Monday, May 12, 2014

Planting Herbs 101

It was a wonderful Mother's Day weekend! I got up really early yesterday to venture out to the annual Mother's Day Friends School Plant Sale. It was a humid over cast day but the temperature finally reached 70 degrees so I was not complaining. I was excited all weekend to get to the sale because I knew they had some really unique plants and herbs that I thought would be a wonderful addition to my garden. It was the last day of the sale so everything was a bit picked over but I still found some really interesting stuff-including Ashwagandha and Jiaogulan. Both of these medicinal herbs are special and used in ancient natural healing practices.

Vietnamese Coriander
I also met a really nice man who owns his own plant probiotic company. He makes vegan probitotics for plants that helps control mold and act as a natural fertilizer. They also contain minerals and trace minerals that if inserted into the dirt around the root of the plant are directly absorbed by the plant and helps provide fruits and vegetables that are packed full of all those essential vitamins and minerals. His product is called Prolific Plant Probiotic and he has all the information about his product available on his website. He also doesn't charge for shipping so if you are interested in obtaining the product for your own garden he has a link to order right on his site.

Initially I thought that today I would blog about general herb use at home. I was going to give a little history in the usage of herbs and their importance- but I felt that a how-to would be a nice change to our usual Monday posting.

I have been growing herbs inside for the past couple years. I really love having fresh herbs on hand for both medicinal and cooking purposes. It is incredible how expensive herbs have become at the grocery store and I have found that growing them yourself is really not that hard. It has taken Spring a long time to arrive here in MN and I  really had an itch to get some planters outside this year. So I am going to give you a step by step on how to create your own herb planter.

Step One:  Finding the perfect pot

Finding the right pot for your herbs is one of the most enjoyable parts of creating your own herb garden.  Unlike vegetables or fruits, herbs are super resilient and tend to grow like weeds if you treat them properly. This allows you to get pretty creative when choosing a container for your herbs. I decided to visit a refurbished furniture store called, The Cottage House on 43rd and Chicago Ave S in Minneapolis- I found some really awesome pieces but even just a plastic or ceramic pot from your local hardware store will do just fine.
 Step Two: Picking Out Your Herbs

There are so many different types and varieties of herbs. The first question you want to ask is if you are going to be using the herbs for medicinal or strictly cooking purposes. I have attached a link to a website that lists all medicinal herbs and their health benefits. I decided for the planters on my stairs I would choose herbs that were used for cooking but had medicinal characteristics as well- some of these include sweet basil, peppermint, Greek Oregano, Sage, Coriander, and verbena. When picking our your herbs you also have to keep in mind where you will be growing your plants. Most of the herbs are full sun plants but make sure you are paying attention because that can be key in making your plants grow to their full potential.

Step Three: Water

In general, water and sunlight are two of the most important aspects of plant growing . If you purchased a  pot that was a bit more unconventional like I did, you need to make sure that your pot has holes for drainage-if water is allowed to sit in the pots it can lead to over watering and can potentially drown your plants. On the flip side you need to make sure you are watering your plants on a regular basis especially during the really hot months. Also, make sure not to water the leaves directly, if water is left on the leaves direct contact with the sun can burn holes in the delicate leaves.

Step Four: Filling the Pots

For optimal plant growth put a bed of rocks at the bottom of your planter, this helps stabilize the water expulsion from the soil and the pot. You then want to use a combination of planting soil, peat and manure to start your pots. I also used those Prolific Plant Probiotics to help keep my plants hearty but they aren't absolutely necessary since herbs tend to grow pretty stably on their own. You then want to dig holes deep enough to fit your whole herb plant and then cover the sides with the remaining soil. Make sure when situating your herbs in their allotted pots that you do some research on the spreading of the herbs. Herbs like mint tend to drop seedlings and like to take over the whole pot this may smother some of the other herbs, so just be careful.

Step Five: Up keep

Once your planter is complete make sure to care for your herbs. After you have planted your herbs begin by generously watering them the first couple days. If the pots don't seem like they are draining you may need to add another drainage hole. If after a couple weeks you find dead leaves pruning might be necessary to promote new growth. Also, wait till your plant has grown about twice its initial size before you start extracting leaves for use. This really doesn't take very long but it is crucial because if you don't give the plant a chance to grow it will deplete its resources and then it could kill the plant.

  I hope that this will help all of you create successful herb gardens for the summer! It is really a fun and inexpensive way to keep fresh herbs on hand. I will update you throughout the summer with pictures of my herbs along with some herb focused recipes. Let me know if there are any questions.


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