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Tips for planting your favourite herbs with easy access

I realize I am a lazy cook. If a recipe calls for herbs I don’t have I will change the recipe rather than run to the store. To simplify summer meals I plant my most loved herbs in pots and leave them on my back step for easy access. This works for gardeners with either estates or the tiniest stoop or balcony.

It’s tough to decide what to plant in your pot(s). I say plant only what you’ll eat. When I fell in love with watermelon salad (watermelon, feta cheese, squeeze of lemon, red onion and mint) I needed fresh mint on a regular basis. Luckily mint grows fast in pots and this year I started my mint experimental station along the back of my house (more about that later this season.)

I like to mix rosemary with pecans and with various meats. I like whole sage leaves fried in butter as a topping on soups; I use thyme as an accent in potatoes and parsley in salads. Luckily these four herbs all need the same conditions; heat and sun. They also tolerate frost so can be planted now. Basil is also a favorite of mine but it doesn’t play well with other herbs and will not tolerate a chill so it needs its own pot and a little protection. After night temperatures settle in at 10 C it will thrive.

The cheapest pots are plastic or fiberglass but these are also the lightest. If you are using a terra cotta looking plastic pot it could blow off the step or across the patio during one of our howling winds. Low bowl-shaped pots are more stable than tall narrow pots. Glazed clay pots are heavier than plastic. If your pot is the wrong shape or material, a big brick or rock placed in the bottom of the pot before you add soil or plants will stabilize it.

I use soilless mix and fertilize weekly with organic nutrients, mixing in compost or worm castings before planting. I keep a watering can on the step and fill it right after I use it. That way as I am walking in and out of the house or balcony I remember to water.

Patios can be pantries. If you organize your balcony for a bounty of interesting edibles, they can be a tasty, fun and interesting addition to a summer meal.

Balzer speaks and writes about gardening, tweets @NoGuffGardener and blogs at www.gardenguru.net.

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