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Dreaming of Dirt (And Pizza): How to Create A Small Herb Garden

September 27th, 2011

 

Pondering the old college days always bring back a good deal of memories. One of which, like most, was practically inhaling copious slices of pizza on a weekly basis. But unlike the typical college student who slathered on ranch dressing to top, or was content with a dash of stale red pepper flakes; I was used to eating some rockin’ pizza. For two years while I lived on Edison Street, my neighbor would allow us to freely use his vast herb garden, and my pizza had freshly cut basil, parsley and oregano to top each slice. Was I lucky or what? Ever since, I have enjoyed the advantages of herb gardening. All the while, maintaining a full time job and going on short vacations without having to worry about my little herby pots. If you’re looking to zest up salads, burgers, dressings, sauces and marinades, dips and sandwiches without having to drive to the store, and pay the ridiculous amount for a small package of herbs; herb gardening is a great way to unleash your green thumb without the commitment. I’d
like to share a few easy tips on how to grow a successful herb garden. You’ll find that with a little insight, you can get started right away!

Finding a Location: Discovering the perfect location is paramount when starting an herb garden. Most herbs prefer filtered sunlight and slightly moist soil. If your kitchen window provides this; build a smaller garden and use small strawberry pots to build your garden in. You will find the kitchen provides easy access to your lush array of herbs! Perhaps your back patio or balcony is the perfect location? If the backyard works best, but you find it is very sunny; plant some large flowers or plants nearby to provide some filtered shade. Sunflowers work very well for this purpose.

Choosing The Right Herbs: Select herbs that have similar needs if you’re placing your plants in the same location. The following herbs can be found in Uncle Herb’s Favorites, and are excellent choices to grow together, especially if you’re combining herbs in large pots.

*Bouquet Dill, Greek Oregano, and Titan Parsley

*Bronze and Green Fennel and Bouquet Dill

*German Winter Thyme and Greek Oregano

*Common Sage and Santo Cilantro, which grows well next to most herbs

Preparing The Soil: Quality soil is generally 50% solids, like small rock materials, and 50% porous soil to allow room for water, air and roots. For larger herb gardens, including organic matter like your own compost pile can greatly enhance your garden. It is also an excellent way to save money and recycle the ends of corn, onions, tomatoes, fruit peels, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and other organic matter. Be sure to exclude any diseased or pest-laden materials, as these will only hinder the garden.

Harvesting: A general rule when harvesting is remembering herbs are most fragrant and taste best right before the leaves are about to bloom. Harvesting is also best done throughout the growing season. Perennials like thyme, sage and rosemary require their active growing branches snipped at 4-6 inch lengths. Whereas it is acceptable to collect a few branches and leaves as needed with basil and other annuals. Freezing or hand drying herbs that you would like to save for later use is a great way to preserve your herbs if they are little blooming idiots. You’ll find that the herbs stay flavorful even if preserved for weeks.

Go Techno! Gardening has never been easier thanks to some fantastic websites that allow you to virtually plan out your garden before you roll up your sleeves. I use Smart Gardener to plan out the design of my garden, view how my location could effect the growing of the herbs, and receive a customized to-do list on what needs to be done. It’s free to join and you get a chance to see some really drool worthy gardens to aspire to.

My own Garden: Currently, I am growing and just planted a variety of herbs from Uncle Herbs Favorites and Hot Mama’s Peppers and Chiles. This includes basil, sage, parsley, cayenne and red peppers.

Happy gardening!!

About the Author:

Jesse Silver-Nattamai lives and gardens in Tucson, Arizona with her herb loving husband and adorable dog. She taught middle school history for five years, and currently runs her own food blog at Happy Go Lucky Vegan. On the side, Jesse enjoys leading tours and workshops at Tucson Botanical Gardens, and writing short stories and articles.

 

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Kids and Fall Gardening: Make It Fun!

September 14th, 2011

If you’re a fall gardener and you have children, you can provide them with wonderful, educational experiences via your garden and plants. From exploring nature to delving into biology to showing older, budding chefs how to prepare simple dishes with fresh fare from the garden, you can plant nurturing and inquisitive seeds inside your children that can last a lifetime. And with kids getting back to school, it’s also a great way to foster a sense of learning and study.

A fall garden is home to a wonderful variety of bugs that make great biology subjects. When you and your kids come across bugs, you can educate your kids on the roles that each bug plays in the garden. We even have blog posts dedicated to garden heroes and villains (bugs!), including Garden Villain: Itsy Bitsy Spider Mites, Garden Hero: The Green Lacewing, AKA Aphid Lions, Garden Villain: The Leafhopper, and more.

Do you have a child that displays a love for drawing? A fall garden provides the perfect environment for sketching…You never know: you may have a future naturalist or scientist in your family. From plants to insects, sketching has a long history as a means of scientific investigation. Surprise your artistic child with a blank journal and colored pencils for their “field notes,” and then teach them how to observe bugs and plants and jot down notes. From the behaviors of a specific bug to the colors of a Red Express Cabbage as it matures, there are so many sketching opportunities to be found in a fall garden. Another great activity for a budding artist is to have him or her draw a plant as it grows from a seedling to maturity.

If you have a child that loves food and loves to help in the kitchen, a fall garden can be a great source of inspiration and creativity. Teach your future chef how to tell when lettuce, broccoli and other fall garden vegetables are ready for harvesting. When it’s time to make a salad with your home grown foods, walk your child through the salad making process, from harvesting the vegetables right from the garden to cleaning the vegetables to preparing the vegetables for a salad. Talk about our five senses and have your child describe how each one is affected by, say, a head of lettuce. Before you know it, you’ll have your own personal salad maker and a child who is eager to experiment with a variety of healthy tastes and textures.

Kids + Vegetable Gardening + Fun = A Love for the Freshest, Healthiest Foods

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