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All -

Ok, so for the past 2-3 years I have attempted to grow veggies and herbs with pretty much little success. Last year I had a great setup on a good deck with a good amount of sun, but the veggies did not yield much and the herbs seemed to peak out without much yield. So I am changing my strategy.

This year I am going to grow basil, mint, cilantro, and thyme. And I am going to be focused and diligent.

How can I insure I have so much basil that it is overflowing?

I have a number of smaller pots right now, but am thinking about upgrading to some bigger ones so that each plant has its own pot and an abundance of things to supercharge the growth.

Any tips?
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The more you pick, the more they will bush out. Just don't don't pick more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.

Herbs thrive on neglect. Let them dry out between waterings, this will make them hardier.

Why not plant several varieties of basil in one large planter? I especially like purple ruffled basil, and it grows very large & bushy. Try some cinnamon basil, & spicy globe too.
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Liz in Norwood Park wrote:The more you pick, the more they will bush out. Just don't don't pick more than 1/3 of the plant at a time.


"Dead-heading" basil by plucking off dead flowers contributes to fullness as well.

The surest way to insuring lots of basil, for me, was to put in several plants -- they're pretty cheap and with decent sun I had more basil from 3-4 plants than I could use last year.
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I've had basil in my garden plot for a couple years now, it's been kind of finicky - but I started from seed (well after last frost) Thyme and mint I started from nursery plants and can't get rid of - the mint actually migrated from my neighbor's garden and will grow just about anywhere. I grow two window boxes of flat-leaf parsley, which is tremendously handy to have outside my kitchen.

Cilantro, on the other hand, is a pain in the ^@$. It has a long taproot, so it hasn't been happy in any container I've tried it in (somehow this doesn't bother the parsley, despite the fact that it's related to carrots) Since you use the immature leaves, so the crop gets rangy and bolts (flowers) quickly, in hot weather it can do it in a couple days - and the lovely tender leaves disappear. I've never had home-grown cilantro and tomatoes at the same time, and I've planted varieties described as "slow bolting." Anybody who has suggestions, please pass them on, because I've mostly given up on this one - though getting your own coriander seeds is dead-easy.
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I'm just about the worst gardener in the world. I have killed even the most easy to grow plants, many times over. Common houseplants wilt under my gaze. I've even killed a cactus once. But when it comes to basil, I just dumped a bunch of seeds in a window box and they took over. So my recommendation would be LOTS of SEEDS.

BTW, I have also had luck with Oregano which also seems to take over. More limited success, but still was able to grow parsley and Sage. I think the roots of the Basil plants kind of starved out the parsley plants, so this year parsley gets its own box. Chervil, on the other hand, died a quick and painless death.

This summer I will also give a shot to tomatoes. Not sure if they will grow in my big life sucking planters, but its worth a try. They seem to grow like weeds elsewhere.
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MHays, I have the same issue with cilantro! I'm giving up on it this year and will just buy it at the produce market. The basil, thyme, and sage I grow don't give me any grief!

Wak, I've grown tomatoes in containers for years now. What size container will you be using? Tomatoes develop a tap root, and although I've seen advice given that you can use a 5 gallon tub, they really do better with at least 10 gallons of space.

Kim
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wak wrote:I'm just about the worst gardener in the world. I've even killed a cactus once.


Actually, killing cactus is not proof of being a bad gardener. Cactus is incredibly finicky and, despite being drought resistant, is actually very fragile. Even when they move cactus in the southwest, transplanting it from one spot to another maybe only yards away, they have to mark which sides face which directions, and make sure the cactus is planted facing exactly the same directions, because it will die if the wrong side faces the rising sun.

So you're probably no worse gardener than anyone else.

And to echo previous comments -- with basil and mint (and most other members of the mint family), neglect works wonders. I planted a couple of little basil plants on my balcony last year -- and didn't plant them until August, as I'd just moved -- and they turned into fairly substantial shrubs by first frost, and that's with little attention from me, other than watering when I remembered. My freezer still has a substantial residual cache of pesto.
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Just in case it wasn't clear from David Hammond's post above, a key with basil is picking off the flowers that begin to grow at the top of the plant. Once the flowers grow, the leaves stop growing. You'll need to check these often.

The second key is that basil needs a lot of direct sunlight. This is incredibly important.

Basil grows pretty tall and likes a large container. Get a big, cheap terra cotta pot. I usually do three or four plants in a big container.

The advice to harvest leaves is good. I haven't heard before that basil likes to be starved. I water mine regularly (but don't overwater).
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you want out of control ? the mint will be..i had that stuff completey take over my herb garden..keep it trimmed
basil is about the same...
I wish I could grow cilantro. Ive tried several times and for some reason it just dies off very quick
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Keep your mint contained. It will take over your garden if you don't. If you don't like the look of pots, just plant the entire pot into the ground. This will prevent the mint from spreading and give the appearance of it being platnted directly in the ground.

I like to plant sage of many varieties, especially like the fragrant pineapple sage; variegated sage looks very pretty & the best thing about sage is that it comes back! And, it's very hardy. One of our Thanksgiving traditions is to go our in the garden & pick sage for the stuffing on Thanksgiving morning.

I've haven't had much luck with cilantro, either. I think maybe the key is successive planting, same as lettuces & spinach. That's what I am going to try to do this year.

Of all the varieties of tomatoes, I like the sweet 100's best. They take little time to mature & they are abundant all summer long. By end of July we have bowls full of them & are eating them like candy. I will also plant one or two beefsteaks, and some early girl & romas.

There is nothing quite like sending your child out into the garden with a basket to harvest herbs & vegetables for the table to help them understand our connection to the earth.
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Great advice everyone!

Last year my basil started to turn to wood. What causes that? Once that happened it never seemed to get much larger.

I think I will toss sage into the mix.

Thanks for the PDF as well, very helpful!
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Liz in Norwood Park wrote:Keep your mint contained. It will take over your garden if you don't. If you don't like the look of pots, just plant the entire pot into the ground. This will prevent the mint from spreading and give the appearance of it being platnted directly in the ground.

I
I've haven't had much luck with cilantro, either. I think maybe the key is successive planting, same as lettuces & spinach. That's what I am going to try to do this year.

.

Liz..thanks for the idea of planting the pot..i would have never thought of that!
Ive tried successive planting of cilantro..just never seems to work
Just read this info on a gardening site

"Cilantro is the most difficult herb to grow because it is so short lived and it needs cool temperatures to grow well. Many people think that they kill Cilantro because it doesn't last very long when they purchase plants at their local nursery. Cilantro will bolt (send up a flower stalk) as soon as the roots get above 75 degrees or so. This happens really quick in a small 3" pot in hot sun in a nursery yard. Many times the plant is already flowering at the larger warehouse type stores.

Cilantro needs to be grown in early spring or fall when the weather is cool. It requires mostly sunshine but can be grown in morning sun and shade in the hot afternoon. Growing it in the ground with mulch on top of the roots helps keep the soil cooler longer. With the best conditions Cilantro will last about 8-10 weeks before flowering. Once it does flower, it will make seeds which can be harvested as Coriander or replanted to grow more Cilantro plants.

Many people grow Cilantro by reseeding it every 3 weeks or so and have a patch growing all summer long. Planting it very close together shades the roots and helps keep it cool.

To harvest Cilantro, you can begin cutting as soon as the plant is about 6" tall by removing the outer leaves and leaving the growing point intact for the new leaves to grow from. Another method is to wait till the plant is almost completely grown and pull it up by its roots to use the whole bunch at once."
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Thats very interesting! I guess the time to plant cilantro is very soon, before the really warm weather starts. The way they describe it sounds like they have the same growing season as pansies.

I wonder how it would do on a sunny windowsill in an air conditioned room?
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The other thing with cilantro is that you have to be diligent about trimming it, especially parts that begin to flower. Once it flowers, the cilantro leaves will stop growing.
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Darren72 wrote:The other thing with cilantro is that you have to be diligent about trimming it, especially parts that begin to flower. Once it flowers, the cilantro leaves will stop growing.

i always wondered about that..mine didnt take long to start flowering
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Head's Red BBQ wrote:
Darren72 wrote:The other thing with cilantro is that you have to be diligent about trimming it, especially parts that begin to flower. Once it flowers, the cilantro leaves will stop growing.

i always wondered about that..mine didnt take long to start flowering


Yeah, it can happen pretty quickly. Most of the lower leaves on the plant will look like the cilantro you'll see in the store. Soon, you'll start seeing leaves coming from the upper part of the plant that are less "leafy" -- it's hard to describe but you'll notice the difference. You can also taste these upper leaves and they won't have much of a pronounced flavor. Trim the upper leaves and any flowers that grow out of them. Keep your fingers tightly crossed.
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If you are container gardening, don't overlook adding some compost or other organic material to your soil. I've done much better with mixing things in to soil myself than using and standard "potting mix".

Plant that basil in a big pot. Yes, it will look small at first, but it will take over the whole pot. I usually plant in a 10-12 inch pot (and a deep pot, not a shallow pot), and end up with a plant that is about three feet tall. It usually does get woody at the stem at some point, but as long as you go out every night and deadhead, it will still flourish (at least mine have).
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If you don't want to do succession planting, there are hot-weather alternatives to cilantro, such as rau ram (Polygonum odoratum).
Last edited by LAZ on April 27th 2008, 3:47pm, edited 1 time in total.
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I grew cilantro in a pot last year, basil in a pot, and in a larger pot, had chives, thyme, and parsley.

I'm not sure you can kill thyme or chives. I left my pot on a roof deck all winter and sure enough, next spring they came back. No watering or anything. I was amazed.

Basil seems to work with multiple plants and bigger pots. It'll grow to fit the pot but you do need to trim it - a lot - to keep it "bushy" and productive.

Cilantro was tough and mine bolted quickly. The pot I used was smaller and I get sun all day so it dried out in a hurry. Thing is, once the coriander seeds arrived and dried out naturally, I picked them off and replanted in the same pot. About 3 days later more little plants started arriving. I did this all summer and it worked pretty well. I trimmed back the original plant and replanted the coriander seeds. It works but takes some patience.

Good luck.
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Cilantro was tough and mine bolted quickly. The pot I used was smaller and I get sun all day so it dried out in a hurry. Thing is, once the coriander seeds arrived and dried out naturally, I picked them off and replanted in the same pot. About 3 days later more little plants started arriving. I did this all summer and it worked pretty well. I trimmed back the original plant and replanted the coriander seeds. It works but takes some patience.


On One Plate at a Time today, Rick Bayless actually talked about cilantro being difficult to grow in this area, and along the same lines as that, he said he usually does it in a pot and just re-seeds a new pot every three weeks to keep it going. And if he can't get cilantro to work in this area... none of us should feel bad for not getting it to work either!
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Cilantro is difficult to deal with. One possibility is to shade it with tobacco cloth, which will give you a few more days.

Another option is to use a plant with a similar flavor but which is much more docile; check out this page for "Mexican cilantro", and click on the link for more info:

http://solanaseeds.netfirms.com/herbs.html

Here in Montreal, the local Vietnamese use "rau ram", which has pretty much the same taste as cilantro, but is very easy to grow. Seeds here:

http://www.greenstranger.com/catalog/prices.php

Info here:
http://www.uni-graz.at/~katzer/engl/Poly_odo.html

and here:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vietnamese_Coriander

I've got a patch of cilantro that I just use and use, letting the plants go to seed as I use them. That way I've got a pretty good supply much of the time. I abet it with rau ram which is really a pretty nice herb.

Geo
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Cilantro is so cheap I never saw the point in growing it. I have successfully overwintered my rosemary and thyme this year (my wife likes to kill my rosemary plants, I don't know why, maybe displaced aggression).

I have found basil very easy. It takes a lot of water and sun but I spring for a plant at the garden center, grocery store. My barber also has a few he grows from seed every year but I seem to miss the window where he gives them away. He has great plants, using the seed from plants he has grown for over 20 years.

Rosemary has to dry out between waterings.
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AngrySarah wrote:Cilantro is so cheap I never saw the point in growing it.

Years ago, it was difficult to find without visiting a Latin store. The main reason to grow it today is to have a supply you can count on without having to go to the store, since it's tough to keep it without it getting slimy. (Best method I have found: Arrange stem down in a deep airtight container and keep covered in the fridge. Do not add water.)
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Another way to keep it that has worked for me is to wrap it in a slightly damp paper towel, plastic-bagged. That seems to add a couple of days to its shelf life.

Geo

PS. BTW, just came across (in the NYT) another version of cilantro-like herbs: papalo
http://www.gourmetsleuth.com/equivalent ... P&tid=2481
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