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9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

Do you love fresh herbs but lack the space to grow them in a garden? That’s what container gardens are for. Several varieties of herbs can thrive in containers?even indoors on a sunny windowsill.

Here are nine herbs suitable for container gardens, as well as some helpful container gardening tips.

1. Basil

Credit: OlgaMiltsova/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If you cook up a lot of Italian dishes, a basil plant is a must. Basil prefers full sun and moist, well-draining soil, but you usually can get away with keeping it in a little shade if you must. A sunny windowsill indoors also can work.

In the summer months, you might see white flowers on your basil that ultimately will produce woody stems and less flavorful leaves. “Snip away flowering stems as soon as you spot them to promote new, tasty foliage,” according to the Better Homes & Gardens plant encyclopedia.

Harvest basil by picking as many individual leaves as you need or clipping sprigs and storing them in water at room temperature, like cut flowers.

2. Chives

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Chives are generally a low-maintenance herb ideal for beginning gardeners.

“Chives grow best in full sun and well-drained soil,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “They tolerate part shade well and will grow and blossom when they receive at least 6 hours of bright, direct light.” They also self-seed and tolerate transplanting particularly well, making it easy to propagate your plant.

Harvest chives by snipping stems near the soil as needed to add a fresh, onion-like flavor to dishes.

3. Lavender

Light requirements: full sun

Lavender isn’t always easy to grow indoors because of its sun requirements, but it can flourish in an outdoor container garden, as long as you use well-draining soil.

“Every part of the plant is infused with aromatic oil, making this a choice herb to place along pathways or near outdoor seating areas so you can savor the fragrance,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

You can cut entire flower stems to dry for use in recipes or aromatherapy.

4. Mint

Credit: Mableen/Getty Images

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Mint seems like it can manage to grow practically anywhere and everywhere. And that’s partially why growing it in a container is ideal: It won’t spread to places where you don’t want it.

“For the most productive plants with the most flavor, plant mint in soil rich in organic matter and provide consistent moisture,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “Although many varieties tolerate drought, they won’t grow as well or have as good a flavor.”

Harvest mint in the morning before the sun has had a chance to dry the leaves. You can either pick leaves as needed or cut back stems to promote a fuller plant.

5. Oregano

Light requirements: full sun

Like lavender, oregano also requires a lot of light and would prefer to be in a sunny outdoor container garden. Plus, good drainage is a must.

Try to harvest oregano frequently to prevent the plant from flowering, which diminishes its flavor and produces woody stems. That might mean cutting some to dry for later use. “To dry a large amount of oregano, cut stems back to 3 inches (before flower buds open); cut again in the same way in late summer,” Better Homes & Gardens says. “Dry the stems by bundling them together and hanging them upside down in a dark place with good air circulation.”

6. Parsley

Light requirements: full sun

Parsley also makes a great addition to outdoor container gardens, preferring sun and rich, moist soil. “Place the container gardens on a patio or deck where they receive at least eight hours of bright sunlight a day,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

When harvesting, cut outer stems about an inch above the soil. Use parsley fresh, wrap the stems in a damp paper towel and refrigerate for up to a month or dry the leaves for later use.

7. Sage

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

Sage is a tough herb that can tolerate drought and likes well-draining soil. This makes the plant generally low-maintenance?though adequate watering and ample sunlight make for tastier foliage.

Pick leaves as you need them, or take stems for drying, cutting the top six to eight inches of growth. Plus, don’t hesitate to let the plant bloom if you’re not overly concerned about harvesting top-notch leaves. “Sage’s light blue flowers and gray/green foliage help it look at home in any flower border,” Better Homes & Gardens says.

8. Tarragon

Light requirements: partial sun, full sun

If French cooking is your thing, try growing your very own tarragon plant. “With a sunny window and rich soil, you can raise French tarragon indoors,” according to Better Homes & Gardens. “If light isn’t strong enough, stems will likely sprawl and leaf flavor will diminish, but you’ll still be able to savor the licorice taste.”

Cut the leaves as needed ? preferably regularly to encourage more growth. And if you’re adding fresh tarragon to hot dishes, do so right before serving, as heat can lessen its flavor.

9. Thyme

Credit: LightFieldStudios/Getty Images

Light requirements: full sun

Thyme can make a great groundcover in your garden that actually deters some pests. But it also grows effectively in containers, as long as it gets enough sun.

Because the herb is native to Mediterranean areas with poor, rocky soil, it prefers to be in a well-draining container?and doesn’t require much care from you. Just prune it to encourage new growth, taking bunches to dry if you don’t need it fresh.

Container Gardening Tips

Credit: grandriver/Getty Images

Growing herbs in containers is typically an easy process, as long as you get a few major components right. Here are five container gardening tips from MiracleGro.

1. Harness the sun.

“In general, choose a spot that receives six or more hours of sun, except in the very warmest regions, where herbs appreciate afternoon shade,” MiracleGro says.

Be aware of each plant’s light requirements, and place them accordingly. A perk of container gardening is it allows you to shift plants throughout the day to more (or less) sunny spots.

2. Provide proper pots and soil.

Many herbs prefer well-draining soil, which also means your pot needs plenty of drainage holes.

“Containers must be large enough to contain the herb’s root system and keep the plant itself upright,” according to MiracleGro. “A good rule of thumb is to choose a container that’s at least one-third as tall as the final height of the herb listed on the plant tag or seed packet.”

3. Water and feed as needed.

Although?some herbs prefer drier conditions, you still should keep a regular watering schedule. Follow instructions for individual plant varieties, but in general water when the top inch of soil is dry.

Likewise, some herbs need feeding to continue producing quality foliage. Check the plant’s care instructions to maximize your harvest.

4. Don’t fall in love with the flowers.

The flowers that bloom on herbs are great for attracting pollinators and other animals to your garden. But a flowering plant usually means less tasty foliage for you.

To preserve your herbs’ culinary quality, pinch off blossoms as you see them?though in some cases you actually can use the flowers in your dishes.

5. Learn the best harvesting methods.

It’s important to know how to harvest your herbs to maintain healthy growth. “When you harvest leaves on herbs that grow in clumps (like chives, lemongrass, cilantro, or parsley), pick outer leaves first, working your way toward the center of the plant,” MiracleGro says. “For herbs that have an upright stem with a growing point, like mint, stevia, basil, or oregano, snip individual branches.”

With just a little gardening know-how, you’ll always have fresh herbs at your fingertips.

Main image credit: MelanieMaier/Getty Images

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


9 of the Best Herbs to Grow in Containers

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California is turning farms into carbon-sucking factories

In a grand experiment, California switched on a fleet of high-tech greenhouse gas removal machines last month. Funded by the state’s cap-and-trade program, they’re designed to reverse climate change by sucking carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere. These wonderfully complex machines are more high-tech than anything humans have designed. They’re called plants.

Seriously, though: Plants breathe in carbon dioxide and breathe out oxygen. They break open the tough CO2 molecule and use the carbon to build their leaves and roots. In the process, they deposit carbon into the ground. For years people have excitedly discussed the possibility of stashing carbon in the soil while growing food. Now, for the first time, California is using cap-and-trade money to pay farmers to do it on a large scale. It’s called the California Healthy Soils Initiative.

In April, trucks full of fertilizer trundled into Doug Lo’s almond orchards near Gustine, California, and spread composted manure around his trees. He then planted clover to cover the ground between the trunks. In theory, these techniques will pull 1,088 tons of carbon out of the atmosphere every year. Lo’s is one of about fifty farms getting money from the state of California to pull greenhouse gas from the air. California is paying him $50,000 to try it out.

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“We’re trying to sequester some carbon,” Lo said. “It should also help with the water-holding capacity of the soil, and the flowers in the cover crop should feed bees after the almond bloom is over.”

This is the first major utilization of farms as state-sponsored carbon-sucking factories. (To be fair, Oklahoma, of all places, has been experimenting with soil carbon since 2001, albeit on a smaller scale.) Agriculture and climate nerds — we wonkiest of wonks — have been anticipating this for the last decade as the scientific evidence accumulated.

In 2014 we wrote about the people pushing this research in California. And Grist told the story last year of how scientist Jonathan Sanderman put together key pieces of this puzzle after finding jars of old dirt, long forgotten in storage. And just recently, the New York Times Magazine ran a story summarizing the state of the science. But for years it’s felt like a lot of talk and not much action. That’s changing with the Healthy Soils Initiative, which makes money available for farmers like Lo, and monitors the results.

So how do you turn a farm into a carbon-sucking machine? Lo figured the money from the state would allow him to experiment without risk. He made a deal with a compost company to truck manure from dairies across California’s central valley then spread precisely 5.3 tons per acre under his almond trees as required by the state guidelines. An inspector from the California Department of Food and Agriculture showed up on the day the trucks arrived in April to make sure Lo was actually doing the work and not just doing the paperwork. Next, Lo planted clover and other cover crops in the rows between the trees.

A lot is riding on this, but it’s not a foregone conclusion that it will work. In theory, compost and cover crops should get carbon out of the sky and into the ground. But will it work in practice on Lo’s farm? With the farm’s particular soil structure, irrigation pattern, as well as the dirt’s microbiome? We don’t know how fast carbon will accumulate in his soil, or how long it will stay there.

When I asked Lo how confident he was that he was going to get exactly 1,088 tons of carbon into the ground he responded: “Well, that’s just what the soil scientists said. We’re going to see I guess!”

As of last Thursday the soil samples on Lo’s farm haven’t shown an increase in carbon content, but it takes about three years for compost to break down, he said. Other farmers and state officials will be watching this rollout of carbon-sucking farms closely. And if it works, and these farms manage to capture enough carbon, program could scale up massively. California’s Healthy Soils Initiative could serve as a model for other states.

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California is turning farms into carbon-sucking factories

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Edible Landscaping: A Delicious Way to Garden


Edible Landscaping: A Delicious Way to Garden

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You can expect Neil Gorsuch to be bad news for the environment.

Catherine Flowers has been an environmental justice fighter for as long as she can remember. “I grew up an Alabama country girl,” she says, “so I was part of the environmental movement before I even knew what it was. The natural world was my world.”

In 2001, raw sewage leaked into the yards of poor residents in Lowndes County, Alabama, because they had no access to municipal sewer systems. Local government added insult to injury by threatening 37 families with eviction or arrest because they couldn’t afford septic systems. Flowers, who is from Lowndes County, fought back: She negotiated with state government, including then-Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions, to end unfair enforcement policies, and she enlisted the Environmental Protection Agency’s help to fund septic systems. The effort earned her the nickname “The Erin Brockovich of Sewage.”

Flowers was continuing the long tradition of residents fighting for justice in Lowndes County, an epicenter for the civil rights movement. “My own parents had a rich legacy of fighting for civil rights, which to this day informs my work,” she says. “Even today, people share stories about my parents’ acts of kindness or help, and I feel it’s my duty to carry on their work.”

Years later, untreated and leaking sewage remains a persistent problem in much of Alabama. Flowers advocates for sanitation and environmental rights through the organization she founded, the Alabama Center for Rural Enterprise Community Development Corporation (ACRE, for short). She’s working with the EPA and other federal agencies to design affordable septic systems that will one day eliminate the developing-world conditions that Flowers calls Alabama’s “dirty secret.”

Former Vice President Al Gore counts himself as a big fan of Flowers’ work, calling her “a firm advocate for the poor, who recognizes that the climate crisis disproportionately affects the least wealthy and powerful among us.” Flowers says a soon-to-be-published study, based on evidence she helped collect, suggests that tropical parasites are emerging in Alabama due to poverty, poor sanitation, and climate change. “Our residents can have a bigger voice,” she said, “if the media began reporting how climate change is affecting people living in poor rural communities in 2017.” Assignment editors, pay attention.

Meet all the fixers on this year’s Grist 50.

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You can expect Neil Gorsuch to be bad news for the environment.

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The Eco-Friendly Reason Rio’s Olympic Medalists Didn’t Get Flowers

The Olympic Games are held every four years, and although the medals change, the award ceremonies are usually very similar.

Olympic medalists typically receive a bouquet in addition to their medal, but flowers werestrangely absent from the podium in Rio. Why? Turns out it was part of the Rio Olympic Committee’s efforts to make the massive event more eco-friendly.

Flowers are not very sustainable, said Christy Nicolay, the executive producer of the victory ceremonies, told the New York Times. We give it to an athlete, and very often they just throw it away.

Even those of us who aren’t Olympic athletes know this to be a painful reality of life. We get flowers for special occasions or perhaps simply cut them from our own gardens to bright up the house, but it seems they wither and die almost instantly.

Like any crop, growing flowers is a resource-intensive process. “Seventy percent of the cut flowers sold in the U.S. are imported from Latin America,” reported Diane MacEachern for Care2. “Though the hot climate is just what the flowers need, those constant high temperatures are also conducive to bugs and disease. Consequently, growers in Columbia, Ecuador and many other countries rely on pesticides that have long been banned in the U.S. to produce flowers worth selling in international markets.”

Related: Why Buying Local Flowers Is Just As Important As Buying Local Food

With all that in mind, Rio’s decision to nix the bouquets seems very noble…until you hear about what they gave athletes as a replacement souvenir.

Those who managed to finish in the top three of their events at this years Summer Games receivedsmall sculptures of the Rio 2016 logo,designed in three dimensions for the first time in history. It’s said that the figurines can double as a display stand for the medal. Sadly, the sculptures were made ofresin, polyresin and PVCnot exactly the most eco-friendly materials. It remains to be seen whether future Olympic host cities will follow this example.

While the athletes are far less likely to toss their sculpture in the trash, it’s worth noting that fresh flowers and plants were still used to decorate the podiumsI wonder, where did they end up?

Related: 5 Simple Ways To Recycle Your Fresh Cut Flowers

Image Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.


The Eco-Friendly Reason Rio’s Olympic Medalists Didn’t Get Flowers

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5 Simple Ways To Recycle Your Fresh Cut Flowers

Whether selectedfrom your own garden or purchased from a florist, there’s something undeniably beautiful about fresh cut flowers. Always the most perfect blooms, they bring color and a wonderful scent into our lives for a short time.

It’s that last partthe very short period of time they lastthat bothers me, though. It seems such a shame to spend all this time and energy growing flowers, just for a few days as a table arrangementor a bridal bouquet.

But maybe cut flowers don’t have to meet their fate so soon. Here are just a few ways that your special occasion flowers can be recycled, upcycled and repurposed to that their joy and beauty stick around as long as possible!

1. Donate Them

This is the simplest way to extend the life of your cut flowers, especiallyafter a wedding or similar large event where you have more arrangements/bouquets than you can give away to friends or family. Retirements homes, homeless shelters, nursing homes and even some independent restaurants are always happy to receive donations of fresh flowers to improve the appearance of their facilities. In fact, if you work out an arrangement with them beforehand, they may even come and pick them up!

2. Dry Them

If you’re looking to recyclea bouquet that had special meaning, you might not want to give them away, and that’s fine too. Drying flowers is a great way to enjoy their benefits long after the freshness has worn away. Properly dried flowers can be used to make your ownaromatherapy formulas, popurri blends and even edible embellishments! Check out this Care2 post on How To Dry Flowers And Botanicals to learn more.

3. Press Them

Pressing is a very particular style of drying flowers that allows them to be displayed or incorporated into handmade crafts. All it takes is a few blossoms that are still fairly fresh and a stack of heavy books! Check out this Care2 post on How To Make Beautiful Botanical Art With Pressed Flowers for an easy tutorial.

4. Preserve Them

Professionally arranged wedding bouquets aren’t cheap, so it’s always disheartening to think about tossing them in the trash a few days after the wedding. If you’re looking for a way to enjoy your bouquet indefinitely, you should know there are options, but they too will cost you a little bit.

“If you aim to have your bouquet preserved in its original shape,I suggest either silica-gel drying or freeze-drying, which are done by professional preservationists and will help keep the natural, three-dimensional shape of the flowers. The difference between the two methods is just technical: Silica-gel drying involves burying the flowers in a granular substance until theyre totally dry, while freeze-drying entails slowly dehydrating the blooms in a cold,vacuum-sealed machine. The bouquet is then sealed inside a glass container like a shadow box or a glass dome,” expert floristEric Buterbaughtold Martha Stewart Weddings.

5. Transform Them

If none of those options appeal to you, consider transforming your special bouquet or flower arrangement into something else altogether. There are several companies who specialize in turning flowers into beautiful beads that then become earrings, necklaces, bracelets that can be worn forever. Check out Blossoms Into Beads and My Flowers Forever Jewelry to learn more about this amazing upcycling process.

What’s your favorite way to make fresh cut flowers last a little bit longer? Share it in the comments!

Image Credit: Thinkstock

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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5 Simple Ways To Recycle Your Fresh Cut Flowers

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How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

While supporting the behemoth known as the factory farmed flower industry is no way to celebrate a special occasion, there is nonetheless an undeniable beauty in having cut flowers around. Their fragrance and color and intricate grace are sure-fire happy makers. Thankfully, there are sustainable flower farms! As well, it’s a pleasure to grow flowers in one’s own garden that can be brought inside when the desire calls.

Whether you grow your own flowers or get them from acertified sustainable flower farm or you received flowers as a present making them last as long as possible is the best way to give them the respect they deserve. They may just be flowers to some, but they are a gift from nature and should be regarded with some reverence!

So with that in mind, the following steps can help keep your flowers fresh. These come from the folks at the non-profit scientific group,American Chemical Society, who approached the task through the eyes of science. Basically, follow the process outlined below, but be sure to watch the video for details and extra tips.

1. Clean the vase.
2. Use warm water that has been allowed to sit for a few minutes.
3. Feed the flowers using the food provided.
4. Cut the stems.
5. Keep the arrangement away from fruit.
6. Keep the flowers cool.

Written by Melissa Breyer. Reposted with permission from TreeHugger.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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How to Make Cut Flowers Last Longer

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Best Drought-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

What should you plant in your garden in case we have a very dry spring, summer and fall? How can you beautify your landscape if you can’t water it?

The key is to plant drought-resistant plants that will do well on a minimum amount of moisture. Plants that don’t require a ton of watering make sense whether there’s a drought or not. Water for a yard or garden is expensive no matter where you live, so the less you need to create a beautiful yard, the better. Plus, watering takes time if you don’t have automatic sprinklers set up. You’ll end up wasting both water and time if you don’t choose plants that can get buy on a minimum of H2O.

Here’s a guide to choosing the least thirsty plants, along with some suggestions for flowers, bushes and ground covers that won’t require a downpour to do well.

How to Find the Best Drought-Resistant Plants

One approach is to fill your landscape with drought-tolerant specimens and save thirstier varieties for containers that can add a pop of color to a hill or bed without dominating the entire space.

But more importantly, choose the right plants for the amount of rain you’re likely to get. Contact your county extension service to get their recommendations; they will probably have a list you can download and use when you shop.

Browse the plant aisles at a local nursery as well. Big box stores will sell a lot of plants, but they won’t necessarily know anything about them. The local nursery will be more expensive, but you’ll get better advice there and probably a better selection of perennials that will do well in your region.

Shop for plants at farmer’s markets, too. Local farmers will be able to tell you how much moisture and sun a plant needs, as well as what pests it might be susceptible to. Remember that any plant you buy, you can propagate and turn into many more. Even if one plant seems expensive, it’s an investment in the future, as long as you care for it well.

Don’t forget to check out native plants. Natives to your region have evolved to do well in your climate. PlantNative.org offers this excellent guide to planning, planting and maintaining a native plant garden.

Finally, consider your soil. Does it retain moisture, so you can water it less and still keep your plants happy? Or is it sandy and dry and not capable of providing moisture to a plant’s roots when needed? You can often send soil samples to your county extension office for testing; they’ll also let you know what nutrients or soil amendments you need. Plan to add compost, which will enrich the soil and increase its ability to hold moisture.

Examples of Drought-Resistant Plants

As for plants to look into, here are some suggestions, depending on where you live:

Cactus – If you live in the American southwest or in another particularly dry but sunny part of the U.S., cactus has got to be on your list. These plants come in an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Many of them flower, and some of them even produce fruit. They’re gorgeous when planted in a bed that mixes up varieties to create visual interest.

SedumSedum are considered a succulent; they store water in their leaves to help them survive dry spells. Sedum makes for a wonderful ground cover, especially on a slope.

Purple SagePurple sage is a member of the genus Salvia. It’s native to the western U.S., which historically is a dry habitat. Some varieties produce showy purple flowers. There are also shrub varieties. Flowers can be quite large and fragrant.

Joe Pye WeedEupatorium purpureum, or Joe Pye Weed, is a tall, majestic plant with airy pink-purple flowers that last from mid-summer through fall. While the plant does best in a moist environment, I have it planted in dry shade and never water it. It proliferates, but doesn’t get as tall in dry shade as it would if it were in moist sun. It attracts a bevy of insects and butterflies and is beautiful towards the back of the garden.

Sempervivum – This is a big group of alpine succulents. Their natural habitat is typically 3000-8000 feet above sea level in a cooler, drierclimate. There are about 50 species and over 3000 varieties, so you have a lot to choose from!

Echinacea – Also known as Purple coneflower, this plant is a native of the great plains of the U.S. It thrives in dry, sunny conditions, where its big beautiful flowers attract birds, butterflies and bees.

Lavender – It’s hard to go wrong with this beautiful plant. The flower is gorgeous and fragrant; it resists hot summers and cold winters, repels deer and resists most pests. It will add color and variety to your landscape for many years; you can also cut flowering stems, dry the flowers for potpourri or pulverize it and add it to your favorite lotion or liquid soap.

Russian SageWayside Gardens describes this plant as having “super tolerance of heat, humidity and drought.” It will attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and bloom all summer long. What’s not to love?

Gardening for Butterflies
Fool-Proof Tips for Container Gardening

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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Best Drought-Resistant Plants for Your Garden

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It’s April: What to do in the Garden

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It’s April: What to do in the Garden

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Whole Foods Announces Program for The Conscious Consumer

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Whole Foods Announces Program for The Conscious Consumer

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