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Published: Thursday, 7/26/2007

Five Steps to Fresh Herbs Year-Round

(NewsUSA) - No matter what the season, you can spice up your cooking with fresh herbs from your very own garden. Container gardening is easy, whether you're a novice gardener or a seasoned pro, and it's a fun way to add flavor to your dishes.

Thanks to their ease of planting, portability and low maintenance, container gardens are one of the fastest-growing trends in gardening. With a little help starting out, you can bring a little life into your kitchen in no time.

Here are five easy steps to fresh, healthy herbs:

1. Select the right container. The type and size of your container are important. The container options are endless, so feel free to be creative. Depending on how many plants you want to grow, it will need to be large enough so that root growth is not restricted. Just remember that adequate drainage is your key to success.

2. Start with seeds or existing plants. There are a few options to get your container garden started, and it's simpler than you may think to get your plants growing. You can either plant from seed or cut a portion of your outdoor plants. Seeds generally germinate within a week, and many outdoor plants will rebound quickly by simply removing two-thirds of their top growth.

3. Choose a good growing medium. Whether you choose to use a commercially prepared artificial mix or a potting soil mixture, it's important that the content is nutrient-rich. Growing plants require nutrients to reach their peak, and the correct balance may not be found in your local soil.

4. Give it adequate sunlight. Your container garden needs at least five hours of direct sunlight. If window lighting is not an option, fluorescent lighting can also work well.

5. Feed and water regularly to keep plants healthy and happy. Container plants can often run out of food quickly since their roots can't expand to find nutrients. At planting time, mix controlled-release fertilizer granules into the soil mixture, or apply a diluted liquid fertilizer with every other watering. But remember that nutrient needs vary with plants, so check each herb's requirement. And don't forget about water; if the soil feels dry, it's time to water.

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