You’d think that for most, growing herbs and vegetables in pots would be easier than raising livestock like chickens. Then, there’s me. I do not have a good history with plants! Every plant that has ever been fully dependent on me for survival has always met its demise, and quickly.
But my ever-growing desire for self-sufficiency drove me to reevaluate why my death streak came to be. Since our dogs get into everything in the yard and fencing gets pricey, I decided to tackle small herb plants in containers that I could easily care for yet wouldn’t feel like I wasted time & money if I… it… well, if it didn’t live. While going through my checklist (aka Google search), I discovered something I must have bypassed in previous years: drainage. I had full sun, decent potting soil, and appropriately sized pots, but I never learned (or paid attention to) the importance of good drainage.
I started learning that the pots I had always defaulted to — you know the ones with the saucer that snaps onto the bottom of the pot? — was actually not the best to use. Having a fully separate drainage saucer was best because it allows the soil water to fully drain out of the soil without blockages, yet can still be emptied easily. I have my herbs on an old folding table that I don’t mind if draining water gets it dirty but for indoor container gardening, different sized saucers can be found at local home & garden stores for just a few cents. Knowing this has made a huge difference in my herbs and I have seen them flourish like they never have in years past!
Starting seeds: If you decide to start from seeds as I did for a few of my plants (the others were small, already-growing in mini pots), you can go out and buy expensive containers and fluorescent lighting to ensure every planted seed sprouts. OR you can use materials you might have around the house, the only cost to you being soil and seeds. Old egg cartons will work if necessary but my favorite trick is using applesauce cups! Owl loves applesauce so we buy the large boxes of cups at Costco and I get to recycle the washed cups for various things all over the house! Paperclips, thumbtacks, craft beads… the possibilities are endless. And by drilling a hole in the bottom, I have good draining cups for sprouting seeds that I can use year after year! I place each cup side-by-side in a rimmed baking dish or cookie sheet (to prevent any drained water from spilling) and place in front of a window with full sun. Within a short period of time, my seeds were sprouting into taller herb plants and I was transplanting them to a larger pot!
Maintaining: Well, the hardest part for me was over. I grew my favorite herbs from seeds — lemon thyme, chives, oregano, sage, & rosemary — and had transplanted them to a larger container with a few of the sprouts. Instead of following instructions telling me to plant every other day or every three days, I listened to my plants. If the leaves started to droop, I watered them more. If one drooped more on this new watering schedule, I held back.
With the better drainage and throwing out the “rules” on watering, I now have a full-fledged herb garden that makes cooking with even more flavorful!
What I’m Growing: Basil, rosemary, thyme, onion chives, sage, oregano, jalapeño pepper, and heirloom tomato.
What Else I Plan To Grow Next Year: More tomatoes, zucchini, squash, lettuce, bell pepper, melon (not sure what kind yet)
**The key to getting over the overwhelming fear of starting to grow is to start small. Instead of trying to take on too many plants and gardens, I evaluated what we would use on a regular basis that would be easy for me to maintain and started with what I knew we would use the most. A few basic herbs, delicious spicy (small!) jalapeños, basil for pesto sauce, and lavender for room fragrance has helped developed my green thumb with more confidence to take on more next year!**
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