(BPT) - The end of summer doesn’t have to mean the end of your gardening enjoyment, even if you don’t have the time or climate for a full plot of food plants. Herbs are perfect fall crops; they are prolific growers, can satisfy your desire for fresh, garden-grown greens and are one of the easiest ways to elevate your recipes from so-so to so good! Plus, they’re ready to harvest and growing your own will make a dent in your grocery bill.
The fall gardening experts at Bonnie Plants offer some gardening guidance for planting herbs this fall:
Multiple factors will influence your choice of herbs, including fall temperatures, where you live, and your taste in seasonings.
If you decide to plant outdoors, it’s important to know when to expect the first hard frost. You can find the estimated first frost date in your area by checking out Bonnie’s online frost map.
You’ll want to choose herbs that like cooler weather, such as parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, mint, chives, lavender and oregano. They’re all prolific producers and some, like mint and rosemary, are especially easy to grow. Availability of Bonnie’s fall varieties is limited to specific regions, so check your local garden retailers.
Pick a place
You may envision pots full of leafy, green herbs sitting on a sunny windowsill, while colorful autumn leaves, or even snow, fall outside. However, windowsills aren’t always a best bet for indoor herbs, especially if your windows are drafty or the herbs brush the cold glass.
Herbs need at least four to six hours of natural light per day to grow indoors, so choose a sunny spot near a window where they’ll be protected from drafts and cold. South- and southwest-facing windows will give you the most natural light throughout the day. Windows facing north won’t provide enough sunlight.
Picking the right pots
If you really love rosemary, you may be tempted to try to plant the largest pot appropriate for your kitchen, but stick with manageable-sized pots that will fit better indoors, allow you to keep your herbs more organized, and still produce plenty of yield. Be sure to choose pots that have good drainage and always use a premium potting mix.
Caring for container herbs
Any type of plant growing in a pot needs water, and herbs are no exception. You’ll need to keep a close eye on your herb plants’ watering needs. Remember, dry topsoil is not an indication plants need water. A quick and easy test is to stick your finger, or a pencil, into the soil right where the stem enters the soil. If the soil is moist at 1.5 to 2 inches deep, do not water. If dry, it’s time to water! Always water in the morning, at soil level and avoid watering the leaves, as bacteria can breed in cool, wet, damp and dark conditions, like night time.
Fertilize your food plants. Water is an obvious must, but irrigation can wash nutrients out of the soil. Plus, some potting mixes only have a short-term supply of fertilizer while others are slow-release. Read the label on your premium potting soil mix and follow the brand’s recommendations for fertilizing frequency. Timed-release granular fertilizer or a plant food you mix with water will help keep herbs nourished. Remember food plants are hungry!
Best bets on basil
Although basil is the most popular herb, it can sometimes struggle growing indoors. Start off growing it outdoors on a sunny deck. Be sure to continually pinch-off the prolific leaf growth, which encourages more growth and harvest, until the weather turns cool, then bring the pot indoors. Harvested leaves can be continually dried, although freezing does a better job of preserving the herb’s flavor.
Tip: Try using old ice-cube trays, inserting basil leaves in cells, filling with water and freezing. When weather gets cold, you can easily pop your “basil ice-cubes” in recipes throughout the cold weather season. Basil is also tasty in some drinks, like lemonade and tea.
While clipping sprigs when cooking is a great way to harness the freshness of any herb, you can also store them and they’ll maintain their flavor. Preserving by drying and freezing aren’t your only options; try adding herbs as seasoning to cooking oils.
Whether you’re an expert gardener or a first-time fall grower, autumn is the perfect time to fall in love with the freshness, flavor and ease of herb gardening. You’ve still got time to get growing!
(BPT) - Whether you have a backyard or just a few containers on the patio, sunny days are your cue it's time to garden. Growing your own flowers, herbs and vegetables is a lot of fun, and with some simple tips, it can be pretty easy to make sure your outdoor space is a showstopper.
The experts at Ball Horticultural Company offer insight into the year's top gardening trends so you can plant with confidence and creativity:
Trend number 1: Create curb appeal
Your home's exterior will influence the first impression of anyone that visits. Give your entryway an instant beauty boost with begonias. They’re perfect for the time-starved gardener, grow well in sun or shade, and fill in fast and full. At the forefront of this trend are Megawatt begonias. New for 2017, they feature exceptional performance and a unique bronze-leaf color that is sure to be noticed by guests.
Trend number 2: Tablescapes
Bring the beauty of gardening indoors with tablescapes. Use your harvested vegetables as decor inside in display bowls; you'll give your interior design a fresh look. There are also non-edible potted veggies like Hot Pops Purple Ornamental Peppers. They mature in multiple colors to keep you in color all season.
Trend number 3: Fresh food fascinations
There’s nothing like pulling fresh food from the garden, but 2017 is trending toward more unique flavors. Replace your traditional pepper plants with specialty hot peppers like jalapenos or chiles.
And you don’t need tons of space to enjoy multiple tomatoes. Try Take 2 Tomato Combos which give you a slicer and a cherry tomato in one pot, providing twice the flavor in half the space. Travel the globe through herbs: Plant a kitchen garden of different basils, lavenders and mints. Use them in your next cocktail!
Trend number 4: Customize with color
A great garden is more than just a food source, it’s also a thing of beauty. One of the hottest trends for 2017 will be accenting your garden with unique colors that reflect your style. If your favorite color is purple, pink or white, weave some petunias into your garden design. If you adore red, try Archangel Cherry Red Angelonia for a delicate texture that weathers any extremes. Fill your garden with plants to match your favorite team's colors for a fun customized twist. Whatever you choose, a splash of color is sure to get your space noticed.
Get started on your garden project today
The 2017 gardening season is just beginning, so now’s the perfect time to make friends with your local garden center for the best plant selection. Incorporate any or all of the top trends listed above and your garden will be beautiful and rewarding throughout the entire year.
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