Just over a year ago, on Christmas day, I gave birth to my baby boy. From Christmas until early March, I was pretty much house ridden. Breastfeeding a newborn coupled with a terrible Michigan winter basically relegated me to the house. But between the endless feedings and loads of laundry, I dreamt of spring. The sun would shine again, the baby and I would take walks around the neighborhood, and I would start a vegetable garden in my new yard. But by the time spring arrived, I was headed back to work, and reality kicked in. I didn’t have time for leisurely midday walks or a vegetable garden. Adjusting to being a working mom with a new baby was a new type of job, one that left time for little else.
But with time I got back into the swing of my old habits. I began visiting my favorite open-air market on the weekends as I had pre-baby, only now with a 15 pound, sometimes screaming, little boy strapped to my chest. On one of these visits, I passed a merchant selling potted herbs and small plants for two dollars apiece, and wandered over. With only a little convincing, I decided to buy one of each of the potted herbs, take them home, and create my first herb garden. My plans for a spectacular vegetable garden morphed a bit, just as the rest of my life had.
And to be totally honest, I had no idea how to start an herb garden. I just knew that hey, this guy was selling these plants for a bargain, I have a window box on the side of my garage, and it would be really cool to have my own sustainable source of herbs in lieu of continually buying them from the grocery store. After some heavy Internet browsing, I planted a garden that lasted well into fall, and yielded an unexpected amount of herbs. I’m excited to share my experiences, and maybe convince you to do the same!
Choose which herbs you’re interested in growing.
Just few simple insights will do. Which herbs do you love to cook with, or to garnish your finished meals? If you’re not already well versed in the herb arena, the most common are basil, parsley, and cilantro. Start there, and maybe add a couple more that peak your interest.
Now, gather your materials
A more diehard green thumb might scoff at starting a garden with pre-grown plants, but for an impatient beginner like myself, it was a great option. The fledglings were under five dollars apiece, so I bought six varieties (basil, flat leaf parsley, peppermint, sage, thyme, and cilantro). I also grabbed a bag of organic gardening soil for ten dollars at my local hardware store, rounding me out at about forty dollars in materials. I was fortunate enough to have the lovely, long window box on the side of my garage, so my herb garden location was ready for me.
Get to planting.
Here’s the fun part! Prep your garden by spreading your garden or potting soil, designating an area for each herb, and planting them. Boyfriend and I parked the baby’s stroller in the shade of garage, and had all the planting finished within twenty minutes. That’s it, you’ve got an herb garden. Happy eating!
A piece of information I didn’t have when I started was that some plants shouldn’t be planted right beside each other. About halfway into the summer, I noticed my basil was thriving, while my thyme wasn’t flourishing quite as well. For the most part, basil, parsley, and cilantro play well, while woodier textured plants like sage and thyme go nicely together. If you have one large area, try to place your plants near plants that will work well for them. But, be sure to plant them with enough space between each. If they’re right on top of one another, they can get together and spawn some not-so-tasty, potentially unidentifiable hybrids. Go for about six inches of space between each plant if you’re planting them in one long container.
Just because you don’t have a garage with a window box doesn’t mean you can’t have a flourishing herb garden! I’ve seen some awesome examples of patio or balcony gardens, and even indoor windowsill ones! Check out some really cool examples on Apartment Therapy and The Garden Glove.
Remember to tend to your garden! As someone who uses herbs on a near daily basis, I was very involved with my garden. Every other morning before work I’d lightly water it, and trim it about once a week, harvesting pretty regularly. Harvesting the plants is very important. Even if you don’t plan on using the herbs every day, making sure to trim some of the leaves (from the top third of the plant) regularly allows the plant to grow healthily, and makes sure it doesn’t turn into a scary, overgrown sea of intertwining vines.