Snipping off fresh herbs for a recipe from an herbal container garden in a sunny kitchen window while you are actually cooking the meal is a treat, whether you live in the city or the country. Here are some simple tricks for successful container gardening, including choosing the best soil and how to recondition plants to different environments.
Grow basil, thyme, mint, rosemary and more in your own windowsill pots. Here’s how:
* Regular garden soil is not appropriate for container plantings, regardless of what type you have. Regular soil is heavier than commercial potting mixes and will compact, hindering your plants’ root growth. There are many potting mixtures available that are appropriate for container-growth herbs. Some of the less expensive mixes tend to be too heavy, but you can include combinations of additives to enhance their drainage capability, including peat, vermiculite, perlite, and compost.
* Make sure to give new plants some space for their roots and foliage to grow in your chosen container. Overcrowding can invite pest and disease problems.
* If you put your plants outside during the warmer months, when it’s time to bring your container plants inside in fall, do so gradually; the process is the reverse of hardening off plants in the spring. Know where you’re going to put the containers.; Start a couple of weeks before the first frost and gradually increase the plants’ time indoors in the space you have chosen.
* Make sure there are holes punched in the bottom of your container to give plants adequate drainage. If containers are outside, I usually do not put them in dishes; during prolonged rainy spells the dishes hold water and give the plant the same wet conditions it would have if it were in a chronically wet spot in the ground.
* Clay containers are porous and will lose moisture more quickly.
* Container plants need more frequent watering than plants in the ground.
* Container plantings need the same amount of direct sunlight as plants in herb beds.
Clay pots exposed to direct sun in the hottest part of the day can become too hot.
Adapted from “Herbal Remedy Gardens,” by Dorie Byers (Storey Books, 1999). Copyright (c) 1999 by Dorie Byers. Reprinted by permission of Storey Books.
Adapted from “Herbal Remedy Gardens,” by Dorie Byers (Storey Books, 1999).