Potted herb garden?

Discussion in 'Food & Cooking' started by oenotainer, Apr 25, 2005.

  1. oenotainer

    oenotainer

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    Anyone out there have any tips for an aspiring herb gardener with no dirt to call one's own?

    I do, however, have a deck outside my apartment, and I was thinking about creating a little culinary herb garden on the deck using pots of some sort--any tips on how to get started? Should I just buy some of those little $1.99 plants from the nursery and repot them, or should I seek out great specimens and do cuttings?

    The herbs I tend to use most often are flat-leaf parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil, and chives, but I'm open to anything.

    Thanks!
     
  2. phoebe

    phoebe

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    Herbs do really well in containers. I've currently got chives, flat-leaf parsley, spearmint, borage, purslane, lemon thyme, Genovese and lemon basils, regular and pineapple sages, rosemary, and lemon verbena all in pots. Just buy some good-quality potting soil (Dr. Earth, Whitney Farms, or E.B. White--skip the Home Depot or other discount stuff) and add a little compost at the beginning. Cuttings are great but they take time, so I'd advise you just to go ahead and buy small plants and repot.
    You didn't say how much sun your deck gets. Flat-leaf parsley likes some afternoon shade while the others you mention are probably fine in more sun. You can also combine herbs in one large container, but rosemary can get pretty big and would probably prefer its own pot. Also, if you get any type of mint or oregano, be sure to keep them separated in their own pots as well. They're very invasive.

    Have fun :bounce:
     
  3. redace1960

    redace1960

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    heres some general potted stock rules:
    1. check them every day to see if they need water. you do this by sticking you finger in the dirt; if you can feel dampness at the surface or to the depth of your first knuckle then you're fine. otherwise time to water.
    2. watering-tapwater is fine, but use a little plant food in with it once a week since the nutrients in the soil tend to rinse out faster in pots. liquid alaska fish fertilizer is good. instructions on the bottle. rainfall is also o.k.
    3. if you live in a northern clime take plants indoors during the winter.
    4. if you're on a balcony use plastic pots, not ceramic. it safer.
    5. make sure the pots have a drain hole in the bottom. the plant has to be able to drain (the type of pots that don't drain are called sleeves or cachepots and are meant to be used over an existing ugly nursery pot sitting on top of pebbles inside). i know this sounds elementary but you'd be surprised how many people don't know this.
    6. basil is an annual-it dies completely every year. the rest you mentioned are perennial. the parsely and chives die back to the dirt, but they return from the crown next year.
    7. pots sitting flat on a solid surface will leave stains on it. put them up on a handful of gravel-if you're cheap-or special little 'plant feet' you can buy at the chi chi garden stores.
     
  4. headless chicken

    headless chicken

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    Is indoors preferable to plant them outside in a garden?

    I've been considering planting some herbs myself (rosemarry, maybe some thyme, flat leaf parsley, and basil). I got chives and they seem to thrive every year plus I have no idea where it came from, just decided to grow 1 year w/o us planting them.

    Any advice?
     
  5. pinot

    pinot

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    All those herbs are easy to grow in pots. But if you are going to use them regularily , plant single varieties in the biggest pots you can. This way they will produce alot more.

    As mentioned water often and with a good liquid fertiliser , ensure perfect drainage and you will soon have a urban jungle on your hands! But basically the bigger and greener the leaves the more water and fertiliser required.
     
  6. botanique

    botanique

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    This is a great group. I'm so glad I found Chef Talk!

    Oeno -- you've got some great advice here. Just thought I'd throw that in! :) Have fun with your container herb garden! Don't forget sage....
     
  7. phoebe

    phoebe

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    There is such a thing as over-feeding and overwatering. I'm an expert in both of those :eek: ! For instance, thyme doesn't like to be fed or watered much, and basil likes to go a little dry before getting watered again.
    An excellent book for edible container gardening (that's gardening of edibles in containers NOT gardening of edible containers :D ) is by Rose Marie Nichols McGee and Maggie Stuckey and it's called The Bountaiful Container . They give very simple, clear advice for everything from veggies and fruits to herbs and edible flowers, all grown in pots.

    The Bountiful Container
     
  8. redace1960

    redace1960

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    re headless chickens post:
    depends on where you live and a bazillion (note use of technical terminology)
    other factors, and thats a whole 'nother location on the web. generally,
    herbs do well outdoors as long as they have at least six hours of sun and some protection from the wind.
    since you're in a place that has chives growing wild i'll take a leap and say you've got no worries. but please do your research first if you've never gardened before. its not a complex or difficult subject but plants do require some specific care and conditions-rather like owning a fish. ignore them ninety percent of the time, but that remaining little bit is absolutely crucial.
     
  9. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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    Hi guys...I've got a question regarding my indoor herbs that are planted in large containers.

    I've got a few herbs that I've tried to grow. Oregano, basil, rosemary and thyme. The problem that I have is that the plant just keeps continuing to grow. As I've said...I've got large containers (24"high15"dia) and especially the basil just grows out of control. The thing got so big that It was rather tough and woody at the interior and would need watering twice a day.

    Is there a way to limit growth? or a certain variety that won't over-grow? I'd like to plant some chives, mint and some others...but I'm hesitant because of the problems I've had.

    thanks

    dan
     
  10. mudbug

    mudbug

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    First of all, you aren't harvesting enough to keep the plant under control. You can harvest up to 1/3 of the plant without causing damage. Do this with Basil especially to prevent it from becomming woody and bolting (going to seed).

    Consider going to smaller pots. They'll grow as large as they can until they get rootbound no matter what the size of the pot is.

    If you can plant in the ground, go for it. It's far less maintenance and watering.
     
  11. gonefishin

    gonefishin

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    Thanks mudbug :)

    perhaps I'm being a bit too gentle with my basil. I've tried smaller pots before...but I ran into the plant flowering because it was pot bound. So I moved to a larger and larger pot. Maybe if I had been harvesting more often I wouldn't have had a problem with the basil becoming potbound.

    ok...I'll cook with more basil :bounce:


    ...I've always wanted to use more basil off my plants...but I didn't want to stress them out.

    thanks :)

    dan
     
  12. mudbug

    mudbug

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    Herbs in general are very forgiving and they love being harvested. They will thrive. Don't be afraid. A plant's sole purpose is to "bolt" (go to seed) or otherwise propogate. By harvesting and preventing that from happening, you prolong the life of the plant for your own use. Now you'll know for next year or if you take cuttings now that are not woody and root them for new plants to overwinter.
     
  13. redace1960

    redace1960

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    gonefishin'- rampant basil sounds like a pretty good problem to me! 'bugs right-keep it well knocked back and as soon as you see flowerbuds, pick them off. what i want to know is what in the heck are you doing that you get monster potted basil?!?? let me in on this!
     
  14. chrose

    chrose

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    When I was at the fair last week, one of the judges took me over to the flower side where a "bush Basil" plant was entered. He wasn't sure exactly what kind it was but it appears to be a Finn Vert or Fino Verde. [​IMG]
    It was short, compact and dense. The leaves were thin, oblong somewhat and packed in there. When I smelled it, it was a nice, sweet intense Basil aroma. Very nice for indoor Basil I would think. Here's a link to some. http://www.seedsofchange.com/garden_...tem_no=PS15505
     
  15. redace1960

    redace1960

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    i really like the looks of this plant. thanks for the links; im there!
     
  16. xiaobao12

    xiaobao12

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    Thanks for all the information guys. I just bought a potted organic winter basil from Whole Foods yesterday. Should I transplant it right away to a larger pot? Also, I was told to water it from underneath (the pot sits in a tray and I just put water inside the tray) - is this correct or does it matter? Also, I have read different facts regarding sun exposure. Should the plant be in direct exposure to sunlight and for how long?

    TIA!
     
  17. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    If it's in one of those little 3" or 4" pots I would transplant it right away. More than likely it's rootbound, or about to become so.

    Bottom watering is fine. In fact it's often preferred, as it prevents some problems, such as damping off disease.

    I'm not familiar with "winter basil." But there are about 27 basils available, so that's no surprise. As a general rule, however, winter sun isn't the best because the wavelength isn't right for growth. What happens, assuming a bright, sunny window, is that the growth rate slows (or even stops), and the plants tend to go spindly as they reach for the sun.

    This is fine if all you're doing is holding the plants over until spring. But if you intend to regularly harvest them through the winter, artificial lighting is a better bet than natural. A simple 2-bulb flourescent fixture is all it takes. Maintain the fixture only 2-3 inches above the height of the plants for maximum effectiveness.
     
  18. xiaobao12

    xiaobao12

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    Thank you for this interesting knowledge, Heirloomer. So, even in full winter sun, the growth rate might stop!?!! :eek:

    As for harvesting, should I try to harvest it (not more than 1/3, right?) by picking off the leaves at the bottom of the leaf or the bottom of the stem?
     
  19. kyheirloomer

    kyheirloomer

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    Yes, even in a sunny winter window plants can go into a sort of stasis. They don't die. But they don't grow much, either. Semi-dormant might be the better term. Artifical light, either alone or as a supplement, will keep them growing happily.

    Don't bother with the expensive "grow-lites" however. They're totally unnecessary. All you need are the regular cool-white bulbs. Grow lights, among other things, contain the full light spectrum. If you were growing vegetables they'd be worthwhile, because fruit needs red light for ripening. But with herbs all you care about is foliage, and the full spectrum isn't needed for that.

    Around here a 2-bulb "shop" light, ready to go with a pair of bulbs, runs around 15 bucks. If you hang it on chains over the plant you can easily adjust it's height as necessary.

    As to harvest, it depends. With herbaceous herbs, such as thyme and rosemary, you are cutting complete sprigs of new growth. So there are no top-or-bottom rules.

    With leafy herbs, such as basil, oregano, and marjoram, it's always better to pinch off what you need from the tops. This promotes branching, and the plants become more bushy than tree-like. But, again, with oregano and the like, you're probably cutting whole stems at any one time and stripping the leaves off the stems. So, again, the top or bottom question doesn't loom important.

    Winter growing herbs in particular do not need much in the way of fertilizer. Because you do want to promote leaf growth, a little fish emulsion or other high-nitrogen fertilizer, about once a month, should be fine.

    BTW, looking over this whole thread, I notice one minor error. Parsley is not a perenniel. It's a bienial. The first year it puts out lots of foliage. Second year it's energy goes into seed production. There is still leaf growth, to be sure. But it's not highly productive, and not as sweet. So you want to start parsley on a annual basis, to assure continued harvest.
     
  20. xiaobao12

    xiaobao12

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    Heirloomer you are the best:peace:

    I went to Home Depot and picked up some Organic Potting Soil by Miracle Grow. I transplanted the basil plant to a terracotta pot (that was given to me free of charge by the lady at Whole Foods). After 24 hours, the plant is still alive - whew. However, this pot only has one hole. So I can't really water it from the bottom.....

    As far as the bulb, I should have read your post before I went to home depot. I was told to get a grow bulb (4.99). It's a 60W Agro-Lite Plant Light. The bulb is tinted blue but the lady said that the light given off will still be white. She told me to get this because it can go into any regular light bulb fixture. Is this bulb overkill? I'm still a little confused about this "shop light" and cool-white bulbs? How is it different from regular light bulbs?

    Also, I'm pretty sure that there have been pests nibbling away at my plant - I don't see them though. I gather this is normal and nothing can be done about it?

    Also, there are some leaves that have very tiny spotting. The spots are about the size of this period --> . and a little bigger. What causes these?

    Sorry for the questions Heirloomer but you seem to be extremely knowledgeable - thanks in advance!