Grown in Wales

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Caring for your plants 1 growing herbs in pots

Charles Warner

I felt that it might be time to pass on a few tips about what to do with our plants when you have bought them. We grow alpine plants, herbaceous plants and herb plants. Today I am going to talk about herbs and the care that they should have once you have bought them.

We only grow herbs in a large one litre sized pot. We chose this pot because it provides a plant that is big enough for you to use it in your cooking on the day that you buy it and also robust enough (unlike many supermarket herbs) to survive perfectly well in the garden. Once you get the plant home you can leave it in it's pot for a few weeks. All our plants have compost that contains a slow release fertiliser so they wont starve. At some point though you will probably want to either plant out in the garden or put your plant into a larger pot. Plants tend to thrive better out in the soil because nature is providing everything that they need. Pots on the other hand are very convenient. They can be moved around easily and look pleasant especially in situations where garden space is an issue. Plants in pots take a little more effort than those in the ground because you have to provide everything for them.

Pot them on or put them in the garden, the choice is yours.

I am going to talk about putting your plants into a new container.

The container does not have to be a pot. Personally I like the traditional clay terracotta pot. I think that they look nice all different shapes and sizes but I have often seen large coffee tins used to give a continental look and old wooden beer crates which look like you drive a Mercedes and live in a Lonon Mews. Either way they must have drainage holes or if necessary a liner to stop the compost and water falling straight through the bottom. Larger containers can have several different herbs planted in them. Eventually you will find one or two of the plants becoming dominant and you'll need to have a sort out.

Put crocks in the bottom of your clay pot if you must. We grow many thousands of plants without them but I don't want to spoil your fun. You will need some compost. The compost that we use on the nursery is of far greater quality that the bags that you see on the garden centre but it would cost a small fortune to buy it just a few bags at a time. Fortunately the stuff in the garden centre is absolutely fine for planting up containers. Some brands say that they have added John Innes. This seems to me to mean that they contain some loam which seems like a good idea to me (email if you would like to know why) You can also buy slow release fertiliser granules now and I would recommend these especially for vigorous plants such as most herbs.

So mix up the fertiliser granules with the compost and put a layer into the bottom of the container. You will be planting into a bigger container (I would say at least a third bigger) so you need to put enough compost in the bottom to ensure that the plant sits with the top of it's roots almost level with the top of the pot. Then fill around the plant roots with more compost firming as you go. If you don't firm the compost it will sink from the first time that you water it. Please, please. please don't skimp on the compost. Half filled containers look shoddy and a gap at the top of more than half an inch creates a very humid little pocket that I think encourages nasty stuff to happen. Also avoid using garden soil. It will be full of weeds and will set like concrete.

Water your plants in. Not a sprinkle over the leaves , a soak right through the roots. Do it again the next day. These two waterings are the most important in the plants life. You will have damaged some of the all important root hairs when you potted the plant and for the first couple of days they will need a bit of help to get established

 So hey presto ! your plants are potted. I have probably told you lots that you already knew but that's because it's not folk lore, it's not some ancient arcane knowledge. it's common sense. You probably would have done most of it without needing to be told.

However I'm going to spell out some of the mistakes that I often see about the place so that you wont make them.

1. Don't skimp on the compost. It's going to sink when you first water it and then some more subsequently so firm it into the container and fill to the top. I know that they sometimes say to leave a gap at the top for watering but anything more than about half an inch looks shoddy and fills with all kinds of plant hating baddness.

2. Don't use garden soil. It will grow a crop of weeds when your back is turned and will set like concrete.

3. Don't let your plants dry out. Once a plant has wilted it is far more susceptible to insect pests such as aphids and Red spider mites. These little fellows are always present but they won't cause much damage if the plant is strong and healthy. Don't reach for the pesticide bottle. Your first line of defence is water and feed. Windy weather will strip the moisture from your plants as well as hot dry weather. keep an eye on them or if you live in a London Mews get your au pair to do it.

4. If a vigorous plant starts to look a bit yellow and is not growing well the chances are it needs repotting into fresh compost. If the container is crammed with roots, feeding it will probably not help . It's the young roots that the plant needs and if there is no space for them it will not thrive.

5. When you make make mint tea, wash the mint first. Don't do what I did and make mint tea with added deceased aphids (like i said they are always there). Enjoy your plants. Let us know how they do and tell us if you have any problems


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