Planting Potted Herbs OutdoorsHerbs can be planted
as established plants purchased from the nursery or can be planted
from seed. Planting from seed requires a lot more work and can
be a less successful experience for the uninitiated. Some plants
cannot be grown from seed, such as comfrey and tarragon. Others,
such as mints, do not come true from seed and are not worth growing
from seed. Still others, like rosemary and lavender, take forever
to germinate and grow so slowly that it is better to acquire established
Plant your potted plants on a cloudy day, and treat them
like a fish out of water when you take them out of the pot.
Before you do that, have everything ready. Dig a hole a little
wider than the size of the pot. Never try to squeeze the roots
into a small hole. Mix the soil you have removed with some composted
manure (not dehydrated manure) or well-decomposed compost.
Usually the plant will pop out of its container easily if you
turn it over and tap the bottom, but if it sticks, insert a
knife around the edge, just as if you were taking a cake out
of a pan. If the plant is tangled with roots or root-bound,
use a sharp knife or pruners to score the roots about 1" into
the soil-ball at quarter hour intervals or tease the roots loose
with your fingers. Set the plant at the same depth as it was
in the pot. Fill the hole around the plant with the mix of soil
and compost, firming the soil thoroughly, leaving no air pockets
to dry out the roots. Leave a slight depression around each
plant or make a dam around it to catch the rain and future waterings.
Watering: Water potted plants immediately after planting.
Add a bit of liquid seaweed, fish emulsion, composted manure,
or liquid fertilizer to get the plant off to a good start. Continue
to water every day for a week or two unless it rains hard.
Fertilizing: Once the plants are in
the ground, I do not fertilize. The plants should not need fertilizer,
if you have beefed up your soil according to the soil test.
For those in my greenhouse, I spray with compost
I like to mulch all my plants. It moderates the temperature
of the soil, it improves the appearance of the garden, it prevents
the growth of many weeds, it conserves soil moisture, and it
keeps the plants clean of rainwater splashes. Mulch materials
can include grass clippings, which I mix with shredded straw
to prevent them from matting. Straw is an excellent mulch as
are shredded leaves. Try to find salt marsh hay, which has no
weed seeds. If your soil is alkaline, pine needles will add
a little acid and is also a good mulch, but go easy as they
can burn the stems of plants and rob precious nitrogen from
Weeding: Weeds have a worthwhile purpose. They protect
soil from erosion and build up the soil. Don't we all wish they
did their job less efficiently? My advice is to know your enemies.
Learn to identify the most common weeds in your area, find out
how they grow and how they reproduce, and you will be better
equipped to control them. It will take a few minutes a day or
a few hours twice a week to keep ahead of the weeds and not
let them get a foothold. I weed by hand. Chemical weed killers
end up in the ground water and cause more problems than they
are worth. Also, you're eating these plants-you don't want to
eat harmful chemicals! I get some satisfaction in eating my
enemies, though. Chickweed, dandelions, and lamb's quarters
are excellent in salad and more nutritious then some of the
plants you may be growing. A rule of thumb: if a plant reproduces
by scattering seed (dandelions), cut them down before they begin
to scatter their seed. If they are aggressive (quackgrass, also
known as witchgrass, and twitch grass, comfrey, mints, Jerusalem
artichoke, tansy, horseradish), do not till. Quackgrass grows
where soil has been compacted, such as in the garden paths.
I have had some success with hardwood sawdust. Just mulch the
paths. Never mulch around plants with sawdust; it will burn
and rob like pine needles.
Here are a few preventive measures to avoid pest problems-keep
your plants healthy and vigorous, and leave plenty of space
around them for good air circulation. Overcrowded, undernourished
plants are prone to disease and pests. Disease and insects over-winter
in debris such as stalks and old leaves. Clean up the garden.
Compost spent plants. Inspect your plants frequently. Snip off
spotted leaves or stems. Remove any plant that looks hopelessly
sick. You might want to have a good disease and pest identification
book in your reference library, so you can fight the problem
once you know what it is. Pick off bugs in early morning when
they are cold and sluggish, and drop them in soapy water. Fight
back with natural enemies. Gardens
Alive is a mail order company whose catalog you may want
to become acquainted with because they sell natural predators
that prey on the bad bugs. Some diseases are spread by wind
and there's no amount of composting or cleaning up that is going
to protect your plants. Fortunately, these do not affect herbs.
For mildew, use powdery mildew
sprays. For slugs, set out beer
traps. If you can't control the Japanese beetles by hand
picking, spread milky spore in the fall (see Gardens Alive catalogue
or inquire at your local nursery). This will kill the grubs
before they emerge.