Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Watering Herbs in Containers 101

I promised some of you that I would do a post on watering your herbs and or plants in containers this time of year.  This is one of the eclectic collections of The Herbal Husband.  We tend to have benign neglect for the aloe veras and Christmas cacti in our house  The aloe looks good, the cacti needs some fertilizer.  This is a paragraph or two about watering your herbs in containers inside and out.  It would apply to most plants in containers with the possible exception of African violets.  When you water African violets, you need to move the leaves apart and try not to get water on the leaves.  That can lead to disease.  Water violets from the bottom if possible.  Always use that index finger in several places to make sure that the plant needs to be watered at all.

Watering is a very essential part of growing herbs in containers.  During the summer season,  if you use terracotta pots, they will dry out a lot faster than other kinds of pots.  Make sure you are getting one of your index fingers down to the second knuckle to make sure your container needs to be watered.  Place it in several places around the pot.  That is the best and cheapest way to tell when you need to water.  If at all possible, site your containers near a source of water.  I would like to place my containers throughout the garden.  Somehow they are lined up on the patio at the end of the day.  There are all kinds of aids now to help in watering your containers.  Polymers, mats with polymers in them, self-watering containers and irrigation systems can give you help.  At home, we use an old-fashioned method--the watering can.  I think it is beneficial for you to see whether your plants thriving, whether outdoor or indoors, or stressed and maybe because of being stressed are being attacked by diseases or insects.  When you water, you want to water the entire pot until water comes out of the bottom of the pot.  The Herbal Husband waters a little bit over the top and then in the bottom of the pot.  That can create a dry middle.  We repotted a plant one season and the middle was totally dry.  You must make sure that water runs out of the bottom especially on very hot days.  If you are on city water, you want to let your water sit at least overnight or use distilled water.

If you are away from home a lot, you may need to get a system which will help you water.  Pat from Thoughts from Taylorsoutback uses the Claber 8053 Oasis 4-Program/20 Plant Automatic Drip Watering System and it works very well for her while they were traveling in Alaska.  You can find it for sale on amazon.com.  The Herbal Husband and I are going to use these when we are away this season.  In the heat and drought times, we water twice a day consistently.  It is also important to combine your plants so that their water needs are met.  Dropping or wilted plants may be a sign of water need; but may also need a bit of shade in the afternoon.  Once the sun goes down, they may perk back up.  Do not automatically water them.  If you use a lot of plastic containers, you might try grouping them together.  Shading the posts that heat up with others that remain cooler like terracotta or concrete may help.  You should also try to use larger containers because they will not dry out as quickly or heat up.

Inside you must be sure you either have a great southern exposure and clean windows or an artificial light source of some kind.  Also if you place tender herbs on windowsills in the north, make sure that on very cold nights, you move them off those windowsills to a warmer place.  Rosemarys are easily under or overwatered.  Either way they are dead.  Mist the leaves and then water the roots when needed and keep them in a cooler spot.  A garage with a southern exposure has worked very well.  Our 'Spice Islands' rosemary is going through trauma at the moment.  It has some black leaves and that is either over or under watering.  The Herbal Husband has admitted that he may be losing his touch in the watering department.  Lemon Verbena Lady to the rescue!  I'll just make sure that I'm monitoring from afar and make sure plants are OK.  As I said earlier, the two of us watering is difficult when we have different watering styles.  If you have questions on this subject, as always I am always here to answer them.  This quote thing is getting to me, but I will marshal on!  One of the herb books that I should read again is Henry Beston's Herbs and the Earth in it he talks about herbs.

"In its essential spirit, in its proper garden meaning, an herb is a garden plant
which has been cherished for itself and for a use
  and has not come down to us as a purely decorative thing.. . .
It is not use which has kept the great herbs alive, but beauty and use together."

Just keeps snowing.  Talk to you later.


Melissa said...

Hello my friend I have missed your wisdom and herbal energy! You have been so so busy! What an amazing month you have had! Thank you for your post it came at the right time...I was just going to throw out my Rosemary...but perhaps I will give it some more time and monitor my watering! All my love! Hope you are doing well!

lemonverbenalady said...

Hi Melissa! Glad to hear from you. Missed hearing from you. Rosemarys can be tough to keep in the winter. Hope yours recovers. xx Nancy

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your comments...I have a question about the aloe vera plant...the leaves keep getting bigger and I am not sure how to harvest them...in order to do as little damage to the plant as possible

lemonverbenalady said...

Check out part of my post today, just for you, Anonymous! Thanks for your question.