Cheap ‘n Easy Container Idea – Chive Basin


If you’re looking for a hardy herb that will produce a harvest all season-long, and can withstand just about anything you can throw at it then look no further than chives. I’ve been growing this wash basin of chives for so many years I can’t for the life of me recall where I got the tub or the plant. All I know is that it is one of the few perennial herbs that I can count on to withstand an inconsistent and sometimes bitter winter in a container and additionally be the first plant up and providing garnishes for early spring soups.


Every spring I try and find a new way to fill in the gaps left by the plants that don’t have the fortitude of chives and give the planter a place of prominence as the first pretty thing to look at out on the rooftop deck. This particular planting received a lot of positive attention this spring so I thought I’d share it with you.

    I use just about ever part of the plant. The early buds and fully open chive blossoms taste great in salads or steeped in vinegar to make a salad dressing.

Here’s what I’ve got growing in there right now:

  • Chives – The centrepiece. Perennial so I did not have to buy them this year. However when I did they were probably only $1 at the local Horticultural Society Plant Sale. Chives multiply like crazy in the garden and are one of those plants someone is always looking to pass off for free.
  • Thyme – Two kinds: Lime and silver. This is one of my favourite combinations. It’s not coming through in the photo but the lime thyme has a slightly yellow undertone that contrasts well with the silver variety. These plants cost $2 each and will provide a constant stream of clippings all summer long. They will not survive winter in a container however I get more for my buck by digging them up in the fall and transplanting to an in-ground garden. Last year’s container plants are currently thriving at my community garden plot. The lime variety does have a lime flavour that we like in fish soup.
  • Violas – Two kinds, but I don’t know their names. One is a deep purple and the other is a combination of soft purples, cream, orange, and yellows. I put in 4 plants totaling just over a buck. The viola flowers are edible too. I pinch off the freshest flowers to eat in my salads. They will start to fade as the heat of summer intensifies but sometimes come back for a second round s the heat decreases in early fall. You can always fill in the gaps with another flower (I’m thinking a pink zinnia this year) or cascading nasturtiums that are also edible.

Total cost to me: $5. Plus some vermicompost and compost added to the container before planting. The wash basin was free and the container soil was purchased years ago.

Gayla Trail
Gayla is a writer, photographer, and former graphic designer with a background in the Fine Arts, cultural criticism, and ecology. She is the author, photographer, and designer of best-selling books on gardening, cooking, and preserving.

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11 thoughts on “Cheap ‘n Easy Container Idea – Chive Basin

  1. So, you just dig up the plants come fall but leave the chives in for winter. I love your book by the way. ( I know you probably hear that all the time) I am just starting to get into gardening and I find it to be very relaxing. But I always think that I’m gonna mess something up. This looks pretty easy though.Thanks for all your help!

  2. VERY NICE! I tried to grow chives this year and managed to kill them BUT I have a special knack for killing things. In between me, the dog, and the kids there just isn’t much hope for anything:)

    I, too, LOVE the book. My hubby just gave it to me this weekend and now I am hooked on it and your great site! Thanks!

  3. I’ve always appreciated fresh herbs, but never used them as much as I do now that I grow them myself. Chives are awesome–there are very few savory dishes they don’t compliment. I want to toss them on everything nowadays.

    Your wash basin container is lovely. Thanks for posting the idea. How do you create drainage in the container?

  4. Thanks Erin!

    Christina: I have a giant, scary nail that I use to poke holes in metal containers. I just hammer it in and pull the nail back out.

  5. Ditto on the book! I picked it up last week. I plan on making the apron as soon as I finish the 732 thousand other things on my todo list. I also looove the leaf stone idea.

    As for herbs, I’ve been growing/drying my own for about 8 years now. Last winter was the very first time I ran out of basil and since we go thru marinara here like people drink water, no basil was not an option. Honestly, I don’t know why I went with store bought; the first sauce I made with it tasted overwhelmingly like chemicals. Icky.

    I would argue herbs are the one thing you almost can’t kill, but now that Erin mentions it, I too once killed chives. In any case, the house we rent now was vacant for 2 years before we moved in, and there is a giant patch of wild oregano growing in the front lawn that must be 3 feet tall. It’s woody, but still, it grew with no help at all! And if I don’t do something about it, the wild lemon balm will take over the rest of the yard!


  6. I’m glad to hear your recommondation on potted chives as I just got some for my balcony garden last week. Your pictures have given me a ton of ideas for what to do with them, although now I need to go out and look for some thyme to add to the mix.

  7. that looks so beautiful!
    with chives, i’ve been picking off the buds.. i thought letting it go to bloom means the plant will die out? or should i just be leaving the flowers and the plants will keep growing all summer?

  8. Your fish soup comment was the clincher – I ran out this afternoon and picked up some lime thyme – and lemon, too, just because they had it.

    I am potting it up with the rose scented geranium because my chives are almost dead (easy plant – dead easy for me) and I don’t want the thyme to get any ideas.

  9. I love the versatility of container gardening–veggies, flowers, fruits. It’s a great way to experiment with color, texture, and variety. Not to mention the therapeutic value of getting your hands dirty!!

  10. You have me completely envious of you big beautiful bathtub container! I am wanting one right this second and I am so greedy I’m DROOLING!

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