Springtime is always exciting after the long, cold, dreary winters in Upstate New York. We are all starved for sunshine and warmth! I love when the snow melts and you start to smell the damp fresh of grass and soil.
One of the most satisfying thing for me about spring is getting our vegetable and herb gardens going. Anyone who is a regular follower of Frugal Upstate knows that I have a thing for planting vegetables, fruits and herbs. I manage to pack 2 vegetable gardens, and herb garden 3 fruit trees, and a bunch of fruit bushes onto my 1/2 acre village lot. Then I have the neighbors permission to plant another vegetable garden on the back of THEIR lot.
Yup, love my gardens. I especially love my herb garden–it’s the most frequently “used” garden.
Years ago I realized that when my herbs were in the “main” garden, as little as 100ft from the back door, I rarely used them in my cooking. Then I moved the herbs into planters immediately outside my kitchen door. Viola! All the sudden I was popping out the back door in the middle of cooking to snip a little oregano, or sending the kids out to grab a few chives. The distance mattered.
Walmart has a new feature on their website–a section called “Where America’s List Gets Done” that has a ton of information on tackling projects in automotive, home and garden. They want to be a source of inspiration and help you find everything you need to get the job done–at Walmart of course.
As a Walmart Mom Blogger they asked me to tackle a project and tell you all about it. Now my mom retired here upstate just over a year ago, and has slowly been getting her lawn and gardens in order. You know how it is when you move. One of the things she has been saying she’d like to do is to put together a convenient container herb garden like I have, right outside of her kitchen doorway.
Well wouldn’t you know, Walmart has a project on “How to Plant a Garden”. Perfect! I can talk to all of you about container gardening for herbs, put together my mom’s herb garden and get a post out of it! I just love my job.
Now of course the “How to Plant a Garden” project is more along the lines of an in ground garden, but the idea and many of the principles are the same.
First you need to pick a spot. You need something that gets adequate sunlight for your herbs to grow–but it doesn’t have to be full sun all day. As a matter of fact, since planters dry out much faster than the ground it’s probably a good idea to have a bit of dappled shade or shade for part of the day. For most herbs you eat the leaves, and most leaf crops can grow in partial shade if you get around 6 hours of light for the day. Flowers, fruit and root vegetables require a lot more sun!
This is the area outside my mom’s back door. Perfect! It gets morning to midday sun and afternoon shade. It has a bit of an overhang from the porch roof but should get quite a bit of the rain that falls regularly around here. That means a bit less watering (although remember, with planters you will have to water)
Once the space was choosen it was time to pick up supplies. Off to Walmart I went. It’s nice to have levels when you plant in containers, so I was looking for both tall and short planters. I wanted something of a decent size so the soil would hold a bit of moisture and give the roots room to grown. Because my mom is very into “pretty” I wanted something beautiful.
It’s a white house with red trim, so I decided on the Better Homes and Garden red garden vase which is quite tall ($22) and three of the 16″ Better Homes and Garden Bombay planters, also in red ($17 ea). I also couldn’t resist picking up a set of the True Temper Real Tools for kids–my neices who are over at Nana’s all the time LOVE to help in the garden, and these tools were SOLID-nice fiberglass handles and metal for the tools themselves. The girls will be able to help without tearing up a flimsy plastic tool.
Now that I have a spot for the planters I need to make sure they are ready for planting. First things first–they come without drainage holes–you have to drill those in first. Otherwise when you water or it rains excess moisture will pool in the planters making the soil muddy, and it will eventually rot & kill the roots of your plants.
Once you have your holes it’s time to fill the pots with soil. Since herbs are a food crop I prefer to use organic potting mix. Remember–this soil does not need to be replaced every year, although personally I like to empty it all out and mix in a new bag of soil or some compost with the older soil every 3 or 4 years.
It’s a little too early to plant herbs outside in Upstate NY just yet. We really aren’t fully “safe” frost wise until Memorial Day. As a matter of fact our Walmart doesn’t even have the herb, vegetable and flower seedlings in store yet. And yes–I prefer to buy seedlings. Our season is so short and many of the plants are either annuals (meaning they live only one year) or are perennials that can’t last our winters and therefore act like annuals–they don’t have time to sprout and grow enough to really give me a good herb harvest in our 3 or 4 months of growing season.
So you will have to just imagine what the herbs will look like with my “simulated herbs” in the photo below
Some things to think about when you plant your herbs:
a) How much space do they require? Your seed packet or seedling tag should tell you the “planting distance”. For the most part you are only going to be able to put one or two herb plants in each of these pots.
b) How tall do they grow? You don’t want to put something that gets really tall in the front and then something that stays short in the back. First off it won’t look very pleasing, but even more important a taller plant in the front might block the shorter plant in the rear from getting enough sunlight.
c) What do you actually use in your cooking? If you have never used Thyme in your life you might not want to plant it, or at least not unless you have “spare” space. Start with the things you know you will use.
What are some of the culinary herbs you might want to plant? Here’s a quick down and dirty rundown of 9 popular culinary herbs that you can consider for your own container herb garden.
1) Basil: Sauces, Italian food, pesto. Annual. 2 ft tall
2) Chives: Best fresh in salads, with vegetables & potatoes, or to garnish soups–looses flavor when cooked. Perennial. Forms a clump of 12-24 inch spears.
3) Cilantro: Salsa, guacamole, Asian dishes. Annual. Up to 1 1/2 feet tall.
4) Mint: Teas, salads, soups, drinks and with some vegetables. Perennial (invasive-seriously, if you plant it in the ground it will take over–in a planter you MAY be able to prevent the roots from sending runners everywhere). 1-2 feet tall.
5) Oregano: Italian food. Perennial in warmer climates. Up to 2 1/2 feet tall (will be shorter as an annual)
6) Parsely: Fresh in salads, as a garnish, tossed with butter and potatoes, and used in many, many recipes. Annual. Up to 2 feet tall.
7) Rosemary: Meats, sauces and soups. Perennial in warmer climates. Can grow up to 7 feet tall but will stay in the 1-2 foot range as an annual.
8) Sage: Poultry stuffing, meat dishes and Middle Eastern cooking. Perennial in warmer climates. 1-3 feet tall.
9) Thyme: Fish, shellfish, poultry stuffing, soups, vegetables. Perennial in warmer climates. Up to 1 foot tall
For my mom’s planters will be be putting in Chives, Basil, Cilantro, Oregano, and Parsley.
Disclosure: As a participant in the Walmart Moms Program, I’ve received product samples and compensation for my time and efforts in creating this post. All thoughts and opinions are my own.