Monday, May 25, 2009

Containter Gardening

Spring has sprung and planting season is here, and as promised, I am here to help you get started planting herbs. Let me begin first by saying, very humbly, that I am not a gardening expert. I garden and I have successfully grown some things, but I have had my fair share of unsuccessful gardening adventures as well. My goal here is not to try to proclaim myself as a know-it-all in gardening. I am not, nor will I pretend to be. Rather, my goal is to share what I do know to help you in whatever way I can....whether that is for your picky eater, for fresh ingredients in your cooking, or simply for expanding your gardening skills.

With that said, planting herbs is not difficult and should not feel like a huge undertaking with some simple, straight-forward steps. I think herbs are perfect for container gardening. Even though I have a garden, I choose to plant my herbs in containers because of the ease for year-round harvesting and the ability to move the containers to different areas on my patio during different times of year (i.e., like the closest spot available to a door in the winter!) Additionally, container gardening in general is perfect for first-time gardeners since it removes many problems you may encounter with soil, drainage, and sunlight which may take away from the success of your gardening experience.


1. Select a container. Choose one that is at least 10 inches wide and 12 inches deep and is larger than your plant(s) to allow room for growth. You may plant one herb in your pot or several--the choice is yours. I personally prefer to plant one herb per container, but if you choice to plant more, the only requirement is that your pot is large enough to adequately hold the plants. One common mistake is to pick a container that is too small. A pot that is too small will not allow for adequate root growth and will dry out too quickly during the hot summer months.

Also, avoid a plastic pot (it will break down in the sunlight), a wooden pot (it will rot or may have been chemically treated), a terracotta pot (it will dry out too fast), or a pot with too narrow of a opening.

2. Turn your container over to view the bottom. When gardening in containers, a drainage hole is necessary. This pot already has one so nothing additional needs to be done here.

If you turn your pot over only to find a flat surface with no hole, you need to make one. To do so, get out a drill, select a 1/2-inch bit, and drill one hole into the center of the bottom of your pot. Double check that your hole goes all the way through to the planting area.

3. Turn your pot over and place 1-3 medium size rocks over the hole. The rocks will allow water drainage through the hole, but will keep the soil in the pot. Start putting soil into the pot. I recommend you purchase a quality organic soil with compost. Place enough soil in the pot to get the base of the plant to the rim of the pot. Place your potted plant directly on top of the soil to determine if you have the appropriate amount of soil. Adjust the soil accordingly until the base of your plant is right at or 1-inch under the rim of the pot.

4. Remove the plant from its plastic container. Look at the roots. My plant has a large amount of roots tightly grown together. These roots need to be loosened before planting. Start working your fingers into the roots to loosen the bottom and outer most layer of roots. Don't worry about breaking off roots or damaging the roots. For starter plants the roots are fragile and should be treated with care. This plant has enough root growth that loosening them will allow the roots to grow and spread once fully potted.

5. Place the plant into your container and fill the remaining space with potting soil until it is approximately 1-inch under the level of the rim. Use your hands to firmly press the soil down.

6. Soak your plant with water. Right after planting is when you want to over-water the plant to remove any air pockets in the soil. Water the plant until you see standing water above the soil. After the water has drained, you may need to add additional soil if it has settled too much--the soil should not be lower than 1-inch under the rim of the pot.

Place your pot in an area that will receive at least FOUR hours of direct sunlight. Water daily, preferably before the sun rises or after the sun sets, and watch your herbs grow! Do not harvest immediately if you are using starter plants--allow your herbs several weeks to grow first.

Did you will notice how large of a rosemary plant I am using? I choose a very large rosemary plant because I use a large quantity of fresh rosemary and I wanted to start using it immediately. I lost my rosemary plant this past winter due to an unusually low temperatures in our area. It is not necessary to start with that large of a plant. Actually, I think it is unusual; a 4-inch plant is much more common.

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