Grow Lots in Pots!

Since beginning my graduate project back in April, I have attempted to grow my own herbal garden in order to learn the ins-and-outs about gardening and to understand the effort involved in growing local foods. Needless to say, I have already learned that I do not have  green thumb, and growing an herbal garden in an apartment complex is a difficult task!

Here are some of our potted herbs, along with our beloved garden gnome, respectively named "Gnomeo"

During the spring, I purchased some “Bonnie Plants” at the Home Depot in Fayetteville, NC. Between my boyfriend Ryan and I, we have tried to grow cilantro, stevia, sweet basil, texas tarragon, strawberries, mesclun lettuce, jalapeno peppers, and a new addition of thyme. I have to admit that we have not had much success with our potted garden, but we did design some pretty creative clay pots for them to grow in 🙂  We have enjoyed a few strawberries from our hanging pot, along with some basil and thyme for weekend pasta dinners. Nonetheless, I think I will leave the gardening up to the people who do it best, and purchase fresh herbs at the farmer’s markets. At least I tried, and I will still be supporting local farmers in the area!

Although I do not have a green thumb, I would imagine that most of my readers do! So I would love to share some gardening and potting tips from Bonnie Plants themselves! Here are 5 steps for a successful and bountiful garden!

1. Use a premium quality potting mix. Don’t skimp here. A quality mix holds moisture but drains well, giving plant roots the perfect balance of air, moisture, and stability to grow a great harvest. Read bag labels to look for quality ingredients: sphagnum peat moss, aged (composted) bark, perlite, lime or dolomite, and sometimes moisture-holding crystals. Quality potting mix stays fluffy all season long. It does not contain actual dirt that would compact with frequent watering.

2. Pick the right pot. It should be affordable to buy and fill, but large enough to accommodate your plants as they mature. When in doubt, bigger is always better. Be sure that the pot has a drainage hole in the bottom.

3. Feed your plants. Even if your potting mix came with fertilizer already mixed in, you may need to feed your plants. Some potting mixes include just enough fertilizer to give plants a charge when they’re starting. Mixes designed to feed for several months run out sooner in hot weather with frequent watering. Add timed-release granules or try a soluble fertilizer- a good one to try is Bonnie Plant’s Herb & Vegetable Plant Food.

4. Put pots in a sunny spot. At least 6 hours is best. The sun drives energy for production and for making sugars, acids, and other compounds responsible for the fullest flavor. Make sure pots on a deck or porch get enough sunlight.

5. Water regularly. Vegetables are at least 90% water. To produce well, they may need daily watering in hot weather. The easiest way to do this is set up a drip system on a timer. It’s a little more work on the front end, but it makes for as close to auto-pilot watering as you can get. (Most herbs, except the big-leaved ones like basil, can get by with a little less water.)

When snipping herbs for fresh recipes, use these herb harvest tips:

Basil: To harvest leaves from young basil plants, pinch off only the lower leaves. You can pinch the tips of the growing stems as the plant gets bigger.

Cilantro: Cut the leafy stems near the ground, and harvest no more than one-third of the plant. When weather warms, cilantro begins to flower and the foliage becomes sparse, feathery, and less flavorful.

Chives: Clip tubular leaves from the outside of the plant to about one-half inch above the soil. Though the flowers are edible, pinching off flowers buds will allow the plant to produce more leaves.

What types of herbs, fruits, vegetables are you successful at growing in your home garden? Share any tips you have here!

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