Friday, February 3, 2012

Growing Herbs in Containers

Growing Herbs in Containers
As a horticulturist, we have favorite endeavors such as growing plants especially herbs in colorful containers of all colors and shapes. Herbs make an excellent choice to decorate a sunny patio, deck, or balcony, and the flowers that are produced on herbs will provide twice the amount of fun to your growing area. The seeds and flowers will provide additional ingredients to recipes. Processing the seeds produced by herbs make additional ingredients to add to recipes. For example, when Cilantro goes to seed the seeds are called Coriander when crushed; and when Dill goes to seed the processed seeds are called Dill Weed. Most flowers produced by herbs are edible and are used in salads, garnishes, and cooking or can be used in dried floral arrangements. For example, add Mexican Marigold Mint flowers to salads and Lavender flowers can be dried and used in floral arrangements. Plants that are classified as Herbs are very diverse and have multiple uses around the home. Here are a few tips to get you started with growing Herbs in containers.
Deciding a Location: Choose an area that gets 5 - 6 hours of full sun; and if, you have an area that receives more than 6 hours of sunlight that’s all right, too.
Deciding a Container(s): Choose a container that is 6 inches or larger, some of the perennials can be grown in larger containers are Lemon Grass and Sweet Bay.
Deciding a Soil: There are several potting soils on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the choices are inorganic verses organic, with moisture control or without moisture control, with timed-release fertilizer or without fertilizer. Some potting soils are especially formulated for herbs and vegetables, which would make an excellent choice to use.
Deciding a Fertilizer: There are several fertilizers on the market and choosing one is a matter of your gardening preferences. Some of the choices are water soluble, granular, time-release, slow-release, organic, or inorganic. Choose a fertilizer that is formulated for herbs or vegetable plants. Most gardeners agree in using a combination of time-release fertilizer and a weekly or bi-weekly feeding of a water-soluble fertilizer of your choice.
Choosing an Insecticide: When growing herbs in containers, you may want to consider an IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach method to control insects on your herbs and using an IPM approach involves a two-step method approach, inspection of the herbs, and what type of control method you are going to use. The first part would be scouting, observing, and inspecting your prized Herbs for insects or chew marks on the leaves. Constantly scouting and observing daily for any insect or worm that would start eating your prize Herbs, and when one was seen, you can simply dispose of the insect. However, sometimes these critters multiply overnight and when this happens it is advisable to spray with a Safer Soap or a Horticultural oil. Using Safer Soaps or Horticultural Oils on all the Herbs mentioned is an organic and an IPM approach to growing Herbs.
Watering: Of all the ingredients that have been mentioned for Herb Container gardening success, water, is the most important to a successful Herb Container garden. The soil for your Herbs will need to be consistently moist at all times, but not soggy wet and the water source should be city water or treated water. This is one of the reasons of last’s years Salmonella outbreaks on produce; the Herbs that were recalled received Salmonella during either the growing process or the production process. Due to all the current recalls of produce, more gardeners are starting to grow their own Herbs this year versus last year due to the recent outbreaks in store-bought produce. Just another reason to start growing your own Herbs, you supply the water, you supply the insecticide, and you know exactly what ingredients went into your Herbs. For states that are currently under water restrictions, you can water your food crops, personal food garden, or personal Herb garden without penalty. Wash all Herbs before eating or cooking, whether Home Grown or Store Bought.
Put on your gardening gloves and reap the rewards and benefits of an Herb Container garden. You will have tastier Herbs than store bought that you harvest on your own. As an Herb Container gardener you know the ingredients, and there is nothing more rewarding than tasting the “Herbs” of your labors.
Listed below are just a few favorite Herbs that can be grown in Containers and have done extremely well. Note: spacing requirements are for growing Herbs in the ground instead of containers.
Arugula - Eruca sativa. Type: Annual. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 6 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Excellent companion plant for salad mixes. Arugula prefers cool temperatures and can be grown from seeds or plants in early spring or fall. Can harvest 21 days after planting. To extend the growing season keep flower buds pinched back.
Basil - Ocimum basilicum. Type: Annual. Height: 18 – 30 inches. Spacing: 12 – 18 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms pink flowers in summer. BasilAdditional Uses: Leaves can be used fresh or dried in tomato dishes, pasta dishes, vegetables, and soups. A companion plant that repels aphids, mites, and tomato hornworms. There are several different cultivars of Basil some favorites are Lemon and Cinnamon Basil. Basil image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.
Catmint - Nepeta mussinii. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. CatmintProfuse lavender blooms on spiky stems. Good for containers and the perennial garden. Soft, crinkled, gray-green leaves on a compact, mounding plant. Additional Uses: Butterfly nectar plant and your cats will love it. Catmint image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.
Catnip - Nepeta cataria. Type: Perennial. Height: 2 – 4 feet. Spacing: 12 – 18 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Vigorous, high-yielding plants. Cat-attracting perennial with gray-green leaves and white flowers. Additional uses: Butterfly nectar plant and your cats will love it.
Chives - Allium schoenoprasum. Type: Perennial. Height: 18 – 24 inches. Spacing: 4 – 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Chives have a mild onion flavor that is very pleasing and is easy to grow. Uses: Can be added to soups, salads, egg dishes, potatoes, fish dishes, or any dish that requires a mild onion flavor fresh or frozen. Additional Uses: Mosquito Repellent Plant or border/edger plant. Chives image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola.

Chives
Cilantro, Coriander - Coriandrum sativum. Type: Annual. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 6 – 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: CatnipFull sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in salsa, guacamole, sauces, and seafood. When Cilantro produces seeds the seed of Cilantro are called Coriander. Catnip image right © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.
Citronella Grass - Cymbopogon nardus. ( (Cymbopogon flexuosus) (East Indian)). Type: Perennial, annual outside zone 9. Height: 5-6 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Nectar plant for butterflies, Mosquito repellent plant, leaves are used in cooking, in potpourris, sachets, and the oil from the plant is used in citronella candles.
Cutting Celery, Leaf Celery, Celery Leaf – Apium graveolens var. secalinum. Type: biennial. Height: 10 – 12 inches. Spacing: 10 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Excellent plant to grow in containers. Cutting Celery is an excellent substitute for traditional celery, but without all the growing hassle. Very easy to grow and taste just like traditional celery, and cutting celery can be used in every recipe that calls for traditional celery.
Dill – Anethum graveolens. Type: Annual. Height: 18 – 36 inches. Space: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Yellow blossoms in summer, seed heads can be harvested. The seeds can be crushed and used in cooking. The leaves can be used fresh in potato, tuna, and chicken salads; fresh chicken and fish dishes. Additional Uses: Attracts butterflies and a larval food plant for butterflies. (Plant enough for you and the butterflies!). Dill image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Dill
Epazote - Chenopodium ambrosioides . Type: Annual. Height: 3 – 4 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in bean, soups, eggs or cheese dishes.
FrenchTarragon – Artemisia dracunculus ‘Sativa’. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in eggs, poultry, salads, cheese, and fish.
Garlic Chives - Allium tuberosum. Type: Perennial. Height: 18 – 24 inches. Spacing: 6 – 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Garlic Chives have flat, thin leaves with a mild blend of garlic and onion. Uses: Can be added to soups, salads, egg dishes, potatoes, fish dishes, or any dish that requires a mild onion flavor fresh or frozen. Additional Uses: Mosquito Repellent Plant or border/edger plant. Garlic Chives image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola. Garlic Chives
Greek Oregano - Origanum vulgare subsp. Hirtum. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in Italian dishes, pizza, shellfish, egg dishes, beef, pork, and poultry dishes.
Italian Oregano – Origanum vulgare. Type: Perennial. Height: 24 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in Italian dishes, pizza, shellfish, egg dishes, beef, pork, and poultry dishes.
Lavender - Lavandula angustifolia. Type: Perennial. Height: 18-24”. Spacing: 12-18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Nectar plant for butterflies, flowers can be dried, in potpourris, and sachets.
Lemon Grass - Cymbopogon citratus (West Indian). Type: Perennial. Height: 2-3 feet. Spacing: 12” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Nectar plant for butterflies, Mosquito repellent plant, leaves are used in cooking, in potpourris, and sachets. Lemon Grass image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Lemon Grass
Lemon Thyme – Thymus x citriodorus. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun. Light purple flowers in summer. Wonderful Lemon scent when leaves are crushed or walked upon. Additional Uses: All leaves have a distinct lemon flavor that can be used in cooking. Attracts Butterflies and Hummingbirds to the garden.
Lemon Verbena – Aloysia triphylla. Type: Perennial, treat as an annual outside zone 8. Height: To 4 feet. Spacing: 18-24” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: The oil is used in perfumes; the leaves are used in flavoring teas and jellies.
Mexican Marigold Mint - Tagetes lucida. Type: Perennial. Height: 24-30”. Spacing: 12-18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Butterfly nectar and larval food plant, Mosquito repellent plant, fresh flowers are used in salads; leaves are used as a substitute for Mexican Marigold MintFrench tarragon. Mexican Marigold Mint image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.
Parsley - Petroselinum crispum. Type: Annual. Height: 12 – 18 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in meat dishes, soups, and salads. Parsley image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Parsley
Pennyroyal – Mentha pulegium. Type: Perennial. Height: 6 – 12 inches. Spacing: 12 – 24 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Purple flowers in late summer through fall. Additional Uses: A groundcover, nectar plant for butterflies, the leaves are used in the flavoring for fish dishes, and grows well in a hanging basket.
Peppermint - Mentha piperita. Type: Perennial. Height: 24-36”. Spacing: 12-18” apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Leaves are used fresh in hot and iced teas, butterfly nectar and larval food plant.
Pineapple Sage – Salvia elegans. Type: Perennial. Height: 3 - 4 feet. Spacing: 3 – 4 feet apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms red flowers in spring, summer, and fall. The leaves when crushed smell and taste like fresh pineapple. Additional Uses: The fresh leaves can be used in drinks and salads. The leaves can be used in hot or cold drinks, and the flowers and leaves are used chopped in salads. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.
Prostrate RosemaryProstrate Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis 'Prostratus’. Type: Perennial shrub or groundcover. Height: 12-18”. Spacing: 2 feet apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: The leaves are used in lamb and fish dishes, butterfly nectar plant, Mosquito repellent plant, and drought tolerant plant. Prostrate Rosemary image left. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012.
Rosemary - Rosmarinus officinalis. Type: Perennial shrub. Height: 4 feet. Spacing: 3-5 feet apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: The leaves are used in lamb and fish dishes, drought tolerant plant, Mosquito repellent plant, and butterfly nectar plant. Rosemary image right. © Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Rosemary
Sage - Salvia officinalis. Type: Perennial. Height: 3 feet. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in stuffing and meat dishes.
Salad Burnet - Sanguisorba minor. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 inches. Spacing: 8 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves have a mild cucumber taste and are used in salads, vinegars, and cold drinks.
Spearmint – Mentha spicata. Type: Perennial. Height: 24-36”. Spacing: 36-48 inches. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Additional Uses: Leaves are used fresh in hot and iced teas, Butterfly Nectar and Larval Food Plant.
Stevia - Stevia rebaudiana. Type: Hardy Perennial in USDA zones 9 and 10. Height: 18 – 24 inches. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Uses: Stevia is a natural sweetener that is used as a sugar substitute that is calorie free. Leaves can be used fresh or dried in beverages, sauces, and salads. Do not plant outdoors until temperatures are above 45 degrees. Avoid afternoon summer sun in extreme southern areas during July and August. During these months it’s recommended to put the container in afternoon shade. Check for leafhoppers and whiteflies which may be a problem.
Summer Thyme – Thymus vulgaris. Type: Perennial. Height: 6 – 12 inches. Spacing: 6 – 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms lilac to purple flowers in summer. Additional Uses: All leaves are used in cooking. Attracts butterflies to the garden. All thyme plants can be used as an alternative ground cover.
Sweet Bay Laurel – Laurus nobilis. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 – 15 feet. Growth rate slow and plants growing in containers will be somewhat shorter. Spacing: 12 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Blooms pale yellow flowers in spring. Leaves are used in Italian and fish dishes. Companion plants are Prostrate rosemary, Lavender, and Oregano.
Sweet Marjoram - Origanum majorana. Type: Perennial. Height: 12 to 18 inches. Spacing: 9 inches apart. Light Requirements: Full sun to partial shade. Leaves are used in eggs, meats, rice, pastas, soups, vegetables.
Photography and digital images are ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. All Rights Reserved. All photographs and digital images displayed in this article are for viewing purposes only and cannot be duplicated ©Cheryl Ann Meola 2012. Texas Certified Nursery Professional #1282.

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