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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Growing an Indoor Herb Garden

Growing herbs indoors is a cost-effective--and handier--alternative to buying them at the supermarket. Some of the easiest ones to grow indoors are thyme (Thymus vulgaris), basil (Ocimum basilicum), parsley (Petroselinum crispum), oregano (Origanum vulgare), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), mint (Mentha sp.) and sage (Salvia
officinalis). For people who love garlic, a great alternative is garlic chives (Allium tuberosum). Cut the tops of the grasslike blades and chop them up into your food for a mild garlic flavor.
There are three ways to start an indoor herb garden: transplanting store-bought or garden-grown plants or starting new ones from cuttings or seed.

A Seedy Beginning

For those who like to get their hands dirty, try starting herbs from seed. This is the least expensive way to grow an indoor herb garden, but it takes a bit of babysitting.
You'll need the following materials: a lightweight soil less mixture, seeds of your favorite herbs, clear plastic baggies and small pots with drainage holes. Some pots are too large to start seeds in, so plant them in a peat pot to get them started. Once they germinate and grow a bit, transplant the whole thing--peat pot and all--into the larger container. Fill the peat pot completely with the soil less mixture, then place it in small bowl filled with water. Allow the peat pot to absorb the water from the bottom up, until the entire soil less mixture is saturated. Make certain the peat is completely wet; otherwise, it will act as a wick and pull water away from the seeds. Watering seeds after they're planted can wash them away, so it's important not to skip this step.
Bury seeds to a depth that's three to four times their diameter. With really small seeds, like basil, you'll only need to press them into the soil. Plant a few in one pot to ensure success in the event that one doesn't germinate.
Slip a plastic baggie over the peat pot. The plastic will help the seedling retain moisture and create a warm environment, essentially simulating a greenhouse effect. To prevent the pot from drying out, place it on a saucer and add water to it so the peat can continue to soak up water.
After all the prep work is completed, leave the plants in a sunny location or positioned under grow lights.

A Cut Above

Stem cuttings are an easy method to grow herbs indoors. Before the growing season ends, you can always take some cuttings from your outdoor plants or use cut herbs available from a grocery store. Cut about six inches of a stem at the base of the plant.
Once the branch is cut, strip the foliage off the bottom so it won't rot. A root should develop everywhere that a leaf or stem has grown. Place the cutting in a small jar of water, and in no time it will set roots. When that happens, pot the cutting and let it grow. Keep in mind that these cuttings need a sunny location, and the water should be changed out every day.

The Easiest Way

If you don't want to wait to start seedlings or grow plants from cuttings, you can have an herb garden now by purchasing live, grown plants from your local garden center. Keep plants in a sunny location with sufficient water. Once a week, feed them, using a diluted, organic fertilizer; fish emulsion is one good option. Also give your plants a periodic trimming as it helps them to branch out and grow
more vigorously.

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