Total Newbie SOS (long post)

kelleyp125June 27, 2010

So, I'll start by saying that it is dangerous to tell a newly-enthused gardener that she can have whatever plants she can fit in her car for $25 (end of season sale). I brought home many things yesterday to add to my flower bed and also came across some herbs I'd like to try growing. Now that I'm doing some research, I am feeling slightly apprehensive, and would like some input. Please help!

Here's my setup:

My vegetables are growing in a container garden. I currently have several tomatoes- some companion planted with basil and marigold and some aren't, a bell pepper companion planted with strawberries (??), and onions. I will be planting some new tomato plants today that have been growing wild in my neighbor's garden. My containers are plastic bins 24"x36"x8" with many holes drilled through the bottom for drainage. My garden gets full sun.

So yesterday I bought one plant each of spearmint, lemon verbena, thyme, and oregano. I knew already that spearmint is a notorious invader, so I know it has to be given its own planter. But in doing my research today, I am getting this mental picture that what I've got might be too much for me?

Here are some specific questions, but I welcome any and all help you can give - I don't want to kill anything!

I read online that oregano companions well with beans. How big does oregano get? Would it be too big to try and plant with beans? I want to plant beans in August after I decide that my two ailing tomato plants are really and truly beyond saving.

Lemon verbena is a shrub, so I read. I also read that you can plant it in a 9-12" pot? Does this compute?

If my post is so long and full of questions that your initial response would be, "STOP NOW, YOU'LL KILL EVERYTHING YOU TOUCH!", don't worry - I already feel that way!

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abq_bob(USDA 5a/SS 2A)

Ok, a few things. I've personally found oregano to be far more invasive and misbehaved than mint, and mint is pretty rambunctious. I'd put both in pots, on concrete (to keep the roots from escaping into the ground). And even then, it will probably spread via seeds. Mint and oregano are appx. 18-24" tall at maturity.

Thyme is usually very well behaved in all its various forms. The creepers will creep somewhat, but not in a thuggish manner.

Lemon Verbena is only reliably hardy to Zone 8. I had it in a very protected part of my Zone 7 garden in NM, and was always relieved and somewhat surprised each year it came back. It stayed quite small, even though it was planted in the ground (12-18") - in mild climates it is a true shrub.

So, in your Zone 6, if you want to hold it over from year to year, you'll probably want to put that in a pot as well so you can bring it indoors for the winter. I'm not sure how it will react to being indoors, but it will almost surely die if left outdoors in Z6.

I've seen reports of it coming back as far north as zone 5, but I can only guess those plants are in incredibly protected parts of the garden, or the gardener has taken extra precautions to help it through the winter.

I have a large garden (over an acre), so I allow mint and oregano to go where they please - and the oregano patch is far, FAR more out of control than the mint. It's almost as big a thug as Shasta Daisy, LOL! At least the mint and the oregano smell good - Shastas stink!

    Bookmark   June 27, 2010 at 10:02PM
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Thanks for the help! I did go ahead and plant each in their own pot (except the thyme, I planted that in a container with some new tomato plants). I constructed a platform of sorts with some concrete blocks and set them on that. It's up next to the house so I hope they don't bake in the sun, but they get a fair amount of shade until about 3pm. We have a sunroom in the house that I can overwinter the lemon verbena in, and I suppose anything else that needs to come in.

Thanks for your help!!!

    Bookmark   June 28, 2010 at 7:15PM
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Hi, kelleyp125! I do want to reiterate what abq bob said about oregano. I've got mine in a raised bed and it's constantly trying to crawl out, and I've actually had it happily growing between the side of the bed and the concrete patio, in about 1/4 inch of space that it found room to squeeze into. Have you considered dill? It's self-seeded for me, and it doesn't seem to be deep-rooted so it might do very well for you. Plus, you get "two for the price of one" Â the leaves are delicious, and the seeds are wonderful too.

I'm a relative newbie too. What I've learned is that what will grow like gangbusters for me one year will limp along the next, in the same conditions. Maybe it's a difference in where the plants come from, and I'm planning on starting more things from seed indoors next year.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2010 at 7:13PM
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fatamorgana2121(Zone 5/6)

Lots have been said on growing all of these herbs. You can search through the back posts of this forum for all sorts of gardening wisdom. Go to the bottom of the title screen for this forum to find the search bar. Good luck and happy reading!


    Bookmark   July 1, 2010 at 8:18AM
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