Grow: Primers & Projects
Herb Garden Basics
Loads of thyme in no time! "Sage" advice for starting your container herb garden
Everybody loves the taste of fresh herbs and growing your own kitchen container garden is easy so if you don't already have an array of herbs at your culinary disposal, follow these simple steps to get started.
To begin with, you'll need a container large enough to accommodate a selection of different herbs. On the show Michael uses a big old terra cotta pot. Light and inexpensive plastic terra-cotta-lookalikes are also widely available. It doesn't really matter what kind of container you use, as long as it's big enough.
Although you can also grow herbs equally well from seed or cuttings, for a quicker beginning we recommend buying young plants in individual pots from a nursery or garden store. To prepare your container, first line the bottom with rocks or broken crockery for drainage and to prevent your soil from seeping out. (Our man Kip Anderson says a 1- or 2-inch layer of wood chips also works great for this purpose.)
Next, fill your pot with soilless mix which we find is the best medium for growing herbs in to within a couple of inches of the rim, patting it down to create a firm base as you fill. What you're aim for is to replant your herbs at the same depth in their new home as they previously were in their individual pots.
As you begin arranging your herbs, be sure to read all the labels carefully, especially with an eye to the plants' maximum heights. You want to arrange your herbs in the pot so that when they're fully grown, the tallest plants such as tarragon, basil, savory, sage are in the center, with the shorter ones like parsley, thyme, oregano, chives toward the outer edges. (Some of these latter plants, like the thyme and oregano, also tend to grow out and over the edge of the pot, giving it a nice visual effect too.) Another good idea, both visually and gastronomically, is to intersperse among your herb plants some annual edible flowers, such as marigolds and calendula. (And if all herbs look the same to you, don't forget to save the labels!)
Once you've got all your plants where you want them, top up the pot with a final helping of soilless mix. Fish out any plants that may have gotten a bit buried, then give the whole pot a generous initial helping of liquid fertilizer. In addition to feeding your herbs, that will help settle the soil and get rid of any air pockets.
There are of course several different ways to go about growing kitchen herbs all more or less equally good. For that matter, you don't necessarily have to plant all your herbs in the same pot, but it does make for convenient one-stop shopping from your fire escape or backdoor stoop.
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This segment appears in show #2704.