the herbs to the deck, to make them more accessible but they left the deck in a mess with water, mildew, plant parts and dirt. The other major problem was that, if we went away for more than two days, the herbs in the pots committed hari kari and didn’t recover due to a lack of water. Consequently, all our hard work at the beginning of the season was for naught.
One day I was out on the deck and had an “aha!” moment. Why not create an herb rack drip system that would be attached to the deck railing?
By doing that, Chris would have her herbs within easy reach of the kitchen (no muddy, wet feet!), the deck would stay clean and no “sudden death” plants when Carolina summers reach their zenith. Two other advantages: No rabbits and other little rodents AND the plants in the gardens below the herb rack thought they were in seventh heaven, since they received the secondary benefits of all the watering and fertilization above them.
By utilizing the very economical standard drip systems available at Home Depot or Lowes (or any big box store for that matter) you too can easily build a system like this for under $100.
Each pot has one or two drippers depending on the size of the pot and the water needs of the plants. I also attach a pressure regulator and a timer to make the system foolproof (see photo).
The timer turns the system on two to three times a day (depending on the the month and heat) for 5-10 minutes each time to make sure the plants are happy and not H2O stressed. The pressure regulator keeps the water pressure from your garden hose at the very low rate required by drip systems. If you really want to get sophisticated, you can install an additional water valve in your lawn irrigation system to feed the drip system without using a standard garden hose connection.
As the system has evolved throughout two houses and many years, I’ve let my imagination run wild. “What if all the plants in and around our house could get regular watering like the herbs?” You guessed it !- Now we have an “expanded” drip system that feeds water to over sixty plants, shrubs and flowers, including the knockout roses and topiaries in the front of the house! Chris has learned to expect little drippers to appear almost anywhere around our property.

Three Cautions

First – Check the drippers periodically to make sure they’re not clogged – If you see a stressed plant, that’s a give-away.

Second – Because the plants are in the restricted space of a pot, fertilize them regularly. The daily drip system tends to wash out vital nutrients all plants depend on from the soil. I use regular Miracle Gro and mix it up in a sprinkling can.


Third – Spray regularly with environmental pest spray (The kind that can be used right up to the day before harvest.). If your plants are producing faster that you’re using the herbs in your cooking, give them what Chris calls a “haircut”. This promotes new growth and you can “donate” the extra “hair” to your friends, neighbors and work buddies who like to cook. They will love you for it!


Happy Herbing!  ~Scott

28 thoughts on “A Recipe for Endless Fresh Herbs without Endless Watering”

  • I usually don’t leave negative comments on blogs, but with yours I feel compelled to.
    Well your content is pretty good, you have such an outrageous amount of ads on the sidebars that it’s pretty much unwatchable.
    I won’t be back. I know you want to monetize your blog, but there’s other ways to do it then overwhelming viewers with frivolous advertisements. Rd Cross, SEO toolkit, solar power? C”mon, none of this is related to food or gardening.

  • such a wonderful post! i have dreamed of an herb garden but have run into almost all of these same problems. excited to give the drip system a try this year!

  • Thank you so much for sharing your propagating and irrigating ideas, as well as your recipes. I’m new at gardening and all is very much appreciated!

  • I too have a husband who is not a handyman, but a big heart and as I read the posts, a thought occurred to me. There are planters that hook on to the deck railing and then all I have to do is figure out how to do the water system.
    Thank you for the ideas!!

  • Oh I adore growing my own herbs, I am going this weekend to get some. I found lavender to grow this year, YAY! Your recipes look gorgeous, BUT I simply adore your herb set up, and sprinkler system:-) Take care, Terra

  • Sooooooo, when can Scott come out and make one of these for us? Hubby knows which end of the hammer to use but that’s just about it as far as his handymanness goes. He’s a total computer geek.

    Now you’ve reminded me that I need to go water my herbs. ::sigh::

  • What a thoughtful gift Scott! Thanks for the idea and all the tips on getting it started. Chris you are one lucky lady. Looking forward to the recipes and I just know you stashed a couple of those rolls in the frozen pea bag for me.

  • You have me pumped up! This weekend I’m planting my herb garden. Some herbs like oregano and thyme came back, but my dogs ate the others. I put up a fence last year, so this year they will be protected! I can’t wait to get some basil into the ground!! Thanks for the informative post!!

  • I love the herb garden! I have the one that Chris talked about. 50 pots with water and crap everywhere. The deck railing is also the edge of the pool’s rock wall but I have another deck that’s just a bit farther away that just might work. Brilliant idea !

    The potato rolls are calling me and I love tomato tarts!

  • Hi, Love your herb garden, so lovely.

    Your potato rolls and tomato tart look excellent and tempting too. Very well baked and beautiful click.

    Have a nice day. Regards

  • Wow, your plants are lush and beautiful, so I see this system really works! You are a genius!! You have a huge and well tended system! Can’t wait to see that potato roll recipe!

  • Like Marina,I dream of a herb garden like yours! I also love the photo of the herb garden in the wheel barrel. I’m doing as full salad and herb garden this summer and found this post very inspiring. Can’t wait for the recipes this week.

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