published Saturday, September 29th, 2012

5 tips on growing herbs in containers

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    Planting an assortment of cool-weather herbs in containers is simple. Herbs also can be planted in existing fall flower beds alongside pansies and mums. Photo from Joan Casanova

Growing herbs has become a favorite hobby of many cooks who enjoy gardening. It's a project that can be successful year-round.

"When the high temperatures of summer begin to drop, gardening season isn't over," said Joan Casanova, spokeswoman for Bonnie Plants. "Fall is a prime time for planting hardy herbs that actually grow quite well in cooler weather."

Casanova said a simple way to grow them is in containers.

"You can put an assortment of your favorite cool-weather fall herbs right outside the kitchen door all in one container," she said. Herbs like parsley and cilantro will look pretty as green companions for fall flowers like pansies and mums in existing beds.

Herbs that thrive in cool weather are parsley, Swiss chard, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, lavender, mint and cilantro, Casanova said.

five tips

1 Use quality potting mix. For herbs to grow larger and live longer, don't buy topsoil, garden soil or potting soil for containers. It's too heavy, and the plants may rot and die quickly. Look for a brand name you trust. Peters, Miracle-Gro and Fafard are among several companies that offer top-quality potting mix.

2 Water wisely. Like people, herbs need water to live. Give them too much, they'll drown and die. Give them too little, they'll die of thirst. Knowing when and how much to water is easy. If the plant shows signs of wilting or if the potting mix is dry when you insert your finger up to the first joint, water it. When watering, water until it runs freely out of the bottom drainage hole.

3 Bigger pots are better. Larger pots give roots room to grow, and the plant will grow bigger with a well-established root system. You'll have to water less than you would if using a smaller pot, and your herbs will be happy in the container much longer if it's larger.

4 Don't forget to fertilize. Potted plants deplete nutrients more quickly than those grown in the ground. Add compost with the potting mix, and use slow-release organic fertilizer to give a more steady supply of nutrients.

5 Mix it up. You can cluster one type of herb in a pot or create combo pots with a variety of herbs in each pot. You can even plant cool-season flowers like pansies, mums and violas with your herbs. If you're mixing it up, plant your largest herb (such as rosemary) in the middle. It'll grow tall and contrast well with smaller-leafed herbs, such as parsley, that will round out the container.

Contact Karen Nazor Hill at khill@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6396. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/karennazorhill. Subscribe to her posts on Facebook at www.facebook.com/karen nazorhill.

about Karen Nazor Hill...

Feature writer Karen Nazor Hill covers fashion, design, home and gardening, pets, entertainment, human interest features and more. She also is an occasional news reporter and the Town Talk columnist. She previously worked for the Catholic newspaper Tennessee Register and was a reporter at the Chattanooga Free Press from 1985 to 1999, when the newspaper merged with the Chattanooga Times. She won a Society of Professional Journalists Golden Press third-place award in feature writing for ...

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