Patio Herb Garden
School is finished! (Well sorta…) We are done with all of our classes for the 2nd year of medical school, but we still have “Step 1 Boards”, which is this huge test that covers everything we’ve learned in the past 2 years. It’s kinda important, so if you don’t hear from me for a while – that’s why. I take ‘um June 9th, but I’m still gonna try to post occasionally until then (fingers crossed). I actually made a few freezer friendly meals, and stocked up my freezer so there would be some homemade food, without having to worry about it while studying. I still plan on cooking, (I’ll need some breaks!), but I know it will be nice to have a few things to just pull out and bake. As soon as I do bake them, I will take some final product pictures and share them with you (provided they taste as good as I’m hoping ).
In the meantime, I’ll share with you my other project this week – an herb garden! Growing up, we had a shady backyard, so my mom and I would plant herbs in little pots and keep them on the deck. While currently, I live in an apartment and don’t have the choice of a yard, I can’t really see myself ever getting away from making a cute potted herb garden. It’s just so convenient to have everything right on your patio, and unless you’re Ina Garten, you probably won’t be needing more than a few pots of herbs.
There is something very satisfying to me about watching a garden grow under the warm summer sun, and with fresh herbs costing about $3 a pack at the store, having them fresh on your back porch is an added bonus. It is, amazingly, actually cheaper to buy an entire herb plant, then it is to buy cut fresh herbs at the store. I got each of mine for 99 cents at Monnette’s Market (that’s a local Toledo chain, but any farmer’s type market would be a great place to look). Here’s a few tips I’ve learned about potted herb gardens.
Potted Herb Garden
1) Don’t buy fancy ceramic pots and expect them to last all winter. Last year I bought some nice pots, planning on planting my herbs in them for years to come, only to have them cracked and demolished by the ice and snow. So this year I opted for the $5 Walmart plastic brand. They’re not as cute, but they do the trick. If you just can’t resist the ceramic pots, just be sure to bring them inside in the winter.
2) Fill about 3-4 inches of the bottom of the pots with stones. Or if you’re like me and had a bunch of cracked pots with no purpose – you can crack them up some more with a hammer, and use that in the bottom of your pots. This will help the soil to drain so you don’t end up with water-bogged plants. My mom and I used to use styrofoam packing peanuts, which are great because it won’t weigh the pots down – but it seems that almost everywhere now sells packing peanuts that “degrade when exposed to water” (obviously those won’t work, but it’s a good trade-off for the environment I think).
3) Don’t plant too early, and watch out for the frost. Last year I planted on the first nice day we had in the beginning of MARCH! This is too early for a garden in Ohio, (but it would’ve worked fine in Louisiana.) It can also freeze pretty late into the spring, so if there is a chance of frost, just bring your plants inside or cover them with a beach towel or plastic wrap for the night.
4) Plant a lot of basil. A lot of recipes treat basil like lettuce, and you might even need 2 cups for one recipe. You can really never have enough, and it smells so good on the patio that I would recommend planting a lot. A trick to make it grow more bushy is to plant it deep into the soil, don’t be afraid to cover some of the leaves. Another trick I learned from our friend Linda, is to always pluck the flower buds off – this will also help to keep bushy, rather than stalky.
5) Plant mint in it’s own pot. I almost avoided planting mint all together this year because I didn’t want to buy a separate pot for it, but then I remembered that my favorite drink ever is mojitos, and mint is pretty much a necessity. Mint needs its own pot because it is actually like a weed. You really couldn’t kill it if you tried. If you plant it with other herbs, it will strangle them out, so it needs it’s own pot.
So here’s what’s in my herb garden….
ANNUALS - annuals tend to need more water than perennials, so make sure to water them at least every other day in the hot summer.
- Dill – planted with the soul intention of making some homemade ranch dressing. I can’t wait to share the recipe – it looks divine.
- Parsley - a nice accent to most meals, especially italian. I end up buying it at the store bi-weekly anyway, so I figured having it on the patio would be nice.
- Cilantro - the classic salsa flavor. You either hate it or love it, but I personally just don’t think it tastes like Mexican food if you don’t have cilantro.
- Basil - pesto, pasta, with goat cheese on sandwiches, with tomatos, etc. I ended up planting 5 plants of basil in their own pot because the possibilities for basil are endless.
PERENNIALS - Unfortunately not all of my perennials came back in full force this year. The cracked pots caused their roots to be exposed to the cold – so I think they will fare better this winter with plastic pots. I also plan on wrapping the pot with plastic, and covering the soil with some mulch. I chose to plant 4 of my perennial herbs in 1 pot. I think 3 per pot would be much better, but I couldn’t decide which one to cut out. Plus having them all in 1 pot will make it much easier to take care of would be much better, This is pushing it, but I wanted it to be easier to take care of them over the winter. Additionally, generally the perrenial herbs have a strong flavor, so you don’t need a lot to make a big impact.
- Chives - these came back in full bloom from last year, cracked pot and all. This is a hearty plant, and will also be used in the ranch dressing I can’t wait to make.
- Oregano - great for meatballs or any greek dish
- Rosemary - great on potatoes or bread, or as part of a dipping sauce with olive oil.
- Thyme - great for poultry
- Mint - a fast growing herb perfect for mojitos, desserts, and a variety of Lebanese dishes.