Look for a place with at least five hours of full sun each day, otherwise the herbs will become spindly without adequate light.
Choose a container that has good drainage, or drill a dozen holes in the bottom if need- ed. Baskets, old cooking pots, washtubs, and conventional flower pots all work fine and can be charming. If you decide to use a black plastic pot, consider hiding the pot in a 'cache pot', a larger container that both hides the unattractive plastic and protects the soil from overheating. Although herbs can tolerate some crowding, your plants will grow best in about one gallon of soil for each plant. A grouping of several smaller pots is a good alternative to one big pot, too."Once you've assembled your container, soil, and plants, you are ready to plant!"
Middle Tennessee has many nurseries and garden centers where you can buy plants for $2-$4 each. Rosemary, sage, parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, chives and savory are all good choices for container gardens. If you are feeling adventurous, look for unusual varieties such as Thai basil or orange thyme. Use enough regular potting mix to fill your container. Although it is tempting to use dirt from the yard, herbs truly need the excellent drainage that pot- ting soil provides. However, herbs don't need a lot of fertility, so there's no need to pay extra for potting mix with fertilizer added.
Once you 've assembled your container, soil, and plants, you are ready to plant! Since good drainage is essential to herbs, put an inch or two of pebbles, broken flower pots, or even packing peanuts in the bottom of your container. Then, pour the potting soil in until the container is about three-quarters full and lightly smooth the surface. Decide where each plant will go by placing the small pots on top of the soil. Tall-growing plants such as rosemary and basil should go to the back or center, while low-growing and trailing plants such as thyme and oregano look nicest near the front edges. The plants will smell wonder- ful while you are handling them!
Herb butters are a quick and simple way to use your home-grown herbs. Experiment to find combinations you enjoy. They are tasty on breads, rice, vegetables and meats and add gourmet flair to even plain dishes.
Herb Butter Recipe
Soften one stick (1/4 pound) of butter. Stir into 2-5 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs of your choice, 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest or juice, and a pinch of salt into the softened butter. Mix well, then spoon into a crock or shape into a cylinder. Wrap or cover with plastic wrap or wax paper, then refrigerate or freeze until firm. Slice in thin disks and use to season dishes. Optional additions include chopped green onions or shallots and petals of edible flowers, which look like confetti.
Thyme Cheese Toast
(adapted from Sylvia Thompson's Kitchen Garden Cookbook) Thinly slice French bread and brush one side of each slice with olive, walnut, or hazelnut oil. Brown the oiled tops under a broiler or in a toaster oven. Sprinkle evenly with fresh leaves of thyme (about one sprig?s leaves for each ), then cover the bread with thin slices of cheese (Jack, Swiss or Muenster are good choices). Sprinkle with a little freshly-ground black pepper and a few drops of light olive oil. Broil until bubbly and serve at once. Toasts can be assembled, tightly covered, and held for a few hours before broiling.