Starting small: Growing your very own herb garden

  • Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thyme is great for vegetarian dishes, tea or fruit salad.


Have you always wanted to try your hand at gardening, but feel you lack a green thumb or necessary space? Maybe you're looking for a fun way to liven up your home cooking or just a simple hobby for spring. Well, starting your own herb garden might be the thing for you.

If you're like me, the idea of starting a garden of your own can seem daunting. You may see the neighbors cultivating beautiful, lush gardens and think, “All I can grow is tired and frustrated.” If this sounds familiar, don't fret; you just need to start small.

Herb gardens can be simple projects, taking up no more space than a windowsill, but the rewards can be major. Growing your own fresh Basil, Cilantro and Thyme can add that special something to any dish, while also building up your skills as a home gardener. But before we get started, we'll need a few basic essentials.

Getting started

First, you'll need to clear off a dedicated space to serve as the site of your future garden. It can be a sunny, south-facing kitchen windowsill or a covered space on your porch, just make sure the location recieves adequate sunlight (at least five hours a day) and isn't a high-traffic area. The last thing you want is for your fledgling garden to fall prey to your family's early morning rush or the curiosity of a house pet. Next you'll need to take a trip to the local nursery or garden supply store. There you'll want to pick up seeds (or an already established starter plant), six- to 12-inch draining pots in which to house your herbs, and a well-draining potting soil. One of the store's employees should be able to help you find what's right for you. Herbs are especially susceptible to diseases in the soil, so a store-bought brand is probably preferable to the soil you'd find in your yard. If you are starting out with seeds, you'll also need to purchase a peat pot.

Once you have everything you need, it's time to get your hands dirty. If you're working with a starter plant, begin by filling each pot with about three inches of soil. Then place the plant atop the soil and fill the pot until there is about one inch remaining between the surface of the soil and the top of the pot. You'll want to keep your pot in a saucer of some kind to catch all the excess water that drains out after watering. Be careful not to overwater or else you'll up with a case of rot.

If you've decided to go the cheaper route and are starting out with seeds, things are going to be a bit more complicated and require a little more tlc. Start by filling your peat pot with potting mix and then insert the seeds into the top of the soil. They wont need to go much deeper than a few centimeters below the surface. Now place the peat in a small bowl of water and let it sit there until it has fully absorded the contents. Once the water is absorded and the seeds are in place, loosely cover the pot in plastic to create a sort of small greenhouse. Keep an eye on the seedlings and once they reach a healthy size, they can be trasplanted into the 6-inch pot.

After your herb garden is established and begins to thrive, feel free to snip off a few sprigs of oregano, basil or mint to throw in the pot as you cook or just sit back, relax and enjoy a job well done.

Dustin Waters is one of our staff reporters and the staff copy editor. Follow Dustin on Twitter @MNreports for more news updates.

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