On a mission to learn how to be a proper gardener I had looked after my geraniums for a year with mixed success (50% survival rate.., but they would of both survived had my housemate not forgotten that she put them outside in the frost for a few nights in january).
I thought that now was the time for the slightly more ambitious project of a container herb garden. A small step on the road to self sustainability. After browsing container gardens on pinterest I set my heart on having a herb garden in a wheelbarrow! (https://uk.pinterest.com/tednsteph/fab-ideas-for-herb-containers/)
Luckily for me my parents had an old wheelbarrow with a bust wheel that I could rescue from a trip to the dump, and all I had to do was wait for the last frost. The predicted last frost date in Manchester is the second week of May. Unfortunately patience is not one of my strong points and I made it to the last week of April to plant my herbs!
How to choose? Well I obviously did some googling and found this article particularly helpful (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/aug/15/ten-best-herbs-grow-containers) and I had a number of conversations with my Grandparents whose Birthday Money was funding my herb venture. My Grandma’s advice was that if I wanted to grow Rosemary and Sage I should keep them out of the wheelbarrow as they could grow quite big and woody and they might take over the wheelbarrow, similarly mint should always be contained on its own should I wish to grow it.
My two favourite herbs are parsley and oregano so no doubts that they would be featuring, and equally I can’t stand either basil or coriander so they would not be welcome (handy that they are two of the more temperamental herbs to grow). Although I’m not a huge fan of mint it sounded so easy to grow I would be missing out on an easy success to pass on it. My grandma recommended lemon verbena which was seconded in the guardian article so I also chose this alongside thyme, chives and tarragon. A last minute phone call to my Grandma from the garden centre to see if that sounded like a good starting selection and I was ready to go!
I had recently gained a beautiful pot that would be perfect for my sage and rosemary as well as a lovely strawberry planter (many thanks and love to Grandad Alan and Grandma Angela), so the only pot I needed to buy was one for my mint. I bought my herbs and strawberries from a huge garden centre that I visited on Trentham estate in shropshire when it was raining too hard for me to wonder round the gardens as planned. It was one of the biggest garden centres I have ever been to with everything you could possibly need/imagine and THREE cafes inside! (http://www.trentham.co.uk/shopping-and-eating/a-to-z-of-shops/trentham-garden-centre/trentham-garden-centre)
Here you can see my final selections. In the wheelbarrow: top left thyme, top middle french tarragon, right top and bottom 2x flat leaf parsley, middle oregano, bottom left lemon verbena, bottom middle chives. Blue pot: upright rosemary and tricolour sage. Smaller pot garden mint + curly mint. In the strawberry pot I have planted 6 small di toscany strawberries in the walls and 2 larger albion strawberries on top.
For the wheelbarrow I had to drill some holes in the bottom for drainage – using a second hand drill from my Dad and a drill bit from the ridiculously large selection of mostly rusty drill bits I gained from my Grandad’s garage. This was my first drilling experience and a challenge from working out how to put the drill bit in the drill to deciding on appropriate eye protection (in the absence of goggles I went for giant sunglasses). Luckily, following my uncle’s advice to start with a small hole and then make it bigger rather trying to drill straight through with a big drill bit – I had success!
I then mixed in quite a pit of potting gravel with my potting compost to try to help with good drainage and once I had planted all my herbs and throughly watered them I covered the bare soil with more potting gravel to keep out the weeds.
Unfortunately the day after I planted them it frosted heavily, and snowed on and off for the next 3 days. They then had a spell of regular watering following a week of burning sunshine and high temperatures when I was visiting my parents and couldn’t water them. Despite the intermittent care they are receiving they seem to be doing well. The tarragon is the only herb that seems to have suffered at all although I haven’t given up on it yet, and although two of the strawberry plants look almost dead possibly from being in the shaded side of the pot I have had lots of flowers that I have had to remove. Although I would love a strawberry crop this year my gardening book says I should let them focus on putting down roots.
Bring on the eating!