Growing Herbs in Containers
There is nothing quite like the use of fresh herbs to add subtle flavour when cooking and a collection of herbs in containers outside the back door, or on the kitchen windowsill, is not only useful but can be decorative as well.
For the cook who doesn't have a garden, herbs can be successfully grown in window boxes, troughs, shallow tubs, hanging baskets, bowls or pots. All they ask is a well drained potting mix, a little food, water, sunshine for 4-6 hours or more a day and protection from the wind.
Growing your herbs in containers has the added advantage of easily moving them. This ensures that plants can be placed in the best possible growing position for light and sun. Sun-loving herbs include basil, dill, fennel, garlic, marjoram, bay, chamomile, parsley, lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme. Herbs for full or part shade include angelica, borage, lemon balm, peppermint.
Feeding and watering can be tailored to fit each individual herbs requirements and many herbs that would not survive outside during winter can be retained all year round by bringing indoors.
Herbs can be annuals or bi-annuals or perennials
Annuals are planted during the spring and summer months from seed or seedlings. If growing from seed, sow extra seed and thin later.
Perennials tend to become spindly and need to be trimmed in late summer to encourage strong growth and keep the plants looking good.
When watering herbs ensure plants are well soaked then leave until the soil surface becomes dry otherwise they will quickly die if continually over watered.
Most herbs have a compact growth pattern making them good candidates for growing individually or together in containers to ensure a steady supply of even hard-to-find vanities for the kitchen.
For single plants a pot 25cm in diameter is sufficient. Individual containers of mints, lemon grass, ginger, chilli peppers and lemon balm will provide a steady supply for many cuisine recipes.
Larger pots are used to hold a variety of plants. A 45cm bowl is sufficient to hold 1 parsley, 1 lemon thyme, 1 chive and 1 oregano plant.
A 50cm standard pot will be required by herbs with deeper roots such as rosemary and lavender. Larger herbs are usually planted in their own container and sometimes under planted with shallow rooting low growing herbs or flowering annuals. Container grown rosemary, lavender and sweet bay can be clipped into herbal topiaries for a formal look.
Themed herb collections can be grouped into salad herbs, herbs for soups or perhaps pizza herbs and look good grown in strawberry pots or 1/2 wine barrels to compliment a rustic setting.
When using herbs in cooking the potency of dried herbs is about three times that of fresh, so if you are using fresh herbs in a recipe that called for dried herbs, triple the amount called for.
Herbs are very hardy, easy to grow and reward you well for your efforts.