Garden

Starting an herb container garden

Fresh herbs! On your porch! Just begging to be picked and turned into something really delicious. Seriously, it’s awesome. If you are wanting to get started planting something that’s edible, herbs are a great place to start. They are easy to grow, don’t ask for much aside from sun and water and the payoff you will get is amazing. You know those sad little clamshell containers of extremely overpriced fresh herbs that are at the store? Forget those and grow your own! Here’s what you need to know to start.

BEST TIME TO GROW

If you live in a warm climate like I do, they will probably grow pretty well year round outdoors. In colder climates, springtime will be a good time to start planting. When the weather cools down in the fall, it’s recommended to harvest or bring them inside to continue growing.

CONTAINERS

Assuming your’e not planting them directly in the ground, start thinking about how you want to set up your mini herb farm. Since space is tight on my patio, I use a stacked planter that can hold about 9 different small plants. Happy plants will grow to fill the space you give them, so if there’s an herb you know you will want to use more than others, plant it in it’s own larger pot. Since I go through a lot of basil and mint, I keep them in separate pots to encourage growth. Just make sure the containers have adequate drainage!
Here’s the planter I use

SEEDS OR PLANTS?

If you get an early enough start in the spring, try planting from seed! I’ve not yet tried this because I’m slightly impatient and wanted to get the party started as soon as possible. That being said, I started with plants purchased from Lowe’s and another local nursery that sells organically grown herbs. If you’re starting at this point in the year, I’d pick out the plants from a garden center. Because you need herbed ranch in your life right now. And mojitos. And PESTO. Seriously, do it for the pesto.

KEEPING THEM HAPPY

Herbs love the sun! They need at least 4-6 hours of sun per day to stay happy. As far as watering, this can vary a little from herb to herb. Most herbs (basil, mint, chives, arugula) like to be watered frequently, but some prefer to dry (lavender, rosemary, sage, thyme, oregano) out a little before being watered. In my typical backwards fashion, I planted a variety of those just mentioned above into my herb planter without realizing the different watering requirements. I water them pretty much every day, and they are all doing just fine! So don’t stress about it too much.

GIVE THEM HAIRCUTS!

This is the fun part! Real gardeners call this “pruning”. Pruning helps to encourage growth and provides you with tasty leaves for cooking with. Let’s use basil as an easy example. When pruning, start at the top and leave the big full leaves at the bottom to keep growing. Think of these large leaves as solar panels that help the plant to keep growing. When you cut one of the basil stems, two new stems will grow back in the place where you cut, making your plant fuller. Which, for you, means more pesto. #winning.

So let’s grow some herbs! They smell good, taste good, and look so pretty growing in containers. Currently I’m growing rosemary, basil, mint, marjoram, thyme, oregano, chives, dill and lavender. When your friends come over and hang out on your patio, you can make them try bites of all your beautiful, happy herbs and have them guess which is which. Or maybe that’s just me? Happy planting!

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