Step Into Our Garden – Marlis’ Favorite Hobbies

Today’s article is posted by guest blogger Marlis (Joe’s wife).


CONTAINER HERB GARDEN GASTONIA NCGrowing herbs has been a hobby of mine for about 20 years or so. I’m no gardening expert or chef, just a southern gal who enjoys the convenience of snipping fresh herbs and cooking. There is a decent variety of fresh herbs packed in clam shells available in the produce department at many grocery stores. The only drawback is that they’re pretty pricey, may not always appear to be the freshest, and involves a trip to the grocery store.

The main requirement for growing herbs is to choose the best location. They do best with at least 4 hours of daily sunlight and well drained soil. Herbs flourish better in the ground where their roots can spread out. Over the years I have had 3 different locations for my herb garden. You must always adapt to your environment.

We live in Gastonia, NC. Back in the 90’s I grew my herbs in Joe’s vegetable garden. Not even the red clay soil could stop my sweet basil plants from thriving with little care. In 2004 we built a home on a wooded lot with an abundance of wildlife – no more in-ground gardening for us! I turned to herb container gardening out of necessity and placed 2 giant terra cotta pots on our deck. What a convenience – 2 steps out the French doors to my plants for both watering and snipping the herbs! This worked with mixed results for a few years. We get hot afternoon sun with additional heat being reflected off the windows from our home directly onto the deck area. Not only were the sun and heat a challenge, there was no cover for the plants during long periods of rain. A location adjustment was definitely in order. My container herb pots are now underneath our two story deck. This site provides less direct afternoon sun and isn’t fueled by heat reflected from the windows. It also provides protection from a thunder storm. Although not quite as convenient, walking up and down 19 steps isn’t a demanding price to pay for fresh herbs.

We now have such a great variety of herb plants for purchase in Gastonia. When I first started growing herbs they were only available at the local seed and plant store uptown. Their popularity has escalated and all of the big box stores now sell the biodegradable peat pot herb plants.

I utilize 4 large containers (with good soil and drainage holes) to house a variety of herbs: Sweet Basil, Globe Basil, Oregano, Thyme, Rosemary , Sage, Tarragon, Dill, Chives, Cilantro, and Flat Leaf Parsley.

During the winter, I simply move the containers indoors to the basement and water bi-weekly. For sure I always lose my basil plants (they thrive in the heat). I consider basil to be an annual herb and don’t bother to purchase and plant outdoors until at least the 1st week of May each year.


Basil and oregano are great additions to marina sauce. Tarragon is a terrific add-on to chicken salad. A bundle of thyme is indispensable for making homemade chicken stock or braising a roast. Sage is a must-have for all things at Thanksgiving. Rosemary, lemon, and garlic make a great marinade for grilling chicken. Dill is a winner to add to tuna salad and fantastic to add to lemon and butter when baking or sautéing fish. Cilantro is a requirement for everything on Cinco de Mayo. Chives and parsley are everyday additions to so many foods.

I’d like to share a recipe that is the building block for several pickled vegetable recipes. No special canning or water bath equipment is required and the jars can be sterilized in the dishwasher. Pickled vegetables make healthy snacks and only require refrigeration for 24 hours to develop the flavors.


1 widemouth quart jar, lid, and ring

1 lb. carrots (cut into sticks), 12 oz. pre-cut carrot sticks or 12 oz. pre-cut carrot chips

tarragon sprigs

2/3 cup apple cider vinegar

2/3 cup white distilled vinegar

1 1/3 cups water

1/3 cup sugar

2 tsp kosher salt

1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed

1 tbsp McCormick pickling spice

3 cloves garlic, peeled and whole

Blanch carrots for 1-2 minutes and plunge into ice bath. Simmer the vinegars, water, sugar, salt, smashed garlic clove, and pickling spices until sugar is dissolved and spices extracted. Strain the pickling liquid and partially cool. Place 3 whole cloves of garlic in the bottom of the jar. Remove the carrots from the ice bath and pat dry with a paper towel. Pack the carrots in the jar. Pour the warm pickling liquid over the blanched vegetables. Add fresh tarragon to the top of the jar and seal with the lid and ring. Invert several times to gently mix. Refrigerate for 24 hours to develop the flavors. Recipe makes one quart.

Substitution: I’m sure you’re seen “Dilly Green Beans” at your local farmer’s market for sale. It’s simply 2/3 lb. of French green beans (haricot verts) with ends trimmed for the vegetable and dill sprigs for the herb – same technique and pickling recipe applies.


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