Monday, January 21, 2013

How to start an herb garden indoors

Spring is the time for new beginnings-rebirth and renewal are the theme during this time of the year. If you are the do-it-yourself type, the vernal equinox is the perfect time to plant your seedlings and start a garden. However, we are still firmly entrenched in winter. As a matter of fact, those of us unfortunate enough to live in southwest Ohio are seeing the beginnings of the coldest stretch of weather we have seen in years. I have been working hard to teach my children about the value and satisfaction of doing things for yourself, so we spent an afternoon this past weekend planting the seeds that will turn into our herb garden in a couple of months.

There is a certain satisfaction that comes from planting a seed, watching it sprout, flower and produce something you eat or use in your cooking. If you have never done it, you are truly missing out on something special. There are all kinds of excuses I hear for not gardening:
  • I don't have the space
  • I don't have the time
  •  I don't have the money
  • I don't have a "green thumb"
The simple solution to all of these excuses is to scale back and plant an herb garden instead. Herb gardens can be placed outdoors on a deck, patio or porch ledge. If you don't have any of those, you can still grow one indoors. Choose a room that gets 4-6 hours of direct sunlight and place your garden in the window. If you are afraid that your garden will take over your schedule, you need not worry. It took a total of 5 hours to shop for and plant our herb garden. (That includes drive time, unpacking groceries and getting my 3 kids lunch.) If money is your concern, worry no more. I purchased 28 seedling pots with watering tray, potting soil and 7 varieties of seeds (oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, parsley and lavender) for a grand total of $16.91 at the Meijer's. Expensive? I think not! If you are one of the many people walking around believing you have a black or brown thumb, rest easy. A few simple rules will have your thumb turning green in no time. Most growing problems can be linked to water. Make sure you add an inch of gravel to your pots to allow for drainage and water your plants when the soil 1 inch below the surface is dry.

If you are now feeling a little more comfortable about growing your own herb garden, just follow these simple steps. You will be enjoying fresh herbs in your dinners in no time.
  1. Decide which seeds to buy. Look over your favorite recipes and see which herbs are called for most often. If you cook a lot of Italian, oregano, basil and parsley are must haves. If you enjoy baking, I recommend rosemary and lavender. Tea drinker? Think mint and lemon balm.
  2.  Make a list of all of the supplies you are going to need so you don't have to run back out after the planting has started. Make sure you have pots, gravel, potting soil and seeds.
  3. Go shopping!
  4. Gather all of your supplies together. If planting your seeds indoors, place newspaper down to minimize the mess (especially if you are doing this with your children).
  5. Fill pots up with potting soil. Saturate with water and tamp down soil.
  6. Sprinkle seeds on top of the wet soil. Top with additional potting soil. If you are using a self watering tray, place your pots back in the tray. Make sure you label what is in each pot!
  7. Once all of your pots are filled with seeds and back in the tray, cover with the lid (if available) or cover with palstic wrap. This holds in warmth and moisture, creating a greenhouse for your seeds.
  8. Place in a window that receives direct sunlight. 4-6 hours is best.
  9. As soon as sprouts appear, remove covering.
  10. If repotting, add 1 inch of gravel to your larger pots before transferring your sprouts. If moving outdoors, wait until the danger of frost has passed. In southwest Ohio, Mother's Day is typically the time to begin outdoor planting.
  11. If your plants do not get enough light indoors, you will want to invest in grow lights to help them along.
  12. Harvest your herbs at their peak flavor-just before blooming.
 For ideas on how to enjoy your herb bounty, visit "The Herb Spiral" for recipes, to learn about medicinal properties and more.

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