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Taste of Mediterranean close to hand

By AAP and the Border Mail

No space or time for a vegetable garden? You still can harvest homegrown herbs for daily meals with your own portable herb garden.

This garden will grow almost anywhere outdoors; it needs just four hours or more of sun a day. That makes it perfect for a patio or apartment balcony — somewhere close to the kitchen. Water two to three times a week or as needed.

Choose a theme for your herb garden such as “Italian favorites,” “Asian accents” or “salsa stuff.” Or just pick five to seven herbs you use often in the kitchen.

For our example, we chose a Mediterranean mix with golden accents: golden sage, golden lemon thyme, variegated oregano, lettuce-leaf basil, French tarragon, Italian parsley and chives.

For a container planting, select herbs that tend to have compact or low growth. Those include oregano, parsley, chives, tarragon and thyme. Some sages and basil also can be kept small and bushy.

What you need:  

A shallow pot or container; make sure it has a bottom hole for good drainage, a trowel, potting soil and herbs of your choice.

Directions:

Put a layer of potting soil in the container, up to 7 cm from the rim.

Transplant herbs from individual pots into the larger container. Loosen the root ball of each plant before setting it into its new container. Arrange the herbs with the tallest-growing variety in the middle and four to six herbs spaced around it.

Once plants are positioned, add more potting soil and gently firm it around roots. Water and place in a sunny spot.

Herbs and flowers:

In addition to borders, herbs also mix well with flowers in containers.

The herbs flower too, adding to this living-bouquet concept.

An example taken from Easy Container Combos: Herbs and Flowers by Pamela Crawford is to mix red-flowered pineapple sage and blue-flowered tri-color sage with dill (it adds height and feathery texture), bright yellow or orange marigolds and Mexican tarragon.

See more suggestions and how-to videos at www.easygardencolor.com.

When to feed:

Add a little compost to the potting soil before planting to get your herbs off to a good start.

Annual herbs need more fertilizer, usually every two weeks, while perennial herbs need only to be fertilized once or twice a year.

Water deeply before fertilizing.

When to harvest:

By pinching back flowers as they appear, you can keep the plant growing more shootsWith basil and parsley, pinching back the flowers prolongs the life of the plant, too.

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