Pick and Prep the Pots
Although most herbs can be grown in perforated ceramic pots, terra-cotta pots, or even window boxes, Hanselman recommends using round plastic pots for your herbs, as they hold more soil, give herbs plenty of room to grow, hold water better than clay pots, and are lightweight and easier to move. They also won’t dry out as fast as narrow trays or windowsill planters. The size of the pot you need depends on your selection of herbs, but a pot 12 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep should hold the five herbs recommended for this project.
Fill your 12-inch pot roughly 7½ inches deep with soil. Any standard potting-soil mix will do, but if you prefer to grow organically, opt for something like Whitney Farms Premium Potting Soil ($5 per cubic foot at Portland Nursery, portlandnursery.com). Space the root balls of the herbs equidistant from one another and from the sides of the pot. Cover the roots completely, making sure to keep the dirt ½ inch from the top rim of the pot.
The beauty of herbs, according to Hanselman, is that “they just grow like weeds”—a boon to the absentminded gardeners among us. Herbs will, however, need to be watered. Hanselman waters hers about once a day. When the weather is warm, water in the morning before the sun is out in full force; in the evening, wait until it has cooled off to avoid evaporation. To gauge whether your herbs need water, press your finger into the soil—it should be moist, but not soaking wet. Herbs will need less watering as the weather cools and the winter rains arrive.
Whenever you need them, pick sprigs of fresh herbs from the top of the plant, where leaves are forming on the stem. Pick after 11 a.m.—by this time of day, the sun will have shed enough light on the plant to draw out the natural oils, which carry the herbs’ scent and flavor.
When drying herbs at the end of summer, either for gifts or later use, pick sprigs in the morning. Snip, wash, pat dry, and hang in a warm, dark, dry place. Check periodically over the course of one to three weeks—if the leaves crumble off the stem, they’ve dried long enough. Strip the leaves and place them in an airtight container, labeled and dated. They’ll keep for up to a year.
Once you start using your herbs, the possibilities are endless. Spend your winter feasting on rosemary chicken, sage-spiced pork, savory stuffing, lavender jelly, and other recipes you’ve looked up or dreamed up. Despite the gray skies and wet weather, your winter will be warmed and brightened by herb-inspired comfort foods.