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Choosing Pots

You will want the pot you choose to be attractive as well as functional. Clay pots are beautiful, but they are more porous than plastic and will dry out more quickly. Plants in clay pots will have to be watered more often. On the other hand, if the type of herb needs to dry out before re-watering, a clay pot is just the thing for that plant. Some clay pots are glazed. The glaze creates a nonporous finish that slows evaporation. Also, nowadays there are pots of beautiful, lightweight materials that are made to look like clay. They weather well and retain water.

High temperatures of the midday summer sun beating down on the pot will burn plant roots so dark colored pots are better than light ones that allow roots to absorb light, causing stunted growth. Plastic pots are available in darker colors, are inexpensive, durable, and lightweight. They come in many sizes and some have built-in saucers. If you do not like the looks of it, you can disguise it by slipping it into a larger, more decorative pot. Plastic loses water more slowly than clay, and soil temperature varies less. What it boils down to is that plastic makes less work with less chance of running into problems, but if you are a stickler for fashion, clay pots require more diligence on your part to keep your plants thriving.

Planters that are wooden boxes, tubs, or barrels fit well in almost any setting. Look for cedar and redwood for longevity. One of the best herb containers you can use is an old-fashioned half whiskey barrel. It gives you plenty of space for a collection of herbs, good drainage, dark color, little evaporation, and the folksy ambiance you may want to keep fashionable.

Hanging baskets are another container possibility. They can be made of wood, wire, clay, or plastic. Some come with holes or hooks in the rim. Wire hangers are usually lined with sphagnum moss or coir, and then filled with potting mix and plants. These baskets never have drainage problems and work well in almost any design scheme.

Good drainage is just as important in containers as in the garden. Holes in the bottom of pots are a must, and the pots need to be set on an open, porous surface. A tray filled with sand or gravel makes an excellent "bed" for your pots. If you have the perfect pot and it has no holes, drill them yourself. An 8" to 12" pot needs a 1/2 " hole. For an extra large pot, drill four to five " holes. Use an electric drill with masonry or carbide bits for clay pots. And now I'm going to dispel one of the great myths of gardening in containers. Broken crockery or pebbles in the bottom of the pot does nothing to improve drainage. When the roots hit the pebbles, they dry right out and the pebbles may even block drainage.

Don't crowd pots with too many plants. They can get stunted, and crowding can promote diseases. Depending on the contents, you may need to step up to a bigger pot size during the season.