Today we wanted to talk about mini kitchen gardens. A couple of times, between Instagram and Facebook, we posted pictures of our little herb pots and received some great responses. So we thought it only right to share with you guys how easy it is to grow & maintain one and how to do so. If you've been keeping up with our blog I'm pretty sure that you have seen a pattern of us explaining the different benefits of the products that we make, use, share and an explanation of why. So this time is no different.
First we'll answer the question of why. Why should you grow your own kitchen garden instead of purchasing from your local grocery store or farmers market? The answer is quite simple. Its fresh, cost effective and easy. When you go to your local grocery store and purchase the dried packaged ones, most of the time, actually more than most, they are dead or on their way to die. This is due to the plastic packaging they are in. They have no way to breath and keep fresh. Which makes them brown or discolored and keeps in moisture allowing mold and bacteria to grow eventually rotting them out and becoming furry. Even the ones that claim to be organic. What is the point in paying for organic, when there are mold spores on your food? None. Also, who knows how long they've been just sitting there? Could be weeks! No bueno. You are better off at a farmers market, because they should, and I say that loosely, be grown organically and hand picked. This means they are grown without anything sprayed on them, such as pesticides and herbicides. Side note: in doing research, toxicologist experts say that there are some pesticides that are not harmful to humans due to the low levels that are being used to "protect" veggies and fruits from pests. Side note number 2. We don't care. We don't want anything that's supposed to kill bugs in our bodies. Now back to the subject at hand, these that grow their own organic herbs, fruits and veggies should not be using soil that contain any "fillers". This could be chemicals or anything artificial in the soil. Now again, experts say that these things can be positive in some ways, but just like anything that is artificial (in food products) they do have their drawbacks.
We'll just elimate that uncertain possibility altogether by growing our own. The best soil to use is organic, but be careful. Not all organic soils are well, organic. Do your research. Read the ingredients. Amazon has a lot of reviews on organic soil and here is where we learned a lot about buying certain soils that claim to be organic. But since we are growing a mini kitchen garden, our fruits, veggies or herbs will be grown in pots, so the best potting soil should be organic. We will also be using organic plant food. Plant food adds calcium and phosphorus to your plant to help your plant grow and be healthy. Just like we need food to grow and maintain our health, so does a plant. You can also use compost to add to your soil which is the best plant food in terms of the ingredients. Compost or composting is when you take kitchen scraps such as egg shells, old coffee grounds, banana peels and a few others bio degradable food items, and put them into a "compost bin" to decay or basically rot. Compost bins are usually kept outside near your garden, but for those of us who don't have a big garden, don't want or need a big garden and simply just don't have the space for one, there are a lot of compost bins on the market now that you can keep right in your kitchen, on your counter even, that lock odor in. Well because decomposing matter can be quite stinky. Composting is great for two reasons. One, it's great for your garden because it truly is organic matter and two, it's environmentally responsible. No waste of food.
However, today we will stick to the organic potting soil and plant food that has already been prepared for us by a manufacturer. Let's go over what we will need. These are in no particular order.
1) Moisture retaining potting soil- We use Eco-scraps natural and organic indoor/ outdoor potting mix
2) Plant food- Preferably one that says its specifically for fruits and veggies- However, we use Jobes 100% organic bone meal, which is good for fruits, veggies, herbs and flowers. *note* please understand that this particular meal is made from steamed animal bones and then granulated. They are animals that have already passed on and are not inhumanely killed just to make this product. If you still don't agree with this or are vegan or vegetarian, there are other kinds of "meal" available within this brand.
3) Planter pots with holes at the bottom (for drainage)- We bought some really cute planters from Ikea and drilled holes in the bottom. We also purchased some from the dollar tree and did the same. Your pots do not have to be expensive or fancy. They just need to have holes. Our pots from the dollar tree were the perfect size for our tomato plant, but an ugly color, so we spray painted them white. Problem solved.
4) This one is debatable- You can either purchase a plant that has already grown and then re-pot it or buy seedlings and grow them from the start yourself. We have done both and at the same time. We'll explain the pre-grown herb plant method so that we can cut the time in half. You can purchase organic herb, fruit and veggy plants at lowes, Home Depot and at most places that have nurseries. Save the little stick with instructions that comes with the plant. I found that this was very vital in keeping the plant alive. Its normally a small stick stuck into the soil with the picture and name of plant on it. If it does not have this "stick" for any reason, get another plant.
5) The most important is of course a pitcher of cold water.- We don't know why cold, we just feel better watering with cold water. The thought process behind this is that warm water is basically cooking the roots rather than cold water which is quenching the roots thirst. When you're hot or throat feels dry, you don't drink warm water do you? This has not been researched and there is no actual fact behind this. It's just our quirky thoughts!
Alright let's begin!
Make sure you have everything in reach before you begin. Once you take the plants out of their existing home, you do not want to wait to put them into their new home. Repot each plant one at a time. Make sure your new pot is a tad bit bigger than the pot that the plant originally came in. Remember, in repotting we want the plant to grow. The roots need to spread. The bigger the pot the bigger the plant. We typically don't go too big since the pots sit on the kitchen ledge or the ledge outside on the porch.
Now, take your pot with the holes and fill it about 1/3 of the way with your organic potting mix. Take your pre grown herb plant gently out of its existing pot. Do not pull it from the top, you may end up pulling the plant off altogether. Do not break the roots either or try very hard not to. We purchased a watermelon plant that was serverely over watered and when it was time to pull the plant out, the soil almost literally crumbled into our hands. This is common in big chain nurseries since it's mainly the associates watering them and may not know how much water is too much. Or just don't care. Best method is to try turning the plant upside down and wiggling it out. Next, place your plant into the new pot with the potting mix. Press the plant firmly in. Do not pack it in. The roots won't be able to grow and the soil will have a difficult time draining. Take some more of that same potting mix and pour it around the plant, almost to the top. Take your plant food, only a couple of tablespoons is needed (literally two) and mix into potting soil right on the top around the plant. There is no need to try to mix it all the way down. Right at the top is enough. Last but not least, pour your water in. Do not over soak the soil. This is cause for disaster before your plant even has a chance. Like the watermelon plant, when we got to this point, there was no need to even add the water. The soil was wet enough.
That's it!! Now you're finished!! Congratulations!! See how beautiful your herb garden has come out? You can now snip off the leaves and use them to cook with, garnish your plates with and make herb infused oils with. Even use them for medicinal purposes. Best of all, they are fresh, you made them yourself and you won't have to buy them (pretty much) again- besides the initial cost of the plant. They will regrow themselves again and again as long as you take care of and love it! It will love you right back!
Just a few more tips: Remember that little stick that came with it in the soil we said to keep? Yes you will need that. Not all plants need the same amount of lighting, shade and so forth. For example, we have a green onion plant that needs natural light all day, while our parsley plant needs just 6 hrs of sunlight. So these little instructions are vital. They also tell you how hot or cold it should be for your plant to thrive. Follow these instructions. They are there for a reason. After many years of trial and error of doing it on our own, more error and dead plants really, we finally complied to this little stick and our plants are growing beautifully and big.
Watering is essential, but does not have to be a burden. We were always over watering or under watering. Which ultimately killed the plants. So rule of thumb is this; stick your index finger into the soil, past the nail, if it is completely dry, water it. If it still feels like it has some moisture, leave it alone. One a week is acceptable. Remember, plants like their feet wet not their ankles. This depends however on where you live as well though. For instance, we are in Atlanta and it it's beyond hot in the summer so when the plants are outside, they become dry more quickly and will need to be sprinkled with some water just so they stay moist. This is not all the time, only when it's very necessary. We still try to keep it to once a week, so as to not over water. Also, the inside of our home is very dry. So the plants do tend to dry out a little faster inside as well. Again, just misting the plants leaves and top off the soil with a little water to keep it moist will help and will do until it's actually watering time. You do not want your plants to be thirsty, but you don't want to over water. This is where your trial and error will really come in to play. But you will be an awesome plant parent just by following these few extra steps!!
Keep following along because we will go into more depth about composting and starting a kitchen garden from seedlings. We will also make a video, so you can visually see how to get your kitchen garden up and running as well!! We hope this was a great start into helping you to become more self sufficeient. Sustainable living is the way to go!
Have any questions, comments, suggestions, stories or concerns? Sound off in the comments below!! We'd love to hear what everyone has to say!!!
As always, #ittakesavillage
Luck & Royalty