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How to plant a herb planter

This year's Chelsea Flower Show may be postponed, but there's no reason you can't put your green fingers to work on your own patch. Even the most bijou of gardens will benefit from a herb planter - Becky from the Duchy of Cornwall Nursery shows us how.

There may be more pressing things to do in the garden right now, but this is a project which is fun, and will be pleasing to look at and useful for many months to come.  Herbs in a pot right outside the door means no more searching for a torch or wellies while you are in the middle of cooking a meal (and you could even put a smaller version inside on your window sill).

Almost any container will do, provided it has drainage holes in the bottom.  Put some pieces of broken pot over (but not blocking) the hole to prevent the compost clogging it up, and fill up the pot with good quality peat-free compost.  If your pot is massive, for example a dolly tub, it is not necessary to fill it entirely with compost.  You can put large pieces of polystyrene in the bottom half to take up space.  This also reduces the weight and makes it easier to move.  

The herbs you plant should be the ones you use, but also those which will look well together in your chosen container.  Try and choose different coloured leaves and a variety of shapes. 

A good basic selection would be rosemary, sage, parsley, thyme, oregano, and chives. The rosemary could be either prostrate to drape over the edge of the pot, or the usual upright form.  The sage could be the ordinary green or the purple form, and there is a huge variety of different coloured thymes. 

Mint is a very vigorous grower and may take over a small container.  It is probably best planted in a pot by itself.  Tall herbs like dill and fennel do not look comfortable in a small mixed planter, and need a bigger pot.  

A common mistake is to fill the pot right to the brim with compost.  It is much easier to water a pot when there is space between the compost and the rim.  This allows the water to soak in instead of flowing off. 

If you are planning to put an ornamental mulch on top of the compost remember to allow space for this.  You could use grit, fine gravel or pebbles.  Crushed shell makes a very attractive finish to a planter, and as a byproduct of the shellfish industry it has perfect green credentials.  If you are using a fine textured mulch such as shell, it needs to be several centimetres thick or it will mix with the compost beneath, and the visual effect will be spoiled.  

Arrange your herbs so they look right, then take them out of the pots and plant them, firming them in well, and water.  Cover with your chosen mulch, water again to settle, and it’s done.  At the end of the season when the herbs stop growing you can remove them to a permanent position in the garden.   

duchyofcornwallnursery.co.uk

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