Planting An Herb Garden for the City-Dweller
Even though Mother Nature hasn’t told the snowflakes yet, technically its Spring–the perfect time to start thinking about making things bloom. Aside from being a homespun way to get your herbs that ensures quality control, planting an indoor herb garden fosters sustainable eating habits, and eliminates the waste that occurs when you throw out herbs that go bad in your fridge. Because you only pick what you’ll eat, herbs are always super-fresh, sometimes literally growing lush on the vine, mere minutes before popping on the plate. Even though you’re a New Yorker, graced with high-rises and brick walls as your skyline–that doesn’t mean you can’t get a daily glimpse of green in your own home.
Here’s what you’d need to get started planting an easy-peasy herb garden:
- Potting soil (preferable organic)
- Containers: large enough that they allow your plant to grow & with holes on the bottom to drain: these can be store bought clay pots or recycled finds from your kitchen, such as plastic cups, jars or containers.
- Seeds or small herb plants: start simple, with the finest quality seeds and seedlings you can find: if using already grown herbs, seek out plants from your local farmer’s market, where they are locally grown in small quantities. Avoid purchasing from large chain stores, where plants are mass produced.
Location. Location. Location. Where will your garden grow?
Choose a window that gets plentiful amounts of sunlight (6-8 hours), with a shelf or ledge large enough to accommodate a small plate under each pot.
Which herbs will you choose?
Personalize your garden: Be creative. Think about what’s in your cupboard now and what you like to get fresh in the market. Basil in your tomato sauce, chives in your salads, peppermint in your tea, it’s wise to choose herbs that you will readily be using. Also, it makes sense to group herbs together with similar sunlight and water requirements.
Recycle beforehand: start saving plastic containers that might also double as planters, such as egg cartons and plastic yogurt cups (washed thoroughly, of course). Tin cans are cool-looking, but even with holes drilled in the bottom, tend to rust–and you don’t want traces of toxins in your food.
How will you nurture them?
Even though you will make your own fabulous growing choices, for the purpose of this story, let’s start with Basil, Peppermint, & Chives–each one edible, and it requires minimum care and feeding.
Basil: their are different varieties of basil. Whichever you choose, basil can get dry easily, so in addition to watering you may want to spray their leaves with a mist (any spray bottle will suffice). Basil’s like lots of sunshine and a nutrient rich soil. Either add compost, or toss in bits of your own dry herbs or coffee grinds to help keep moisture in.
Peppermint: a healthy peppermint plant can grow with the enthusiasm of a wild weed, so avoid it choking your other plants and give it plenty of breathing room. It also loves lots of water, so keep soil wet and drained. Clip the ends of the vives when plant becomes too long.
Chives: you can opt for regular chives or those with a subtle but delectable garlic flavor. Usually Chives enjoy sunlight, however partial shade is advisable in especially hot summers. Chives can become bushy and flower. Be sure to trim 2-3 inches when the ends of the plant becomes dry or the flowers appear wilted.
*Be intuitive with your plants. Press a finger to the soil and see whether it’s dry, before watering. Be mindful not to overwater them. If using seeds, plant in early spring and keep soil warm and dark until seeds sprout.
*Remember, you want your garden to thrive. Give plants ample space, so as they flourish their lush stalks won’t smother each other.
Natural ways to keep the pests away:
Organic garden or simply a pest-free alternative to chemicals–an easy green way to keep teeny bugs at bay is to mix half water and half vinegar with two diced cloves of garlic in a 12-20 oz spray bottle (for larger quantities add more garlic). Spray plants as needed. Or simply add a few drops of tea tree oil to a water spray (approx.. 3-4 drops per 16 ounces.
Most importantly, have fun with your garden: talk to your plants. Serenade them with music. Sing to them before they get droopy. And be thoughtful: ask their opinions about how they like to be eaten. While they may not answer you back, they will bring a little more spring in your step, an your kitchen!