The Essentials: Cilantro // Mint // Thyme // Oregano
Living in a tall, small-footprint townhouse, I’m always aiming to boost my usable ‘acreage’. The front steps and side run host flowers and berries, the backyard is ruled by animals and vegetables, and the second floor deck – directly off the kitchen – is the perfect spot to stage an herb garden.
I raise my fresh herbs in containers each year, mostly to maximize space but also just because I enjoy the technique. Growing food has been in my life for as long as I can remember, from the single parsley plant we had on our student housing windowsill when I was wee, to the tomatoes I tended amidst the craziness of college. What appeals to me most about container gardening, is that anybody can do it. Anywhere, in any sort of residence and on any sort of income.
Basil, my other must-have herb. The 2 small copper pots are sprouting red poppies.
My deck is positioned north-westerly (like my garden) – proof that you don’t need southern exposure in order to cultivate crops. And for potted plants, less sun can come in handy. Remember, these guys are a bit more delicate and they’ll dry out rather easily. Less insulated than their in-ground kin, they’ll need to be watered frequently and they’ll be more sensitive to temperature shifts. Luckily, they’re portable!
My big pot of parsley, overlooking the garden below (I spy potato tires!)
This simplified form of farming is truly opportune. It’s especially great for the novice grower, unsure of committing to a proper plot of land. Here’s just a sampling of the advantages:
- Firstly, and clearly, it doesn’t require the ground! You can homestead in a high-rise, you can farm in a dorm, I’ve even heard of planting out the flatbed of a pickup. Now that’s a portable garden!
- ‘Mobility grants flexibility’. A movable, manageable garden means you can really cater to the needs of the plants. So, you can grow a wider range of non-native species that wouldn’t make it on their own outside.
- Containers are much less susceptible to predators, pests, weeds, and disease. They’re their own little ecosystem, so easy to protect!
- Finally, they’re just so damn convenient. That’s why they’re favored by chefs and florists alike – growing in pots means easy-peasy access.
The cilantro springs to life, less than 2 weeks old.
One of my favorite aspects of the technique are the aesthetic options it lends itself to. I haven’t gotten too crazy with my containers, but I’ve seen perrenials planted in boots and shoes, I’ve seen herbs in teapots and flowers in televisions, tomatoes climbing out of bird cages and cabbages crowded into bathtubs. Anything that holds soil can be used as a planter. Have fun and get creative!
I use a supply of terra cotta pots I’ve collected from garage sales and giveaways over the years. I’ve hand painted each one for its herb, and I’ve also considered bedazzling them with rhinestones (if anyone does this I MUST see pictures!) or even découpage-ing them. Craft-tastic!
Another [free] option for a makeshift pot is to re-purpose your old plastic food tubs. If you want it to be pretty-like, just paint it! Or, you can get all Martha Stewart on it:
Use an old camisole or pillow case or other pretty piece of fabric and cut it into a big circle. Fill the tub with potting soil, fold the fabric up and tuck it into the soil, and then plant your intended seedling. And voilà, a precious little planter.
I have grand future plans for an expanded indoor orchard, plans that include some exotic and tropical species. Who says you can’t grow citrus in the Pacific Northwest, am I right??
But for now, I’m just happy it’s summer and fresh herbs are aplenty. Many, many mouthwatering recipes to follow!