The ideal spot for potted herbs receives ample sunlight, is near the kitchen, protected from cold winds and frost, and is close to a water source. Of all these the amount of sun that your herbs will receive is the most important as it will have the biggest impact on the quality of your herbs.
Almost all herb plants are more compact in growth, produce more leaves, flowers and roots and are richer in oils and flavour when grown in ample sunshine.
Finding the Best Spot
Sunlight is the ‘fuel’ that powers growth – a process called photosynthesis. And photosynthesis is what sets us humans apart from our friends in the plant kingdom. They can manufacture their own food. We can’t.
Pay attention to areas of sun and shade on the patio and elsewhere in the garden. See how that shifts during the day. Think how it will change with the seasons. Also see how walls, hedges and trees cast shadows during the day.
The overall amount of sunlight different parts of your garden gets also depends on the direction it faces. In the southern hemisphere:
- North-facing parts of the garden get the most sunlight. These parts are perfect for potted herbs in winter but it will be too warm for them in summer.
- East-facing parts get morning sun and are a good spot for your potted herbs.
- South-facing parts of the garden get the least sun and tend to be cold and damp. They are not the ideal position.
- West-facing parts of the garden get afternoon sun and are also suitable for potted herbs. Just be careful of areas next to a west facing wall as they tend to get extremely hot in summer. (This could be an advantage in very cold areas.)
Remember that as the sun moves during the day the light levels change.
First prize for potted herbs is an east-facing spot in summer and a north- or west-facing spot in the cooler months.
How Much Sun Do Potted Herbs Need?
That depends on the season. During summer the minimum amount of sun potted herbs need is about half the amount of available sunlight during the day. An east- or west-facing spot is ideal.
In winter they can do with more sun and a north-facing spot will be ideal.
If you can’t find a spot that get enough sunshine a couple of things might happen:
- The quality of some herbs won’t be as good as those growing in full sun. But rest assured. The difference is normally so small that you won’t even notice it.
- Some herbs will tend to grow leggy. This is easily corrected by pruning or harvesting more often.
- All herbs will need less water. That’s a bonus. But be careful of over watering your potted herbs.
- Some herbs will produce “softer” growth, which will be more prone to pests and diseases. This is a little more serious. You’ll need to be wide-awake and act immediately if you discover any pests or diseases.
Move Your Potted Herbs Around
One of the benefits of growing herbs in pots is that you can move them around. Use this to your advantage to find the best spot for each herb in each of the growing seasons.
By simply moving them to get a little more sun in autumn and again in winter you can prolong your growing season considerably. And when the weather starts warming up, and they start drying out too quickly, you can move them into a little more shade.
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