Although it is still January, it is not too early to start daydreaming about what to plant in the spring. An herb garden is the perfect place to start and is even more manageable when growing it in a container. Almost any container can be used for an herb garden as long as you can drill holes for drainage or use rocks at the bottom for excess water below the soil. Container gardening can easily be maintained, is easier to maneuver because the garden is up off the ground, and there is never any weeding. Having a container garden makes gardening in a small space easy for someone with a small yard or even just a patio.
Whiskey barrels, old re-purposed wheelbarrows, or cute metal containers stacked next to each other are perfect for a patio or entryway display where herbs are easily accessible for cooking. Even hanging containers can be used. Plant herbs in a soil that is light and not easily compacted so that the roots can breathe. Most often I use a good potting soil with an even mix of peat moss and perlite to ensure good drainage.
Decide if you desire to have all your herbs in one container like a metal barrel, or each plant in a container of it's own. There are several pros to planting your herbs all together: they will be more forgiving in the summer sun and won't dry out as quickly, you will only have one container to water, and you won't have as many drip lines to run which can really be a plus.
What are some of your favorite herbs? For me, I am always using parsley to make my meatballs with spaghetti so parsley is a must. I use a curly parsley for my spaghetti and flat leaf parsley for my homemade chicken noodle soup. Here in the southwest another must have is cilantro which can be used in fajitas, guacamole, and in homemade salsas. This is a cool season herb and will disintegrate during the dog days of summer so don't be disappointed when it gets too hot.
I also plant different varieties and colors of basil to use in the summer for Caprese salad with whole mozzarella and fresh tomatoes tossed in a balsamic and olive oil vinaigrette. Mmmm, my summer favorite! Chives are a must have for baked potatoes. I finish off my herb garden with a rosemary topiary right in the center of all my other herbs to add height in the center of the herb garden and interest. Rosemary is great chopped and used with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh cracked pepper, and garlic as a dipping oil with a loaf of crusty bread. You didn't know you would also get ideas for a summer picnic in this blog did you?
Get a jump start on your herb garden. Herbs are very easy to start indoors 6-8 weeks before your last frost date. Make sure you "harden off" your starter plants before leaving them outside by placing them for a few hours each day outside in the real elements bringing them in at night. Those that have shorter summers and subsequently shorter growing seasons can make the most of the growing season this way. Finding seeds in gardening catalogs like Burpee will also promise more varieties to choose from. Even though there is still snow on the ground, it is not too early to have a cup of coffee and sit down and thumb through a few seed catalogs so you can be ready for spring. It will be here before you know it!
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