Very Herby Pots

Conventional wisdom holds that strawberry jars should contain strawberries, but master gardener Paul James has other ideas.

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Paul James is partial to the jars whose planting pockets have "balconies" because they're great for planting both upright and trailing plants. The jars with flush holes are designed only for cascading or trailing plants.

Conventional wisdom holds that strawberry jars should contain strawberries, but master gardener Paul James has other ideas. He wants his jar to contain a collection of herbs so he'll have a handy supply near his outdoor kitchen.

James selects include a weeping rosemary, coconut thyme (Thymus pulegiodes coccineus), a silver-edged thyme (Thymus citriodorus 'Argeneus'), an Italian oregano, a trailing Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), pineapple sage (Salvia elegans), golden sage and a globe form of sweet basil.

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James adds potting mix to the jar, stopping as soon as the level of mix is even with the first set of holes. In the lowest holes James adds the coconut thyme, oregano, basil and silver-edged thyme. Then he adds more mix, filling it up to the level of the next tier of holes, in which he adds the golden sage, Corsican mint and rosemary. He fills the remainder of the pot with soil and plants three pineapple sages at the top of the container. Pineapple sage will grow to about three feet tall, but you can keep it short by pinching it back regularly.

James recommends watering a jar like this slowly to allow the water time to drain through the container to the bottom of the jar. James also suggests watering the individual balconies. In fact, it's a good idea to water once, allow the water to soak in for a half hour or so, then water again. Water often because these strawberry jars will dry out much faster than conventional terra-cotta pots.

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James also combines cacti and succulents for a unique mix of upright plants. Again, James fills a strawberry jar part-way with some potting mix and adds a few plants to the first set of holes, being careful not to stab his fingers with any of the cacti thorns. After adding more mix, he adds more plants in the next tier until he reaches the top of the jar. The crown of this jar is Euphorbia, one of James' favorite succulents.

Plants in jars like these will need a better-than-average fertilizer. James says this means nothing more than a weekly dose of good old compost tea. And to apply the tea, James waters the plant lightly first to slightly saturate the mix. Finally, he adds the tea so that most of the mix stays in the jar.

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And, of course, you can always plant strawberries. This container holds 10 plants, including an ever-bearing variety known as 'Quinault'. Ever-bearing strawberries are so named because they produce more than one crop, in fact they may produce as many as three crops spaced one to two months apart from spring to fall. June-bearing strawberries produce only one crop, although, here in James' neck of the woods, production is at its peak in May not June. "I think the ever-bearing variety is the best because they don't produce nearly as many runners as the June bearers," he says.

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