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Growing Herbs in Containers

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Many with limited space often tell me how much lucky I am because I can grow herbs in my garden.  They say how they would love to have fresh herbs to cook with.  I always tell them that growing herbs is simple even in the tiniest of places.  They are even easily grown on the patio, balcony, or even doorstep for people with no space at all. A windowsill works great too. All you need to do is consider these things...

 

THE SITE FOR YOUR CONTAINERS:

Most Herbs prefer sun.  They grow larger giving us more leaves and flowers when given ample sun.  Most enjoy late afternoon sun.  If sun is a problem, no worries, there are even herbs that tolerate part shade, Valerian, borage, chervil, lemon balm, penny-royal, sweet cicely, and comfrey, just to name a few.  The trick is to do a little research before planting your seeds.  Know how much sun your site gets, and look for the the herbs that will do well in that location. Another thing to consider when looking for your site, is how easy will it be to water.  I also like to get my containers as close to my kitchen as possible.  Makes for easier snipping. Now that you have decided where to plant, let's look at what we will plant it in!

 

THE CONTAINER

Really any container will work as long as it has good drainage and is the right size.  I have grown herbs in recycled bottles and even an old boot!  Remember that at maturity, herbs root systems are slightly larger than the plant is itself so you need to certain that it has plenty of room to grow.  A good tip is to give each herb a gallon of potting mix to grow in.  If you are using a 12" container, that will hold about 3 1/2 gallons of potting soil, so that means the container can hold 3 or 4 herb plants.  

 

POTTING MIX/POTTING SOIL

Use good quality potting mix for your herbs. Garden Soil can have contaminants or garden pests that can cause you trouble during the growing season.  It's best to find a quality potting soil that is sterile and few from pests and diseases. Potting mixes also retain moisture well and have good drainage. Most potting mixes don't have fertilizer in them (unless otherwise stated on the package), so you may need to add some before planting. 

 

HOW TO PLANT

If you are growing your herbs from seed, plant them in a small container, with seed starting mix first.  This will give them a speedy, healthy start.  Make sure your soil is moist, but not wet when transplanting to permanent container, the seedlings should be 2 to 3" tall and planted so the top of the root ball is just slightly below soil level.  Gently press soil down and water slowly until water comes out of the drainage holes.

 

CARE AND HARVESTING

For the first week or two, take the time to watch how quickly the soil in your container dries out so you can learn how often to water.  Depending on the amount of sun and other environmental factors, containers can dry out at different paces.  Over watering can cause root rot and fungal problems, and under watering can cause scorching and wilting.  When watering, water until you see it coming out of the drainage holes.  Between waterings, feel the soil to see if it is still damp an inch or 2 below the surface (if you have a deeper container, try 3" down).  If it is, wait to water.  As the plants grow, you will be watering more often. Be certain to keep a close eye on your container during the hottest days of summer.  Container plants can dry out very fast.  Follow the instructions on your fertilizer label to know when to use it.  

 

OVERWINTERING HERBS

Some herbs are perennials and can be brought indoors over winter. If you plan on bringing perennial herbs indoors for the winter, look for compact varieties and it is also a good idea to look for drought tolerant herbs because although I will never admit it, even I forget to water on a few occasions.   Be certain to select a place with adequate lighting, about 14 hours a day, and away from heater vents and fireplaces.  Check often for moisture as our homes are pretty dry in the winter and many plants like to have humidity.  

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