The Freedom To Explore
Designed and Edited by Nora Paskaleva
You say you're longing to have fresh herbs at your fingertips, but home (at least for the moment) is a gardenless apartment? Don't despair. With a sunny windowsill and a bevy of pots, you can keep yourself supplied with seasonings, teas and potpourri fixings year-round.
HOWTO GROW a h e r b g a r d e n i n d o o r s
Choose a spot that gets at least 4 hours of direct sunlight a day. Augment the supply with fluorescent lights if necessary. Most herbs like some ventilation but no direct drafts and no great fluctuations in temperature.
Decide what herbs you want to grow. Study books about herbs and peruse catalogs, and think about what you want to do with your herbs: cook with them, make potpourri or simply enjoy their foliage and fragrance.
Buy your plants at a nursery that specializes in herbs. Your selection will be much bigger than it will at a general nursery, and the staff is almost guaranteed to be enthusiastic and knowledgeable.
Choose your herbs
Use containers that are at least 8 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches across for each plant. To group multiple plants in a larger container, simply allow 6 to 8 inches between plants.
to inches across 6 8
Lay pieces of screen mesh over the containers' drainage holes and add a premium-quality, well-draining potting soil mixed with coarse sand and mushroom compost. (Nurseries sell it in small bags.) Further ensure good drainage by setting the pots on a tray filled with gravel.
Set the plants into their new quarters at the same depth they were growing in their nursery pots and water them well.6
Be careful not to overwater. A good soaking once or twice a week will keep most herbs happy. Stand each pot in about an inch of tepid water until the soil is moist but not saturated.
Feed the plants once a week when they're actively growing, using seaweed extract or fish emulsion.
Feed plants once a week!
Harvest indoor herbs with care. Clip outer leaves or sprigs as you need them, but always leave plenty of vigorous growth on the plant.9
Tips & Warnings
9Tips & WarningsIn general, bushy perennial herbs, such as rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage and winter savory, perform better indoors than those with soft stems, such as mint and tarragon. Scented geraniums make wonderful, fragrant herbal roommates, as do lemon verbena, basil, coriander and some varieties of lavender.
When you visit the herb nursery, ask for suggestions about what to grow - even if you think you know exactly what you want. The plant of your dreams could turn out to be one you've never heard of before.
Indoor herbs don't like the cooking fumes and fluctuating heat in a small kitchen and the hot, dry air directly above a radiator.
Garlic grows well all over New York State. Most garlic that you find in stores in New York is soft-neck garlic. According to the farmers at Cayuga Garlic Farms, hard-neck varieties are more flavorful and grow better in New York's cool climate. The best time to plant garlic is in early fall--four to six weeks before the ground freezes. In New York, this is in early October, around Columbus Day.
HOWTO PLANT G a r l i c i n N e w Yo r k
Turn and loosen the soil with a garden spade in your chosen planting area to a depth of 6 inches in late August. Spread a 2-inch layer of aged compost followed by 3 lbs. of 10-10-10 (nitrogen-potassium-phosphorus) fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area with a garden rake. Turn the soil again, to a depth of 6 inches.
Separate the garlic bulb into individual cloves (use only the largest cloves for planting). Dig a hole for each clove that is 3 inches deep. Plant one clove per hole, pointy end up. Space each hole 4 inches apart in a straight row. Space rows 1 foot apart.
Tips & Warnings
Water the planting bed with a gentle spray of water until the soil is moist to a depth of 6 inches. After the first watering, the bed will need 1 inch of water per week if the rain does not provide it. At no point should the soil become completely dry.
Tips & WarningsSpread 2 inches of organic mulch over the ground after it is frozen. The insulation will help keep the soil's temperature from fluctuating dramatically.
For the best results, buy seed garlic straight from a garlic farmer.
Mint is an herb used worldwide. Spearmint, peppermint and mint chocolate are common types of mint. Uses for mint include tea, candy, toothpaste, potpourri and as a treatment for stomachaches and headaches. This aromatic plant is invigorating and therapeutic for many. Constant attention is not necessary, as the plant grows with ease. Grow them indoors or outdoors, but control the growth, as mint multiplies rapidly.
HOWTO PLANT M i n t
Use large pots to plant mint seeds indoors. If planting outside, place a barrier, such as a bottomless plastic pot, between the mint and other herbs and plants. Mint grows forcefully, overrunning other plants quickly, if allowed. Place the bottomless pots at least 12 inches away from each other and about 1 foot under the ground.
Plant mint seeds in the spring, after the chance of frost passes, if planting outside. Dig a hole 2 inches deep and place the mint seeds in the hole. Cover with soil.
Water the freshly planted seeds. The key for mint to grow well is to keep the soil moist. Mint grows well in direct sunlight or partial shade. Keep the mint well-watered if grown under direct sunlight.
Harvest mint when its flowers bloom. Use pruners to cut the leaves and stem from the top of the plant when the leaves are still moist in the morning. Do not cut from the bottom of the plant, as this discourages new growth.
Use a natural pesticide on the mint plant. Spray only if insects, such as flies or beetles, become problematic. Harmful rust forms on the underside of the leaves. Check regularly and remove the leaf/leaves if you find orange spots.
Tips & Warnings
Tips & WarningsTo ensure you plant the type of mint you want, use seedlings, not seeds.Even though rich soil is ideal, average soil works fine for mint. Fertilize only if the soil nutrient level is poor.
Pennyroyal is a type of mint that is poisonous and should never be ingested.
Basil is an aromatic, pungent herb that is best known for its starring role in many Italian dishes. Fresh basil is easy to grow in pots of all sizes, both indoors and outdoors. The key to successfully growing basil in a pot is to start with a clean pot and fresh soil. Sow the seeds, put the pot in full sun and watch for the sprouts to appear in just seven to 14 days.
HOWTO PLANT B a s i l
Choose the right size pot for your purpose. Basil can grow successfully in any size pot, so it's adaptable to mini herb gardens on a windowsill, as well as to large pots outdoors. A pot of approximately 15 1/2 inches in diameter and 12 inches deep is a good choice for growing a large harvest of basil for both fresh use and drying. Make sure that the pot has holes on the bottom to allow for drainage.Choose
Clean the inside of the pot with water diluted with a few drops of bleach to kill any harmful bacteria. Rinse the pot thoroughly before adding potting soil.
Fill the pot to about an inch from the top with fresh, high-quality potting soil for vegetables and flowers.
Plant the basil seeds. Some seed companies recommend spacing the seeds anywhere from one inch to six inches apart, but basil seeds are tiny and difficult to pick up. It's easier and just as effective to gently sow a small handful of seeds--about the size of a dime--by placing them in the palm of one hand and then rubbing your hands together to distribute them evenly over the soil.
Cover the seeds with 1/4 inch of soil. Gently water them to get the soil evenly moist.
6 Place the pot outdoors in an area that gets full sun. Indoors, place the pot near a sunny south window.
Keep the soil evenly moist until sprouts emerge. As the plants mature, don't let the soil dry out in the pot. You may need to water more frequently during very hot, dry weather.
Straw bales make simple, portable raised garden beds ideal for growing tomatoes on a deck, porch or in the garden, where in particular you do not need to dig or prepare the soil. Tomatoes grow well in straw bales because as the straw breaks down during the growing season, the tomato plants have access to the nutrients that are released. When planting tomatoes in straw bales, plant two standard, dwarf or heirloom tomato plants in each bale. Start with one or several straw bales and several young, healthy tomato seedlings.
HOWTO GROW To m a t o e s i n S t r a w
Place the straw bales on a plastic tarp. Pour 1 gallon of water over each bale every day for 14 days to start the decomposition process. Cover the bales with a plastic tarp between watering. Leave the strings on the bales for the whole growing season.
Add fertilizer to the daily watering in the third week. Place 8 tbsp. of water-soluble fertilizer in a gallon of water for each straw bale. Use a complete tomato food fertilizer or a 5-10-10, 15-15-15 or a 18-18-21 formula fertilizer. Apply the water and fertilizer solution every day for seven days.
Slide the tomato seedlings out of the nursery pots, being careful not to damage the delicate stalks. Pull the straw apart with your hands or a trowel to make an opening large enough for the root ball. Space two plants about 18 to 24 inches apart in each bale.
Stick a meat thermometer or other long handled thermometer into the center of the straw bale. The composting and fertilizing process heats up the straw bale. If the temperature in the center of the bale is over 100 degrees F, wait until it comes down to 100 degrees F or below before planting the tomato seedlings.
Place one cup of compost in the bottom of the hole and set the tomato seedling on top of the compost. Push the straw so that it closes over the roots and around the stem. Press the straw together to secure the young plant. Drive one 6-foot stake 1 foot deep into the straw 4 to 6 inches from each plant.
Water daily or every other day to keep the straw consistently damp for the duration of the growing season. As the young plants grow, attach them to the stake for support by loosely tying them with string.
Apply tomato food fertilizer once a week diluted in a gallon of water. A liquid 8-8-8 formula works well. Check the package to determine the correct application amount for each tomato plant.
Harvest the tomatoes as they come ripe off the vine. Grasp the ripe fruit in one hand and the top of the stem in the other. Gently pull the tomato free from the vine without damaging the rest of the plant.
Tips & WarningsPlant tomato plants outdoors in straw bales when the air temperature is consistently above 60 degrees F.
Temperatures below 50 degrees can damage tomato seedlings.
The Freedom To Explore
Designed and Edited by Nora Paskaleva