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Vermont Garden Journal: Culinary Herbs For Mother's Day

Instead of planting an herb garden, it's simpler to grow herbs in containers. Make sure you're using the right container for the right herb.

Happy Mother's Day! This year for mom, why not treat her to some time with her favorite son or daughter and go plant shopping together. One of the best gifts for a mom that likes to eat and cook, are culinary herbs.

But instead of planting an herb garden, it's simpler to grow herbs in containers. Here are some tips to make mom's new container herb garden on her deck or patio thrive.

First of all, match the type of herb to the type of pot. For culinary herbs such as oregano, thyme and rosemary, use clay pots. Clay pots breathe and dry out faster. These Mediterranean herbs love a drier soil to grow their best. For herbs such as cilantro, chives, mint, and parsley, use self-watering plastic pots. These containers keep the soil consistently moist, which is what these herbs love. For herbs that like the heat, such as basil and stevia, try metal pots. These newer containers heat up fast in the sun, but watch out. They may heat up too fast and require more frequent watering to keep the herbs alive.

Fill the pots with potting soil and place most herbs in full sun. Some herbs, such as chives, parsley and mint, can also grow in partial shade.

Try some unusual varieties as well. Variegated lemon thyme has white-edged leaves with a lemony flavor making for a beautiful edible. Oregano also comes in variegated versions. Cinnamon basil has purple stems and pale purple flowers with strong, cinnamon-flavored leaves. It's great paired with fruits such as pears and peaches. For a good, natural sweetener, grow stevia. The plants grows one-to-two-feet tall and the leaves are a great additive to sweeten drinks. The fresh leaves have one quarter the sweetness of white-powdered stevia bought in stores. 

Now for this week's tip: pinch the tops of bee balm and nepeta to help dwarf the plant this summer. They will flower a little later than usual, but will be bushier.

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