Create a stackable herb garden

March 5, 2008 6:13:11 PM PST
It's feeling a lot like spring time outside and it's time to get back into the garden. Leigh Glaser recently visited Holly Hayes, gardening expert with the San Jose Mercury News, and they've got a quick, easy and fun project to get you started!

Spearmint-spiked lemonade, salmon grilled with lemon thyme, fresh oregano for sauces. A kitchen herb garden makes all this and more a snap.

You don't need much space to add creative flavor to your cooking and some terrific scents to your outdoor living area. This vertical herb garden, made by simply stacking graduated sizes of pots, anchored together with a wooden dowel, went together in less than an hour and takes up less space than a lawn chair.

The three-tiered version we built used recycled lightweight plastic containers and a previously-used wheeled saucer. But starting from scratch, expect to pay about $40 for materials, including soil and plants. It's an easy project to scale down, or improvise using cast-offs. You also could trim costs by starting plants from seed.

Select a flat site that gets at least four hours of sun daily. Easy access is important for watering and harvesting (ours is conveniently close to the kitchen door and on the way to the barbecue). WHAT WE USED: Three plastic pots (seven-inch, 10-inch and 14-inch; roller base/saucer for bottom pot; a wooden dowel, half-inch diameter, 48 inches long; one bag all-purpose lightweight potting mix (two cubic feet); eight three-inch pots of herbs.

STEP 1: We used three lightweight, inexpensive plastic pots in graduated sizes and a saucer with wheels. The wheels will make the finished herb garden easy to rotate to catch the sun evenly. If your pots don't already have centered drainage holes that are at least half-inch in diameter, you'll need to drill them before you start. The dowel will fill this drainage hole, so you'll also need additional small holes for water to drain through.

STEP 2: Place the bottom pot on the wheeled saucer, insert the dowel into the center drainage hole and begin filling the pot with soil. Compress the soil a bit as you go, keeping the dowel as straight as possible. Fill to about two inches from the top.

STEP 3: Thread the second pot onto the dowel and nestle it into the soil of the bottom pot. Check with level and adjust -- or just eyeball it -- then fill with soil to about two inches from the top. Repeat with third pot. Level again.

STEP 4: Plant your herbs in the tiers you've created. Tap each plant out of its little pot and tease apart any roots that are matted. Leave some space between plants to give them room to fill in. Label everything; either with the little stakes that come with the plants or with ones you make. You'll want to be able to tell your peppermint from your spearmint and your Greek oregano from your Italian oregano. Then give everything a good drink. You may need to add a little extra soil here and there. Enjoy!

San Jose Mercury News, Home and Garden page: