Herb Gardening for the City Girl

Since life has chosen to put me in the city for a little while, I’ve been learning to adapt my gardening desires to the indoors. While a lot of things still aren’t really possible (tomatoes, zucchini, carrots, cucumbers, beans….SIGH), the one thing I am able to pull off is an herb garden.

I’ve been doing this since we moved in, and I have a parsley plant and an oregano plant that don’t ever seem to die. So I just keep thinning them out and they have been my long time friends and kitchen contributors. The rest of my herb friends I have to re-start every year.

I highly recommend having a little herb garden, if not solely for the purpose of the money you save by not having to buy fresh basil or cilantro at the grocery store for a recipe. Especially if you start yours from seed. $1 per packet, for a whole season’s worth of herbs? Yes please. Although be warned – if your home doesn’t get a lot of natural sunlight, you may want to stick to the outdoors. Our windows face south and we get lots of light all day long, so our little plants love it.

So! I thought I’d document my progress this year. If you’re inspired to start your own, you can do so at any time since the indoors are a controlled environment – hurray for year-round fresh herbs!

I started mine from seed, which is so simple. Here’s my basic routine.

Spread some aquarium gravel on the bottom of your chosen pot, or rocks, if you have access. I’ve even read that you can use styrofoam peanuts, but haven’t been brave enough to try yet. The point is to make the bottom layer of your pot able to drain well.

Fill remainder of the pot with potting soil. Spread seeds according to package direction  -some seeds like to be spread further apart than others. Cover with thin layer of soil.

Then, you have to make a little greenhouse sort of situation. You can technically buy the little seed starting trays with lids and those work well but since I never wind up transplanting my seedlings to an outdoor garden, I just make my own little make-shift green house. See exhibit A.

I have some loose plastic bags over the various pots, which keeps the environment humid and warm. Spray the top of the soil daily with a spritzer bottle to make sure the environment stays moist but not soggy, otherwise your seeds will rot. The other important thing is to absolutely NOT put your little greenhouses in the sun. I learned this when I was little kid and mom was letting me start my own seeds. You will bake them. Like little pumpkin seeds.

It was tragic.

Keep them in a dimly lit, warm area. Lesson learned.

Then…just have patience! I’ll admit I get over-excited when I see these little guys poking their heads up for the first time. We all know I’m a geek, let’s just face the facts.

It takes different lengths of time for the various seeds to germinate. Since I planted chives, two pots of basil, and cilantro, the basil came up first, then the chives, and the cilantro is still working.

When your seedlings are about an inch tall, it’s time to thin them. Which always makes me a little bit sad, but our little friends need room to grow. The seed packets will tell you how far apart to thin them.

Let’s have a moment of silence for our little sprouts that didn’t make the cut. (Can you hear The Circle of Life playing in the background?)

Moving on. Now for more patience. I’ve removed my pots from their respective greenhouses and placed them near a window with direct sunlight. Since they’re not insulated anymore, it’s time to start watering them with a regular can as opposed to the spritzer, although some care should still be exercised in not drowning the poor little things. (Come on now, they just had to watch their friends get ripped out by their roots. Have some compassion.)

Here’s where we’re at now.

Trusty oregano and parsley saying a little “Howdy-doo” to the newcomers.

And we’re still waiting on Cilantro. He’s a slow learner.

Updates on herb gardening progress to come!


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