This year will be the year my plants survive, I tell myself. I buy the already grown herbs because growing them from seed is just way too ambitious. I plant them in cute mason jars. They look amazing, Pinterest-worthy even. They thrive. I'm happy. I feel totally awesome that I can eat off my windowsill.
Two weeks later, all growth comes to a halt. The leaves begin to yellow. Despite water and sunlight, my babies wilt and eventually die. I leave them in their pots looking pathetic for an additional two weeks cuz I just can't deal.
WHY? How does this happen three years in a row? This scenario is all too familiar to me so I've finally dug deep to unearth the reasons why this black thumb won't turn green (puns intentional!).
1. Don't plant anything in mason jars, no matter how pretty they look.
But they're soooooo cute and awesome and I love mason jars. Stop. What herbs really need are proper drainage systems to prevent the roots from rotting. Even if you add a layer of pebbles at the bottom like that DIY blog told you to. Unless you have a drill bit for glass and are capable of making holes at the bottom of your jars, don't use them. Let it go.
2. Find the perfect container that's not too big, not too small, but just right.
Planting your herbs in a small pot might mean less production and more work to keep them alive. If the pot is too big, then you're wasting money on extra potting soil (unless you're planting multiple herbs in a large pot). For herbs, 10 inches in diameter is ideal, but you can also check the plant tag for recommended dimensions.
3. Don't use gravel!
Many places tell you to add gravel or pebbles to promote drainage. Your elementary science teacher lied to you. Guys, adding a bottom layer of gravel can actually cause root rot. Apparently, water doesn't move freely from fine soil to a coarser material unless it gets completely drenched first... the opposite of what we want.
Tips for proper drainage:
- Invest in quality potting soil
- Line the bottom of your pot to keep the soil from leaking out the drainage hole (paper towel, coffee filter, newspaper, landscaping fabric or commercial mesh-like pot fillers)
- The more drainage holes in your pot the better
- Elevate the pot in a saucer so excess water can seep out
4. Plant like a (gentle and careful) pro.
If the nursery pot is plastic, never pull the plant out from the stem. Instead, pinch the soil around the stem to remove it. If there's resistance, loosen the surrounding soil with a spoon or just break the package. Luckily, many plants come in biodegradable containers that you can plant directly into your soil.
Be sure to break up plant roots and cut off any compacted root balls. Also, try to maintain the same level of soil that was in the original nursery pot.
5. Don't forget to water your plants!
As important as it is to have proper drainage and prevent waterlogging, you also don't want your herbs to suffer from dehydration. Water your plants right after potting and whenever the soil feels dry. You can test this by sticking your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle. You want to aim for soil that is damp.
And that's it! No more killing plants year after year. I can finally enjoy fresh herbs whenever I need them without thinking, will this be the last time I eat you? Hopefully by keeping these 5 key steps in mind, you can also breathe life back into your plant babies.
What You Need:
- Potting containers with drainage holes
- Quality potting soil
- Paper towel, newspaper, coffee filter or any fine, porous material
- Gardening gloves
- Garden trowel (or your hands)
- Seeds or already grown herbs
- Labels (optional)
- Use a pot with proper drainage holes
- Don't add gravel or pebbles
- Line the bottom of your pot with fine, porous material instead
- Be gentle when planting
- Water right after potting and whenever the soil is dry (do the finger test!)
Did you love this article? Then you will love our weekly newsletter. Every week we curate the best tools, tips, and resources for nutrition professionals and deliver them straight to your inbox. Get on the list here!
Other Articles You Might Like: