Historically, sphagnum moss grew in the wetlands over a large portion of the northern area of North America. Vegetation and sphagnum moss were destroyed during the Ice Age by advancing glaciers except for the wetland area in central Wisconsin where sphagnum moss grows. Sphagnum moss is an excellent liner to retain moisture in hanging baskets (holds 3 times as much water as a kitchen sponge) as opposed to using coco fiber liners, which wastes water by allowing it to pass right through. Also, using sphagnum moss allows you to plant through the sides of the basket.
Directions for creating your hanging herb basket garden:
- Choose an empty wire frame hanging basket. A 12-inch basket works well; however, you can use a smaller or larger basket, depending on the number of plants you choose.
- Moisten Mosser Lee’s long-fibered sphagnum moss by immersing it in a bucket of water. When handling the moss, soil and the plants, always wear gloves.
- Squeeze out the excess water and begin adding the moss into the basket. Start from the inside bottom and fill to the top of the basket.
- Press the sphagnum moss between the wires of the basket. Be sure the moss is at least two inches thick, making sure there no gaps to prevent leaking soil. Hint: If your basket has a round bottom, position it on top of an open sturdy pot for stability while planting.
- Place additional handfuls of moss over the top rung of the basket. Squeeze the wet moss around the top edge. The top rung of your basket should now be surrounded by the moss.
- Add a potting mix to the inside of your basket.
- Your basket is now ready to be planted with herbs. Plant at least four herbs in your 12-inch basket. Arrange taller herbs in the center of your basket followed by the mid-size herbs and smaller herbs around the rim of the basket. Vining herbs such as prostrate rosemary, creeping thyme and prostrate sage are good herbs for planting through the sides of your basket and make for an attractive display. (Basket pictured is planted with Rosemary, Lemon Thyme and Greek Oregano.)
- To plant through the sides of the basket, make a hole through the moss with a dibble or pencil. (Basket pictured is side planted with Lavender.)
- Make sure that the hole goes deep enough into the potting mix soil and is wide enough for the entire plant plug. Place your herb, roots first into the hole. Push the wet moss around the planted herb to secure it to the basket. If needed, use a fern or hair pin to attach the plug to the sides of the basket.
- Attach a wire or chain hanger to the rim of your basket, making sure the wire or hanger is sturdy enough to hold the weight of your basket once it is completely saturated with water.
- Give your plants a good drink of water.
Themed Herb Hanging Baskets
You might want to plant several baskets, each one with a theme. For example, one with herbs for Italian inspired meals can be planted with oregano, basil, thyme and flat-leaf Italian parsley, all are ideally suited for flavoring Italian dishes. Or a hanging herb garden with a variety of mints such as pineapple, orange, spearmint, apple and peppermint can be a tea themed herb garden, and the hanging basket is a perfect way to contain mints which are invasive plants in the garden.
Care of your Herb Hanging Basket
The best location is a sunny spot, at least one that receives six to eight hours of sunlight daily. Most herbs perform well in full sun. If you hang your basket in a shaded area, choose herbs that prefer to be out of full sun.
There are a variety of locations around your house to hang your mini herb garden— from a sturdy extended hook, from an eave on your house or porch or attached to a fence or hung on a sturdy tree limb. For full enjoyment of your hanging herb basket garden, place it within easy reach. That way you will be more inclined to use the herbs to flavor your favorite dishes.
Add a light fertilizer at the beginning of planting, and water when the soil feels dry to the touch. Your plants need water, but since the moss retains water, you should find that you water less. The sphagnum moss should be spritzed with water to keep it fresh and help it retain water from the basket.
Frequent use of your herbs and an occasional pinch of the plants are beneficial to promote their growth.
Herbs to consider for your hanging basket:
Basil is a Mediterranean herb which can handle the sun. It complements tomato based Italian dishes. Sweet basil is the main herb in making pesto. Other herbs not to overlook are cinnamon and opal basil. (Full sun)
Chives delicate onion flavor enhances potato dishes, and the purple blossoms impart a lavender tint to herbal vinegar. (Can take partial shade)
Dill imparts a tangy taste to fish and egg dishes. (Can take partial shade)
French tarragon has a warm anise flavor. (Can take partial shade)
Lemon thyme lends a citrus taste with a strong hint of lemon zest. I like to use it with fish dishes, making a blanket under salmon and garnish the whole top of the fish with lemon thyme. (Does well in full sun)
Lavender adds color and has a nice smell. (Does well in full sun)
Mint gives you many choices—apple, chocolate, orange, peppermint, pineapple and spearmint. Mint is popular to flavor tea and garnish other beverages, fruit salads, lamb and nice for making mint jelly. (Can take partial shade)
Oregano gives a boost to Italian cuisine with its peppery taste. (Does best in full sun)
Rosemary is popular in meat and chicken dishes with a pungent pine scent. (Does well in full sun)
Sage can be found in an array of colorful foliage—purple, soft green, variegated and tri color and imparts a strong flavor to vegetable dishes and stuffing. (Does well in full sun)
Thyme brings a warm, savory note to roasted meats, vegetables, soups and stews. (Does well in full sun)