While often planted directly in the ground, herbs can be grown in containers, pots, window boxes or hanging baskets. Growing herbs in pots allows the herb gardener the flexibility of growing herbs year-round and growing the herbs indoors, outdoors, or in a greenhouse. The proper balance of sunlight, soil and water are essential to all plants. Herbs grown in pots must be positioned correctly to get enough sun. The best spot indoors is a south- or west-facing window. If the sunlight is still not ideal, you can buy special lamps designed for plant growth that give the full spectrum of UV rays needed. Remember to keep a day/night schedule. To avoid root rotting, you must provide your potted herb with a soil that drains well. A mix of one part perlite or sand to two parts sterilized potting mix will drain just right. Add a teaspoon of lime to the mix for indoor plants, to change the pH the way herbs like it. Place stones or pot shards over the drainage hole, then an inch of gravel at the bottom of the pot. Next place your soil mix and the plant, then layer pebbles across the surface to keep in moisture. Air circulation around a pot or hanging basket dries the soil quickly, so growing herbs in pots requires the gardener to pay closer attention to watering. If the pot drains properly, the water you put in will seem to all run out as soon as you pour it; what you want is damp soil around the roots of the herb.
Mist the pebbles on top of the soil to give humidity to the leaves. Growing herbs in pots allows you the freedom to transport them from one area to another and move them from indoor to outdoor. Annuals are happy indoors all year long, but perennials prefer to be outside during warm weather. Be sure to bring potted herbs indoors before the first frost or they will suffer a loss of foliage. Exceptions to this are tarragon, mint and chives, which will grow fresh leaves after a touch of frost. While all herbs can be grown in pots, some herbs will adapt to container life better than others. Some herbs are classified as “invasive,” such as mint, and are recommended for containers to prevent garden take-over. Large wood-stemmed herbs like lavender may do better in the ground than in a pot.
Maintenance of your potted herb garden is fairly easy. As the herbs grow, they may need a light feeding with fertilizer or may need repotting. Check which of your herbs are perennial and remember to move them outdoors in spring and summer. A small pot of cooking herbs on the kitchen windowsill keeps them handy when needed. Pruning plants encourage new growth and herbs are no exception. Potted herbs should be kept small and shrubby. Trimming the ends of each branch forces growth to the center of the plant, producing more of the foliage you want from your herb. Harvest often and give away what you don’t use. Dry some for another time and store it. The possibilities are endless with growing herbs in pots.
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