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Midwest Gardening: Herbs Close at Hand

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Herbs thrive in pots, so it’s easy to pick fresh herbs all summer long when you plant these culinary delights in a nearby planter box.

Herbs thrive in pots.

By Marty Ross

My neighborhood is full of good gardeners, and we like to compare notes and help each other with projects. When my neighbors Linda and Robert mentioned that they planned to have an herb garden in a pot this summer, I put one together for them.

Herbs thrive in pots, but it is important to choose plants that have the same needs and plant them together. Parsley, basil, and dill are good companions because they all are annuals that thrive in sun and like plenty of moisture. Thyme and rosemary are heat-loving, drought-tolerant herbs; they’re perennials, and are perfectly happy in a pot together for several years. Mint, which is essential for summer drinks and salads, spreads invasively in flowerbeds. It adapts easily to flowerpots—plant it all by itself—and flourishes in sun or part shade.

A good planter should have plenty of drainage holes; add more, if necessary.

The planter I found for Linda and Robert measures about 30 inches long and 10 inches deep, big enough for an easy, summery herb garden. It had two small drainage holes, but to make sure the pot drains really well, my husband and I made another, larger drainage hole by piercing through the plastic bottom of the planter with a screwdriver.

A planter filled with potting soil awaits its inhabitants.

Then I filled the planter with fresh potting mix.

This planter features a simple design.

The design is simple: I planted three basil plants in the center, three feathery dill plants at the back, and two flat-leaf Italian parsley plants on either end. To make the planter look cheerful from the start, I tucked in five little French marigolds and four soft blue ageratums along the front and in the back corners.

Sprinkling slow-release fertilizer is a proven growth aid.

Some people say herbs do not need fertilizer, but I like to fertilize all my plants in pots. Potting mix doesn’t have any nutrients, and the slow-release fertilizer added to some mixes doesn’t last. I sprinkled some slow-release organic fertilizer into and on top of the potting soil, then mulched with a layer of leaf mold from the compost heap.

Mulch keeps potting soil from drying out.

The mulch helps keep the potting soil from drying out, and it keeps the soil from splashing on the herbs when it rains. I think it looks great too.

Containers require constant watering.

This has been a challenging spring in the Midwest: It has been unseasonably cool, with lots of rain and snow. After I planted the pot, I watered everything in. We had a brief snowstorm, and the temperature unexpectedly dropped into the 30s for several nights, so I moved the planter to my sunny basement for a few days. Now that it’s warm outside, the herbs are settled into their pot and they are looking good on the neighbors’ porch. If I need a little extra basil this summer, I’ll just ask Linda if I can have a pinch.

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