Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Joys of a Portable Herb Garden

By Kathy Van Mullekom

RISMedia, June 8, 2011—(MCT)—A portable herb garden that you harvest year round is a cook’s best friend. Herb gardening in containers helps achieve that convenience, whether you grow them on a windowsill, patio or balcony. Let your imagination take over when considering what herbs to grow in containers. Just about anything works, but most varieties prefer well-draining soil. Select a container with good draining holes and you’re set to grow.

If you’re looking for style as well as practicality, use a Mexican strawberry pot. You can grow a bunch of different herbs in it and when you need some flavor for your food, it’s all right there—a one pot stop.

Also, the pot must fit the plant, or plants, that grow in it. If the container is too small, herbs quickly become root bound. If the container is too large, plants spend all of their energy on root production and not grow the way they should.

Select your soil:
You can’t just dig up little dirt from your garden and think you’re done. Ordinary garden soil is too heavy and dries out too quickly. Instead, you want soil that is loose so it drains properly. You can purchase a quality potting mix, or you can make your own. A popular mix for container grown plants can be made by combining equal parts of potting soil, peat moss and perlite (or vermiculite).

Feed with plant food:
While most herbs require little fertilizer, you do need to pay closer attention to container grown plants. Because the amount of soil around the plant is limited to the size of the container, it dries out fast and requires more nutrients than soil in your garden. For herbs, usually all that is needed is a good all-natural fertilizer, including Bonnie Plant food or Espoma organic fertilizer. You can also make your own compost tea by seeping a porous cloth bag of compost in a bucket of water for about 24 hours.

Water wisely:
When it comes to watering, container gardens dry out faster and require more attention than backyard gardens. How much you water will depend on several factors, including:

• Type of soil or potting mix used
• Amount of exposure to sun, rainfall and wind
• Average temperature
• Size of your plant(s)

If temperatures are warm, a container may require water once or twice a day. Watch closely, and water when the potting mix appears dry and pale, or has shrunk away from the sides of the container. Also, poke your finger in the soil. If it feels moist, it’s all right. If it feels dry, start watering. Keep in mind that many herbs prefer dry conditions.

Let the sun shine:
The essential oils that give herbs their flavor and aroma are produced most when they receive plenty of light. For best results, most herb varieties require at least six hours of sun per day. If growing indoors, many plants do fine on a south facing windowsill. If the amount of light is not enough, you can supplement light with fluorescent lamps or grow lights, especially during the winter months.

Having herbs in containers makes it easy to move them to a sunnier spot or move them to a more sheltered location.

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