Container Gardening in Honolulu

You don’t need a backyard to grow your own herbs.

Follow these three steps and you can enjoy the greens of your labor in two months or less.

Photos: David Croxford

Whether you live in a tiny studio apartment or have acres of land, maintaining a container garden is a convenient way to add more fresh produce to your diet. Here in Honolulu, where space is at a premium, it’s a compact alternative to traditional gardening.

Step 1: Choose Your Container

If you’re just starting out, use as large a pot as possible. A smaller container will require more frequent watering. Find one made of terra cotta if you can. Besides being inexpensive, it’s ideal for maintaining the soil conditions in which herbs thrive. During the heat of the day, evaporated water will actually stick to the sides of the pot and cool the plants’ roots. Remember to soak new pots in water before planting; otherwise the pot will wick water away from the plant.

Step 2: Fill with Soil and Plant Your Seedlings

Make sure the pot has a drainage hole on the bottom at least one inch around. Start with a layer of pebbles or rocks to keep soil in and allow water to drain easily. Next, fill your pot about two-thirds of the way up with an equal mix of potting soil, sand and compost (all available at your local home and gardening store).

Start in the middle with the tallest plant and work out from there. You can plant herbs closely. The leafy tops of the plants can stand crowding; just make sure your pot is deep enough to accommodate stretching roots.

Step 3: Water, Fertilize and Enjoy

Set your pot on the lanai or a counter, anywhere it will get at least six hours of sunlight a day. After your plants are established, fertilize every few months. Fish emulsion and compost tea make great alternatives to store-bought fertilizers, which are usually enriched with nitrogen. Too much nitrogen can cause a decrease in the plants’ essential oils, resulting in a loss of flavor. When it comes to harvesting, don’t be shy. You can pick up to two-thirds of an herb plant’s leaves without harming it.

Keep these simple steps in mind, and you will be a successful container gardener for years to come!

The Basics

Starting your own container garden? These are good plants to begin with: easy to grow and even easier to use in your kitchen.

Thyme: Adding this trailing herb plant to your container will make it look fuller as it starts growing over the side. Try it in soups or stews.

Sweet Basil:
Can be used in a variety of dishes, not to mention salads. Basil doesn’t like overcrowding, so it’s important to give it more room than other herbs.

Parsley: Not only is this herb an integral part of many dishes, it is used to aid in digestion and freshen breath after meals.