On Earth Day, I visited my granddaughters Eva’s and Emerson’s school. We had fun sharing seeds and plants and talking about being good stewards of our earth. The girls gave their teachers container herb gardens. A few had questions about growing herbs in containers. I’ve had requests from some of you about the same subject, so I thought it a timely topic.
Although I grow most herbs in the ground (give me a hoe and a patch of land and I’m a contented woman), growing herbs in containers is doable and budget friendly.
Mother’s Day is coming up. How about a container herb garden for her?
Here are tips on growing kitchen favorites, including newer varieties, that thrive in containers.
Pots/Soil. The most important element? Drainage and lots of it. Width, height and depth should accommodate the root system. Herbs grow well in soil-less mixes.
Go multiple. Plant several herbs together as long as growing requirements match. Do you like edible flowers and salad greens? Tuck some in!
Sun exposure. Most herbs love sun, while others tolerate some shade. Read labels!
Watering. Herbs in pots need watered more often than in-ground herbs since they don’t have enough soil surrounding them. Most herbs prefer to dry out slightly between waterings.
Fertilizing. Augment about halfway through the season unless your mix already contains enough. Go easy here. Like too much watering, too much fertilizer produces lush growth with little flavor.
Pruning. See a flower forming? Pinch it off and use. Pruning allows plants to continue to put energy into leaves.
Harvesting. Volatile flavors are highest when blooming starts. But no worries. They’ll still have flavor all season long.
Kitchen herbs for containers
Basil. Try minet, boxwood or globe varieties of this annual herb for smaller containers. Leaves are small so no need to chop. Common sweet basils, as well as a new sterile flower variety, Amazel basil, grow well in larger ones. Toss basil leaves into green salads .
Chives. Both onion and garlic chives are perennial herbs that are happy in pots.Their flowers make lovely vinegars.
Cilantro. An annual that loves sun but hates heat. Try a slow bolting variety. Make successive plantings. Add during last few minutes of cooking. Vietnamese cilantro is a good substitute that takes the heat.
Vietnamese coriander/cilantro in pot
Mint. If there’s one herb that should be in a container, it’s mint. Yep, it’s that invasive. Spearmint is sweet while peppermint is pungent. So many varieties! Thai mint makes stir fries pop.
I like to put pots of peppermint and pennyroyal mint right outside the back kitchen door to keep away ants and insects.
Pennyroyal and peppermint in pots
Oregano. Greek is the gold standard of this perennial herb; for smaller pots, golden oregano is a good choice. Think pizza!
Parsley. The classic garnish, this biennial herb sends leaves up the first year and the second it flowers and goes to seed. My family’s tabouleh has lots of fresh parsley.
Thyme. Cooks adore this peppery, perennial herb. Both bush and trailing thymes are suitable for containers. No need to chop thyme leaves. Just strip them from stem.
Rosemary. This tender perennial can take some drought. Its piney flavor is delicious with roasted potatoes and grilled meats.
Sage. Annual variegated sages with small leaves lend texture and color. Wrap pork tenderloin with sage leaves and prosciutto. Tuck leaves under poultry skin.
Visit Rita at Natorp’s in the herb section. Times are on natorp.com.