I love growing my own medicinal Herbs. I had so much fun growing beautiful purple Lavender for the first time this past Spring. The bees loved visiting my garden and my tomatoes, basil, sage, lavage, evening primrose, did great! I also had a wonderful bounty of cooking and medicinal herbs such as lemon balm, mint, rosemary, Cuban Oregano, nasturtiums, lambs ear, thyme, red clover, marshmallow, and a few more. It's a joy having access to my container garden. It's so easy to start an herb garden and grow into tomato plants and flowers and I am absolutely thrilled to share my journey with you. Maybe you'd like to start one? I will share where to buy seeds, how to get your soil started and how to choose your items for your container garden for very little investment. It's easier than you think!
The best place to start is with a container (of course!). I think you already knew that! You don't need anything fancy or expensive. You may go thrifty or you may decide to get fancy- either way you'll need to decide how much room you want to take up and what you will plan on growing. I recommend starting small and enjoying it from there. Start with herbs. Herbs are used in cooking and they can be used as medicine, so by growing herbs you are wise! Herbs grow quick and if you don't want to plant seeds you can grab starters from your local garden shop.
The size of your container is important because it takes up a little space. So make room for it. Here are some tips to consider.
1. Where do you want your plants to stay for the most part? Indoors? Outdoors? On a porch? Perhaps a garage with windows? Or will you need grow lights? Do you want them close by, or do you want them in a separate room? Where's the most sunny spot? My advice is start with natural light if possible. It's less expensive and easier to find a good spot where sun light already shines and it's less of a hassle. If you live in an apartment and do not have a porch or outdoor space that gets any sun- then grow lights are cheap. Your plants need light so that should help you narrow down your options. I bought grow bulbs for less than $5 each. You can use a wand type or single bulb- it's really up to you.
2. How much space to you have? Do you have an area you can dedicate to your new plant additions? Maybe you have a lot a space around a pool or backyard? Or perhaps you are in a tiny apartment with very little counter space. Do you want them on the floor or will they be up high on a desk or shelf? Make sure the traffic flow is clear and that way you and your house mates will enjoy your new plants. You'll want to think about how much counter or floor space you will designate to your new growing containers. Plants make beautiful décor so don't be afraid to be a little unconventional. A living room is a perfectly good spot so long as your room gets enough natural light.
TIP- You can buy a large container and grow multiple herbs in it or you can buy multiple containers and grow herbs or flowers etc., separately- the choice is yours. For containers I like thrift stores and The Dollar Store, or a local home goods hardware garden center for inexpensive containers, but you can also purchase grow bags and go full eco-friendly. Anything that holds dirt and has holes in the bottom will work. I drilled a few holes in an inexpensive Dollar Store planter pot container and grew tomatoes and it was perfect!
SOIL AND AMENDMENTS
Start simple and go from there. Your local nursery should have inexpensive potting soil. Any soil will do as long as it has the OMRI CERTIFICATION logo somewhere on the bag (usually on the bottom front corner or back). The OMRI Listed® seal assures the suitability of products for certified organic gardening production. It's my choice. You can choose regular soil if need be but it may have chemicals. Either way, just go buy some dirt! If you have access to free dirt then even better!
CONTAINER VS IN-GROUND GARDENING
Container gardening is different than in-ground gardening or many reasons. For one, when plants are growing in the wild or in the ground they get nutrients from the rain fall and surrounding plants and dirt but in a container garden you have to "feed your plant" nutrients every couple of months as it will eat up the nutrients in the soil and require fresh dirt (which has more nutrients than spent dirt). Sometimes people forget to add new nutrient rich dirt to their plants and wonder why the plants die. If you soil is "spent" then your plants will die. You will need to add fresh new dirt to your plants every few months so don't forget!
Watering needs of container plants and gardens. I can't tell you how many times I killed plants in my life from simply forgetting to add water. I remember when I first started buying plants. I would always be surprised at why they died. I had a black thumb. Then one day, I bought a plant from a guy and asked him how to keep it alive (knowing my track record) and he would yell "WATER IT!" Every-time I would ask him how I can care for my plants ( as I bought many from him) he would yell the same thing! "Just water them!" He was funny- and right! George was a biologist and he knew people overcomplicate things. I was forgetting to water them with my busy schedule. I didn't even know how long to water them for- and you may not either so, here's an easy tip...
Different plants have different watering needs. Instead of getting into too much detail, just check the soil daily. It's as easy as placing your finger beneath the top of the soil to check for moisture and dryness. If your soil is even slightly damp, do not water. If your soil is slightly dry to very dry, you need to add water. I keep a water catchment saucer under each plant and never allow water to pool in it. If you do the same you will learn how much water your plants need over time. Add just enough water to drain through your soil. In fact less is best. If you over fill and find water draining out try watering much less next time. If the leaves of your plant are wilting, then you need to add water. Listen to your plant because she will tell you everything you need to know.
You only need about a half cup of water a few time a week for a small to medium plant usually. If your leaves are turning yellow, you are over watering. Over watering is one of the most common ways to kill plants and is very easy to fix- just don't over water. Lastly, it's easy to read the watering needs / instruction that come with your plants and/or seeds. Doing a quick search on the internet is very easy and helpful too.
PROPER SOIL DRAINAGE & AMENDMENTS (NUTRIENTS)
Adding vermiculite and pearlite will help hold water in the soil and drain water more slowly. These are easy amendments that add nutrients and dirt-space especially if you are adding your own compost or making your own soil like I do (but it is not needed when you are first starting). However, if you do want to add soil nutrients and amendments, you may do so. Simply buy the above mentioned amendments for starters and blend into your soil sparingly. They will create breathing room for you soil and will also break down into nutrients over time.
Soil that's high in clay is hard to grow plants in because water and nutrients don't make it down into the plants roots without a little help. Your soil must have space and not be too compact. This can be achieved my adding amendments such as vermiculite, pearlite, and even a few stones or rocks. The opposite is also true.
Your soil needs to be able to hold water and nutrients in without draining too quickly. This is easily achieved by feeding your soil healthy nutrients or adding fresh potting soil and ensuring that the plants soil hasn't dried out over time. If your soil dries too quickly after watering, that's a good indicator that your plant is in need of fresh nutrient rich soil and, if your soil starts turning to a light brown after some months instead of the nice rich dark black brown you started with- then you need to add more fresh nutrient rich soil to your house plants. It's not hard once you look for the signs. Growing plants is a lot of fun as long as you remember these few tips, watering regularly and feeding new soil when needed.
I am a huge fan of heirloom seeds. However, here's a little fact that rarely anyone talks about (especially seed sites) and that is the AGE of seeds, growth rate, and yields. If your seeds are old, you may not get any growth or very little yields. So, read reviews on seed sites and go from there.
The reason I prefer heirlooms is that they will keep giving you seeds that will keep yielding seeds. GMO seed will not. After a few years they stop yielding seed. I don't know if this is to control food supply or keep you coming back or simply the issue with GMO and how they are unnaturally messed with but either way I think it's a crime. Seeds are life. Everyone should have access to being able to grow their own food. He who controls the seed- controls the food and then the people. Buy Heirlooms is my string advice.
I will share a few online places to get heirloom seeds from to grow a happy little garden. I personally had a good experience with Survival Seed Vault by My Patriot Supply and have heard great things about Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds. In fact I suggest you get their seed book called "The Whole Seed Catalogue." It's a beautiful magazine by Baker Creek and is a blast to look through and, if you really want to have some fun you can get special hybrids that are not GMO and beautiful! Always look for the latest reviews as company information and customer experience can change over time.
Once you have bought your containers, placed your soil inside, purchased seeds or bought starter plants, set up your light needs, whether window or porch or grow lights as needed and now you are ready to grow! It's that easy. The hardest part is planning and when you have made it past that stage it's really amazing to see new life sprout up! I hope this portion of your planning has been helpful! Now get growin!