Archive for May 12th, 2010

Flower Power – Container Herb Gardens

Lots of people love to garden but either don’t have the time or the space.  A perfect solution is an herb garden. They are small, portable and you can get just as much satisfaction as you can a large garden. The great thing is, is that there is no weeding to be done.

When planting, think of the herbs that you are most likely to use for cooking. In my early years of planting, I would load up the container with all sorts of different herbs and end up only using certain ones.  But now I plant several basil plants as I love to eat fresh tomatoes, buffalo mozzarella cheese and fresh basil salads with balsamic vinegar, or fresh rosemary for my lamb rack and oregano for my pastas, so I choose certain herbs rather than a whole array of them.

Herbs will grow best in high quality potting soil, not the soil from your garden, as potting soil usually contains peat moss, vermiculite and sand. Potting soil doesn’t usually have fertilizer. You can virtually use any container you like as long as there is drainage in the bottom and plenty of sun. You can start your herb garden from seed in small pots on a window ledge or pick them up at your local garden centre for more instant gratification.

When planting, make sure that you space them apart so that they have room to spread; dill and mint tend to take over the container so you might want to put that in a separate one. Certain herbs are perennial, so they will return year after year, such as chives, rosemary, mint, lavender and oregano. You could also add a small cherry tomato plant and some nasturtiums (an edible flower which you could garnish your plate with).

Herb containers do need about 6 to 8 hours of sunshine everyday.

Most herbs are pest resistant but if you see aphids, spider mites or caterpillars you will need to spray your herbs with insecticidal soap.  Do not use normal insecticide on your herbs, as you will be consuming the leaves.

Watering plays a vital part in your herb container, if it is exposed to six hours of sun and wind everyday you will have to probably water it every day or every second day. Stick your finger in and see if it is dry, and avoid just watering one corner but give it a good watering all over.

A good place to put your container or planter box is outside your kitchen door. That way when you pass it you will be reminded to use your herbs for cooking, or fresh mint tea. Herbs can be moved indoors during the winter but remember to acclimatize them in early fall to a bright window and indoor temperatures.

If you have young children, this makes a great summer project with them as they love to garden too and actually watch things grow.  Imagine their delight when they grow their own cherry tomatoes or even some lettuce in a container.

It is best to harvest your herbs in the morning to get the most flavors. Experiment with different herbs and then next year you will know which ones work the best for you.


Nicola Bishop


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