herb garden edited

Gettin’ herbacious up in here. This week we connected with our friends at Greensgrow Farms to get some tips on starting an at-home herb garden. We have all these empty coffee tins lying around, and there’s nothing better than picking your own mint for your mojito, so we figured we’d give it a shot. Figured out that it’s actually really easy to get one of these little gardens started!

Greensgrow horticulture expert Lynn Ellen helped us pick 3 of the best herbs to get started with: mint, lemon balm, and basil.  All 3 grow well in classic potting soil, unlike certain other herbs.

How To Get Started:

  • Save up your old coffee tins or other containers. Small jars work, but make sure your herb plants will have room to grow in their new pot. Clean them out well – chemical or other residue can harm your soil and plants.
  • Head to your local nursery to find some herbs. Starting from seed is dicey – it’s perfectly fine to buy starter herbs, plus you can make a caprese salad the same day you plant. We got our herbs at Greensgrow – the basil was grown right here in Kensington!
  • Pick up some potting soil at the nursery. If you have them around, you can mix used coffee grounds into the soil to fertilize.
  • Before you add soil and plants to the tins, create some drainage. Either drill some holes in the bottom of the tin (you’ll have to keep these tins on a plate) or cover the bottom of each tin with a few inches of gravel. Drainage is super important for potted herbs – if they sit in water, they will rot and that means no more mojitos.
  • Once you have drainage, add your soil, leaving space to add the plants. Break up the ball of roots and soil a little bit when you put the herbs into the soil – this will help them take root sooner. Don’t pack soil too tight around the herb starter, but make sure the plant is securely placed and stands straight up.
  • Now try to keep ’em alive! Place the tins in a sunny window and water them every few days to keep soil consistently moist, but not soggy. Get in the habit of checking the soil every other day and if it’s dry and the plants are drooping, give it a splash.

A Bit About the Herbs:

Mint is amazing! So many uses and it’s been shown to reduce stress and aid digestion. Pick an ornamental variety like pineapple or ginger mint to keep it pretty. If it flowers, cut it short and let it grow back.  Use fresh mint snipped into salads, float some in your water pitcher, or pour boiling water over it to make tea.

Lemon balm does great in a container. The bees adore its flowers, so either pinch them off as they arrive if your plant is inside, or cut back and fertilize it after flowering.  Studies have proven lemon balm’s ability to reduce stress. You can make tea by pouring boiling water over the leaves and letting it steep a bit.  It can also add lemony zip to salad dressing and roasted chicken marinade.

Basil is so useful! Keep a container (or two or three) of it growing where you can easily reach it.  What doesn’t it taste good with basil?  And on hot days when appetites wane, it can help you feel hungry again. A salad with watermelon, basil, feta, and mint will cure any summer blues.  You can find many varieties to try out: Genovese, lemon, lime, cinnamon, lettuce leaf, purple, tulsi, etc.

Ready to get gardening? Let us know how it goes! And if you’re in Philly, give some love to our friends at Greensgrow Farms.

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