If you’re a new herb gardener, or have limited space available, creating a potted herb garden might be just the right answer for you. Even if you’re an experienced gardener, with a fantastic outdoor plot, having some herb pots in the garden can add interesting focal points. You can also have a few potted herbs on your deck, for quick and easy access, or even some herb containers in your kitchen so that you have the freshest possible selection for your cooking needs. There really are very few places where you can’t have a happy, healthy selection of herbs grown in pots. Regardless of where you plant them, your herbs are going to require:
1) adequate light,
2) proper nutrients, and
3) adequate moisture.
All plants require light to grow. Natural sunlight, if you can get it in sufficient quantities throughout the day, is best. Try to locate indoor plants in a room with the most total hours of sunlight. In my location, the southern part of Saskatchewan, Canada, my best bet is a room with a south-west exposure. Now even the most well-lit room might not have sufficient natural lighting, so you’ll probably want to supplement with artificial lights. This can be easily accomplished, at relatively little expense.
Unless you’re going to try a hydroponics approach, this means proper soil. The soil that you ask your herbs to grow in needs to provide the nutrients that the plant requires. Potted herbs will soon devour the limited nutrients of the pot’s soil, so you have to replenish it.
Use a natural “plant food” as a supplement. Talk to your local nursery staff for their recommendations on organic supplements that are readily available in your area. Follow the instructions for the particular product you choose.
The consistency of the soil is as important as the nutrient level. To make an ideal soil for use in your containers, mix two parts of sterilized potting soil with one part coarse sand or perlite. For proper drainage, put about an inch of gravel at the bottom your pots.
All plants need water, and this is no different for potted plants as for those planted outside. But too much water can be as harmful as not enough. When growing herbs in containers, take care that you’re not over-watering and drenching the roots. This can cause the root to rot. Making sure that your pot drains well will help to eliminate this problem.
To avoid over watering, you can provide adequate moisture by simply misting the plants on a regular basis and only lightly watering the soil itself. To check the moisture level, simply poke your finger in the soil, down to a depth of about half an inch. If the soil feels dry, you need to water.
An advantage to growing herbs in a container is that you have the freedom to move them about as you please. Annual herbs can spend all of their time indoors but perennials do better if placed outside during the summer. Keep in mind, however, that most herbs should be brought inside before the first frost in order to avoid the loss of foliage. This rule does not apply to mint, chives, and tarragon, which will go into a rest period, then form firmer and fresher growth, after they experience a light frost. While all herbs can be grown in containers, some will do better than others. Mint will take over the garden if not contained.
Use your potted herbs as much as you want and, even if you aren’t using them, harvest them occasionally. Pruning plants encourages new growth, so if you can’t immediately use them in your own recipes, remember that you can preserve them for storage or give them away to friends as flavorful and welcome gifts from your own, potted, garden of herbs.
Don and his wife, Karen, are both gardening enthusiasts who are actively involved in community gardening. They both believe that gardening is a perfect way to gain enjoyment, relax, unwind and build community.