Container herb gardens

What’s not to love about growing your own herbs? They look lovely, they taste terrific, they smell super – and you will save a fortune!

Not everyone has space for a herb garden, or knees young enough to bend down to pick fragrant sprigs, so growing herbs in containers works brilliantly. Herbs are ideal subjects not only for conventional pots, but also containers of all kinds – wall pots, troughs, window boxes and anything you have handy. Containers have advantages of their own: they can be used to confine invasive herbs, such as mint, or filled with ericaceous compost for lime-hating plants.

Window boxes

Let’s start with a window box. This makes an ideal herb garden, accessible at all times and changing with the seasons if a supply of potted plants is kept in reserve. Make sure brackets are strong enough to support the weight of moist soil and use a box about 25-30cm/10-12in deep to allow a good root run for the plants.

Provide ample drainage in the same way for other containers, and then fill with a moist, soil-based potting mixture. Either plant young herbs directly into this or grow them in 10-12cm/4-5in pots, burying them just below surface level in the box and replacing them as they are exhausted.

Small herbs, especially ornamental varieties, are best but space can be made for taller kinds such as bay and rosemary, started as cuttings and grown in the box until they are too large, when you can transfer them to the garden, or to larger pots to stand alone on a balcony or patio.

Here’s my list of herbs for a sunny window box:

  • Calendula
  • Chives
  • Dill
  • Lemon thyme
  • Lemon verbena (summer)
  • Marjoram
  • Nasturtium (summer)
  • Rosemary
  • Sage
  • Scented-leaved geraniums (summer)
  • Tarragon
  • Winter savory

There are so many recipes you can use these herbs in and, being fresh, you’ll notice a huge difference from using dried.

 

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Something really ‘hot’ for the kitchen…

Chilli Kitchen Wreath

Taking the Christmas decorations down can leave you feeling a bit flat and the house looking rather bare. I love this Chilli Kitchen Wreath – which is fun to make, really pretty and smells wonderful too!

Both the chillis and the cinnamon have natural fragrances of their own, but this can be enhanced by adding a little cinnamon oil or another suitable fragrance to the wreath once it is finished.

You will need: 

  • 3 or 4 large hydrangea heads (dry them from the garden by just hanging them somewhere warm)
  • A bunch of 10 red (Mercedes) roses – buy ready dried or buy fresh, strip the leaves and hang upside down somewhere warm
  • 10 golden/apricot (Calypso) roses – as above
  • About 15 slices of apple – see below for how to dry
  • A few sticks of cinnamon
  • A spray of red pepper berries

For the structure:

  • One willow, vine, or twig ring, about 30cm (12in) in diameter
  • 60cm (24in) tartan or checked ribbon, 5cm (2in) wide
  • 30cm (12in) of matching ribbon, 2.5cm (1in) wide
  • About 15cm (6in) of 0.71mm (22 gauge) florists’ wire
  • A hot glue gun and glue.

Form the wider ribbon into a figure of eight (see diagram below). Wrap the wire firmly around the middle, making a bow. Then, knot the narrower ribbon over the wire to hide it and making two more streamers. Glue the bow to the base of the ring. Separate the hydrangeas into florets and glue these around the ring, making sure they are fairly evenly spaced.

Glue three cinnamon sticks across the bow, attaching them one at a time. Further pieces of cinnamon could be included in the design if you wish. Then, take the apple slices and attach them in groups of 3, placing them around the ring. You can make the dried apple slices by simply slicing a fresh apple and drying the slices in a very low oven for 3 or 4 hours on a cake rack,until they are dry and leathery.

Trim the stems of the roses until they measure about 2.5–5cm (1–2in). Glue in the rose heads, again in small groups, either keeping the colours separate or mixing them together. You could use other roses, or cheaper dried flowers to reduce the cost of the project or to change the colour scheme. Finally, glue in the chilli peppers one by one, positioning them in a fairly random fashion around the ring, including some in the group of items around the bow. Finally, add the spray of pepper berries to the bow.

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