The Simple Magic of Herbs
Over the years I have tended everything from a 30 by 30 foot monster herb garden, to the odd herb here and there in the garden, to a small plot near the back door.
My favorite is a beautiful pot planted with my own favorites located in a sunny spot that is handy to the kitchen. Hint: this makes a welcome and thoughtful hostess gift throughout the season.
A Brief History of Herbs
It is probably safe to absorb that the earliest use of herbs with foods was probably tied to the ability of herbs to mask the taste of less than fresh food. Not only did herbs and spices make bad or even spoiled food taste better, over precedent centuries we have discovered that the judicious use of these fresh ingredients can actually work magic to elevate ordinary food from ho-hum to yum.
Personalize Your Herb Garden
I enjoy starting with a really great pot. As long as it has drainage holes and is not too small, you will be ready to begin. Go as simple or as fancy as your taste and pocketbook dictate. Pottery Express has a wonderful selection of potty perfect for an herb garden.
This year I have my eye on a particularly pretty Talavera pot that I found at Pottery Express. Talavera is the beautifully colored and patterned Mexican pottery that has become such a popular design element here in Florida. It provides drainage and because of its surface is glazed inside and out, it will hold moisture for my little herbs. This will come in handy if I'm out of town, or simply neglectful.
Getting the Dirt
Do not economize. Do not dig up some dirt from your garden. This is probably your most crucial step. Buy the best potting mix you can find at your local garden retailer.
If your pot is clay, dark, and / or porous, you might consider a soil mix with a moisture-retaining component. If it is plastic or glazed, you will probably not need this item in your mix. Generally I choose a potting mix with some timed release fertilizers, although herbs, of all the plants you will put in pots are not heavy feeders and will do fine without fertilizers.
Here an Herb, There an Herb
Let your individuality shine. I have five or six herbs that I can not cook without. Let your palate be your guide, let your cultural flavors rule, or try something new.
I try to limit myself to no more than five plants in my pot, because those cute little babies will be growing fast. Cram too many in and you start the war for dominance. If you have one special favorite, maybe it reads a smaller coordinating pot of its own. In my garden parsley earns this distinction. In years when I'm really lucky, the Swallowtail butterfly will use this plant as a nursery for its larvae, and then I have the pleasure of watching this special cycle of nature unfold.
Choose plants with vivid growth and be sure to check that they are not root bound. Remember that it is better to start with a smaller sturdy plant than one that is large, leggy, and pot-bound.
Begin by covering that drain hole, either with potshards, stones, or a coffee filter. I like the coffee filter, because it prevails soil from draining out.
Fill with your potting mix about 2/3 of the way up the pot, then position your little herb plants as you like. It's nice to have something that will grow tall in the middle and something that will trail over near the sides.
Once you are happy with placement, gently remove the plants from their baby pots, reposition them and fill the empty spaces with the remaining potting mix. Gently water to encourage settling of soil, then fill empty spaces and water again. The top level of your potting mix should not be any higher than it was when the little plants came home with you. If they are planted too deep they will be sentenced to rot. If they are not planted deep enough, they will dry out, become stressed and unable to establish themselves.
Now you need to find a nice sunny location because herbs enjoy as much sun as we can give them here in our cooler months. Hopefully this location will be handy to the kitchen, because once you start using your fresh herbs on a daily basis, you will never give them up.
Water as needed. Stick your finger in the soil, and if it is really dry, give them a thorough watering. Allow thorough drying before you water again.
Enjoy the beautiful arrangement that you have created in your pretty pot, and savor the added lift that even the simplest recipes will enjoy from your homegrown herbs. Not only are the tastes of fresh herbs superior to dried, that accent of fresh green will add real eye appealing to you food. I hope you also had a wonderful time at Pottery Express picking out that fabulous container!
Happy Gardening from my Eden to yours!