Herbs grown in containers add color, taste to cooking

Published 10:27 am Monday, May 1, 2023

By Eddie Smith

MSU Extension Service

Fresh herbs have a lot of home uses, and I love growing them in containers.

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Herbs can be used for cooking, fragrance, landscaping, crafts and decoration, and they can have medicinal properties if you contact your doctor before utilizing them for this purpose. Many herbs also perform well in containers.

Some good herbs for containers include mint, basil, chives, dill, thyme, parsley, oregano and sage. I like to mix and match different herbs to create combination containers based on the ingredients I need for my cooking.

Many of the basic herb species are available with variegated or multicolored foliage. This is important as we eat with our eyes as well as our mouths. Be sure to choose attractive herb plants so you can enjoy the visual aesthetics as well as the culinary delights.

Multicolored herbs work well in recipes, but their best use may be as flavorful garnishes.

You will be surprised at how many more herbs fit in a tight space when they’re grown in containers. Even if you have only a small patio, balcony or a sunny kitchen window, you can still enjoy fresh herbs all year long.

Herbs planted in containers are easier to bring inside on cold nights and during the winter.

Basil is one of the top herbs that gardeners like to grow.

Few herbs have such an easily identifiable flavor and aroma as basil. Purple basil is in high demand, and it comes in some beautiful varieties.

Crimson King is one of my favorite basils. You will smell this selection before you see it. The maroon-colored leaves release a spicy clove aroma, and it make a great thriller plant in a container. It is fabulous for cooking or as a garnish.

Rosemary is another popular herb that I use a lot in my cooking. I like Huntington Carpet rosemary as a container spiller plant. It forms a beautifully cascading dense blanket of green to gray-green needle-like leaves that are potently fragrant from afar.

Plain Italian parsley can be used as the filler plant in a combination container planting and is a great cut-and-come-again variety that you will appreciate all season long. The large, flat leaves mince easily and can be snipped in seconds. It is favored for its deep flavor, which some say holds up better in cooking than curly parsley.

Most herb plants require a sunny site with well-drained organic soil. Remember to use a good-quality potting mix that includes peat, vermiculite and perlite. Also, use a container that has good drainage holes.

I like to fertilize my herbs at planting using 1/2 to 1 tablespoon per plant of a controlled-release fertilizer blended into the soil or top-dressed on the soil. This is enough for basic plant growth and nutrition.

Choose herbs that you use most frequently to create a combination container planting that will provide you fresh ingredients for delicious dishes all year long.