Thursday, March 27, 2014

Container Herb Garden Tips

Michele K. Koskinen

Growing vegetables and herbs in containers takes a little extra effort but can be as successful as in a regular garden. There are many mistakes and pitfalls to container gardening but most are easy to avoid if you remember a few easy tips.

1. Use seedlings available at most markets in the spring and forget starting seeds for a small garden. (Unless you want to expend the energy for a larger garden)

2. Pick something easy to grow and the herbs you will use the most in cooking. Basil is an excellent starter as it often gives clues about watering and is by far the most popular herb to pair with a multitude of summer foods. Mint, a perennial, is invasive but works well in containers. There are many varieties such as peppermint, spearmint, chocolate, and more. Oregano, Greek as well as Italian  and thyme can be perennials in our zone 7. Try lemon thyme for a refreshing difference and french thyme. And finally rosemary, it would be the last herb to try in your first herb garden.

3. Choose the right container large enough for the herbs selected. Basils can grow upto 2 feet or more and requires a fairly large pot There are small globe basils ideal for small pots, however, the popular Sweet and Genovese basil needs room to grow. Parsley grows to about 18" and pairs well with basil. Mint, oregano and thyme are low growing and spread. Planting mint in it's own pot is much easier and less stressful as it is can take over the pot.    Previous blog on mint
Rosemary can become large and does well planted with oregano and thyme. 

4. Provide a good soilless mix and fertilizer for your plants. Most soilless mixes have no nutrients so everything must be provided. Today you can buy a potting mix with fertilizer already in the mix or you can use a long term or slow release fertilizer, compost or other amendments before planting. Liquid fertilizer can also be used if that is your preference.

5. Water Water Water. Containers require watering on a constant basis, sometimes everyday depending on the size of your pot. A plastic tub or container is best as clay pots allow the moisture to evaporate more quickly. Also know the watering needs of each plant. Basil and parsley like to be well watered, oregano, thyme and rosemary not so much. To foolproof your containers success plant varieties with like watering conditions together .
5. Prune, pinch and keep pinching. The more you take the better for your plant to continue producing the leaves for your culinary delight. Leaves should be pinched routinely to allow the plant to grow without becoming a tall stalky or spindly plant that is putting out flowers and seeds. When this happens, the plant will begin to shut down as it thinks it is time to quit producing foliage. Basil, parsley and mint benefit from routine harvesting by becoming fuller.

6. Expand your horizons. Plant edible flowers for beauty and adventure. Flowers such as nasturtiums, pansies and marigolds are edible as well as interesting on your plate.

7. As you become more comfortable with your growing expertise, add more herbs you use on a regular basis. 

Adittional Reading:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Hellebores made it through the winter.

Michele K. Koskinen
Hellebore Niger

A few bulbs and the Hellebores have made it through the winter and are pushing through the frozen earth and blooming. The Niger Hellebore bloomed earlier and has sat beneath the snow for weeks. Now that the snow has melted, the flowers are perking up again. Have you checked your garden?

Previous blog: hellebores-beautiful-flowers-all-winter

Crocus of some sort