by Karen Weiland, Advanced Master Gardener
Farm-to-fork or garden-to-table, whether you wish to raise your own livestock or vegetables, these trends seem to be all the rage recently. You don’t need to till up a huge plot of ground to enjoy some fresh flavor from the garden. Upgrade your everyday cooking by placing a few pots of herbs, vegetables or edible flowers outside your kitchen door.
If you are a beginning gardener, you can’t go wrong with trying some rosemary and thyme; both thrive with just a little care. One container can hold a plant of small, sweet cherry tomatoes while another could contain several varieties of peppers. Don’t forget to include some pretty edible flowers like nasturtium. Group your containers together for an eye pleasing kitchen entry.
Your containers do not need to be anything fancy. It can be anything from a clay pot to an old galvanized wash tub. Choose pots of varied shapes and heights to add some interest to the grouping. Just make sure that whatever you do use has drainage holes. Depending on your pot material, you can add some holes with a drill. Match the mature size of your plant to the container. Seed packets and seedling identification tags will give you information as to its mature size.
You can grow small herb seedlings in a window box to save space. Harvest their leaves regularly to keep the plants small and inbounds. Pair plants that have similar water and light requirements.
Most plants are going to need six to eight hours of sunlight every day. I like to keep my pots elevated just a bit to make sure they drain properly. You can purchase what I call “pot feet” at most garden centers. They are usually made of clay and I use three to four per pot. It just depends on how big around the pot or container is.
Place coffee filters or squares of breathable landscape fabric over the drainage holes. This will keep the soil from falling out. Moisten the potting mix as you add it to the container. Butterfly the roots of the seedlings as you place them in the soil. Butterflying is just a fancy name for the process of using your fingers to loosen the roots of the plant. Place the plants at a depth so that you will have at least an inch of pot rim remaining. Keep in mind that tomato and pepper plants will need staking.
If you would like to combine several herbs in one container, you might like to give the following combinations a try.
Parsley and basil – these both like more water than their woodier counterparts. Chives, nasturtiums, hot peppers and cherry tomatoes make good pot mates with these too.
Rosemary and sage – these woody herbs prefer more sun and drier soil. The not-as-woody oregano and thyme make good pot buddies too.
As always, Happy Gardening!
More information about gardening and related subjects is available online at www.hort.purdue.edu/ext/garden_pubs The Purdue University Cooperative Extension Service can be reached at 499-6334 in LaGrange Co., 636-2111 in Noble Co., 925-2562 in DeKalb Co. and 668-1000 in Steuben Co.
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