“Are you going to Scarborough Fair? Parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme….” (Now that song will be stuck in your head all day!) I love cooking dishes at home with fresh herbs. Sometimes I go to the store to find they are sold out of the herbs I need and they also tend to be pricey. Many times you are forced to buy larger amounts of herbs than you need for a recipe and it rots in the refrigerator before you can use it for something else. So, I grow my own herbs at home. Herbs are simple to grow in containers and can add aesthetic beauty to small spaces. In addition, container gardens are excellent for advanced gardeners as well as beginners – even if your thumb isn’t exactly green!!
Containers can be grown where traditional gardens are not possible such as balconies, decks, small courtyards and areas with poor soil.
Tips for planting, growing and harvesting herbs in containers:
1) Choose a container with good drainage. Plants will not grow well in water-logged soil. Just about any container will work, just make sure it has never held toxic materials. The container should be large enough so the plants won’t dry out between waterings. The smaller the container, the more daily maintenance your plants will require.
2) Use soil that’s free of disease organisms, insects, and weed seeds. Potting soil may contain pasteurized soil, sphagnum peat moss, vermiculite, perlite, and composted manure. Stay away from used potting soil from previous seasons, because it’s likely to contain disease organisms.
3) Herbs that grow well in pots include: Sage, parsley, Greek oregano, rosemary, marjoram, bush basil, thyme, chives, and summer savory. Select herbs that are small and still growing. Plants can be mixed together in a pot.
4) Container plants require more frequent watering than in-ground plants because the exposed sides of the pots result in more evaporation.
5) Apply water until it drips from the drainage holes. Do not over fertilize herbs. Pinch the plants during the growing season to keep them bushy and compact. Remove any dead or diseased leaves. Water plants only when the soil is dry.
6) Check plants frequently for insects and treat appropriately.
7) Leafy herbs need to be harvested when the leaf quality is optimal, as determined by the flower buds when they first appear. Remove top leaves and stems with a sharp knife. When harvesting annuals, leave four to six inches of shoots on the plant for better re-growth. Perennials should be harvested by removing only the top third of the plant since future harvests depend on new growth.
8) Herbs can be used fresh or dried. Use roughly 3 times the amount of fresh herbs as dried in most recipes and vice versa.
After that long winter we had here in Iowa and many other locations around the country, it is such a pleasure to get outside and dig around in the dirt!! Enjoy those “herbalicious” herbs!