Fresh culinary herbs are ideal for organic container gardening. Like every plant, culinary herbs require sun, water and nutrient-rich soil for vigorous health and flavor — and with organic container gardening, no harmful pesticides or chemical fertilizers are used, adding to the naturally healthy benefits of fresh herbs. Culinary herbs are easy to grow outdoors in small places, making them the perfect crop for organic container gardening. Fast-growing and productive, crisp herbs season soups, salads, sauces and condiments; dress meat and vegetarian main courses, and bestow vividness to every sort of dish. Gardeners can set up a basic organic container garden with culinary herbs in any bright area and see their plants thrive.
Culinary herbs will grow in almost any type of container. From old plastic storage bins filled with soil to windowboxes to plain terra cotta pots, herbs require minimal room for their roots to expand. Choose containers that will accommodate the number of herbs to be planted, and make sure the vessel provides plenty of drainage for excess water. Most herbs prefer dry to moist soil; too much water will retard growth and lead to root rot.
Light is the most significant component in organic container gardening. Basil, chives, dill, oregano, parsley, cilantro, marjoram and sage prize broad sun. Rosemary, mint and thyme can endure partial shade with intervals of sun. If farming culinary herbs inside, arrange the containers along a bright windowsill or set up a full-spectrum fluorescent light.
Many culinary herbs originated in the Mediterranean, an area with arid, warm summers and chilly, moist winters. Basil, oregano and lavender can hold up under very sunny organic container gardening conditions, even in soil that suffers some evaporation. Dill, fennel, parsley, cilantro, rosemary, thyme and mint produce more robust leaves in cooler temps and may droop or send out seeds ahead of time in excessive heat.
Rosemary, lavender and thyme favor somewhat dry soil and intermittent irrigation. Leaflike herbs–cilantro and parsley, for example–expect damp soil, but don’t over-water. Nearly all culinary herbs will demand watering every day if planted on a bright, hot patio or in permeable terra cotta containers, which lose water through evaporation. Plastic, metal or other non-porous containers ought to have drainage holes in the bed to permit extra water to escape.
All plants in organic container gardening appreciate a nutrient-rich growing medium. For the most full-bodied culinary herbs, contribute a couple of handfuls of compost or other organic fertilizer to store-bought potting soil while transferring seedlings into the organic container garden. Each month, improve the soil while the plants mature by lightly raking compost into the uppermost layer of potting mix.
Insects and pests
Culinary herbs are hardy plants, and horticulturists have even developed insect-resistant variants. Healthy culinary herbs will usually be able to resist insect infestation and plant diseases on their own. In fact, organic container gardening frowns on the use of insecticides to control pests: using compost and other organic fertilizers will often be enough to keep pests at bay. If birds or rodents seem to be snacking on your plants, erect a canopy over your organic container garden with bird netting.