This week, in honor of Earth Day and the burgeoning spring, I want to give you that little push you might need to start your own kitchen garden. It can be as modest or as ambitious as you like – from a set of three flowerpots on your windowsill to one of those delightful raised bed numbers.
There is nothing more satisfying and awe-inducing than growing things. It’s a simply marvelous feeling to saunter down a path and casually snip some chives for a garnish or harvest some fresh cilantro or basil to add to a salad just before dinner. The taste of freshly grown herbs has no comparison and you’ll be saving money and reducing your carbon footprint at the same time.
Step 1: Choose Your Seeds
I suggest that you figure out which herbs you use most often, and go with some or all of them.
I planted lots of basil because I love to make pesto, cilantro because I use it in a lot of my cooking, dill because I love it on potatoes and in egg dishes and I never use up enough to justify buying a whole bunch at a time, and mint because it’s so nice in summer dishes and middle eastern food. Other herbs to consider include chives, parsley, sage, thyme (there are many varieties), marjoram, savory, and oregano.
You can either go to a garden store/plant nursery and pick up your seeds there or you can order them online if you are not in a huge rush. Either way, I recommend choosing a seed company that is certified organic. There are also lots of fun heirloom varieties available nowadays and they may offer better flavor than the more conventional varieties.
Step 2. Get Prepared
While you’re at the garden center, you may need to pick up some organic potting soil and a few other things like a seedling tray to plant the seeds in (though you can also use a paper egg carton – you’ll just need to be more diligent about watering and making sure it stays warm consistently), terra cotta pots for the mature plants, a trowel, and a watering can.
You’ll also need to stake out your planting spot — are you planning to grown the seeds in pots in your kitchen or does your back deck get more sun? Or do you have the time, energy and space to do something more involved like an actual kitchen garden? Although all plants like slightly different growing conditions, chances are you’ll need to find a spot that gets a good deal of sunlight throughout the day.
Step 3: Start Planting!
Then read the sowing instructions on the back of each packet of seeds. Each type of plant responds best to a slightly different sowing depth. Some seeds may also call for special handling before being planted (for example, soaking them in water for a number of hours beforehand.) Don’t forget to hold on to the seed packets as you’ll need them to determine the proper spacing once you’re ready to transplant the seedlings.
Sow the seeds according to the directions on the packet and cover with dirt. Then give them all a light watering making sure to get them thoroughly wet but trying not to disturb the seeds too much.