Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Now You're Cooking

One of the many cool things about having my garden on my deck is it's just outside our kitchen and I can go out there (while the garlic and onions are simmering in the olive oil on my stove) and trim a few herbs to toss in whatever I'm making. If you cook a lot with herbs, you know what a difference it makes. And if you never have, give it a try--maybe just start with one or two. I'm pretty sure I'm saving myself a small fortune. Fresh herbs at the grocery store are expensive, they are in limited quantities and you have to use them within a specified period of time otherwise they cease to be fresh. If you grow your own, you have an unlimited supply during the entire growing season.

Usually I'll choose one fairly large pot to plant a bunch of different herbs, and then I'll buy additional herbs to integrate into my other regular mixed containers. They make great companion plants. In the first picture below, I'm just trying to gauge how many I can reasonably put in one container. It's important to allow for growth and I happen to know from past experience that herbs like Italian parsley and basil are prolific growers. But if you use them almost every day like I do, the constant harvesting will keep them in check. The one herb that I did not include in this group is oregano. It needs a home of its own because it is a fast, aggressive and invasive grower.

So once I have sort of eyeballed how many will fit, I just plant them right in. After, of course, I have made arrangements for proper drainage with holes at the bottom of the container and a layer of some sort of material like gravel, broken pot shards or styrofoam peanuts to facilitate the drainage. In the potting mix, I've tossed in a couple of tablespoons of Osmocote time release fertilizer as well. Note: herbs need plenty of sun so make sure they are exposed to six or more hours. Morning sun to early afternoon sun is ideal.

Here's the rundown on what's I planted here: rosemary, bay leaf (slow grower), Italian (flat leaf) parsley, chives, golden sage, thyme, basil and purple sage. Each one came in a little 3-inch nursery pot and cost me about $3.99. I bought most of them at a nursery but a couple at Home Depot (those may have been a little less expensive). As much as I use them, I figure my payback period for this entire bunch is about a week.

Bookshelf: Container Gardening Books

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