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Planting an herb garden on the deck

“Better a dinner of herbs than an ox …”

The unrelenting rain sent Catharine’s normally hyper imagination into overdrive this week. I had barely wandered from home for an hour, but my return found her list requesting containers, potting soil, and parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, plus basil and chives.

“You’ll be a true love of mine, if you help me plant my herbs,” she said.

Our front deck is a perfect location for herb culture. Its western orientation is ideal, as most herbs require at least six hours of sunlight in mild Laguna. Her herb selections are natural, cultural mates for containers and are within easy picking distance of our adjacent kitchen. Lastly, our deck had not yet been fully graced with a planting theme.


We are considering galvanized, steel containers to complement the siding of our house, but planted into plastic liners, as the metal would corrode if planted into directly. Plastic and glazed pots are nonporous and require less watering than wood or clay containers, an important consideration due to busy schedules.

Potting soil is a must for container plants. It is formulated to allow water and air penetration, while retaining moisture. This translates to unrestricted root growth and happier plants. Don’t be tempted to use your garden soil as it is too dense and not suitable for containers.

We plan to water our herbs whenever the soil feels dry half an inch beneath the surface. Although Catharine would prefer multiple, smaller containers, I always recommend larger ones (at least 18 inches in diameter) so watering doesn’t become a daily ritual. The metal containers will serve as a saucer, so the plastic pots will need to be raised with gravel to avoid roots sitting in water. If you use or plan to use saucers, always discard the excess water that inevitably collects.

Nutrients are leached out quickly in container plants. I recommend fertilizing at half-strength every two weeks, spring through autumn. Again considering schedules, nine-month, timed-release fertilizers are available.


We are now considering a suitable location for lavender to prepare coronets for Design Review Board members. Our reasoning is not related to academic attire, but strictly practical. Lavender stimulates the mind toward calmer thoughtfulness. And for those who opine and make decisions, fresh, non-emotional thoughts have never hurt.

STEVE KAWARATANI is married to writer Catharine Cooper. He can be reached at (949) 497-8168, or e-mail to .