Urban herb gardening season begins

I’ve been led to understand that gardening is a popular pastime in the United States, one to which people devote considerable time, care, labor, and craft. If you are such a person, then this post is not for you. This post is for people like me: lazy, brown-thumbed, a serial murderer of plant life, with no special talent or aptitude for gardening, and — perhaps most importantly — no plot of land to call my own.

Last summer I planted a bunch of herbs in pots and put them outside my apartment. Some of the planters went out back, on the fire escape. Two big terra cotta pots went out front, in the little patio area that Brooklyn dwellers refer to as a yard. I presided over my modest acreage with benign neglect, watering as my travel schedule allowed, but mostly relying the rain to do my work. Pots don’t require any weeding. I’m told that southern exposure is best for plants. My front yard faces east.

This set-up worked amazingly well. The mint ran wild. Chives thrived. The basil positively exploded, and also became something of a neighborhood conversation piece, because the smell traveled halfway up the block. I’d get interrupted by smiling admirers during pre-dinner harvests. People like plants.

It’s about time to get the garden going again. Basil is a Mediterranean plant (I think) — it likes hot sun, and so I need to wait before planting until roughly Mother’s Day to make sure that frost season is over.

chives.jpg

Chives are perennials, and they sprouted several weeks ago (see above). The thirty degree weather didn’t seem to bother them. The scraggly planter in front of the chives is full of mint, another perennial that should appear soon, as long as I do what I do best — ignore it entirely.

basil-pots.jpg

These are my basil pots. The one on the left also contains a small rosemary shrub that presently looks a little worse for the wear, but will hopefully perk up with the warmer weather.

Last year I also had some thyme, which I’m planning to plant again this year. I’m getting rid of the oregano. It grew like crazy, but I never wanted to eat it. In its place will go tarragon and sage.

Although I did eat my crop, I found the primary pleasure of growing the plants was stopping to admire their progress on the way home from work. Run your hand through a thicket of mint. The smell is unbelievable.

If you’re more ambitious than I am (not a hard thing to be), you can grow veggies like tomatoes and peppers in pots. The interweb, of course, offers a mountain of advice for aspiring urban gardeners. I’ll post more pictures as my patch progresses.

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  1. Garden Mad - April 7, 2009

    You can’t fool us gardeners – we can spot one of our own a mile off. Admit it, you have always wanted to grow potatoes on your fire escape and tomatoes in the kitchen. Keep going it is well worth it, and unlike humans given so little attention, they never snap back and argue.

  2. Adam Stein - April 7, 2009

    Ha! Maybe so, but my ambitions will have to wait until I have some more space. We’ve got two people in a one-room apartment!

  3. michael - April 8, 2009

    Adam,
    If you can find a large strawberry jar – a terracotta pot with elongated holes scattered symetrically about the side – you will be able to plant many types of plants in one pot.
    All of my poettery contain adible plants, but this one is the most versitile. Chives, sage and milk thistle on top, rosemary, english and lemon thyme and italian basil in the holes on the side…try to find a trailing type rosemary for this pot.
    Begin by filling the bottom of the pot with soil -cover the hole with a flatish rock – then plant each plant from the inside…generally even the smallish rootballs that come with herbs will not fit from the outside in…else you will ruin the root mass.
    Use Osmocote Plus Plant, Pot & Indoor slow release fertilizer and you are set! This one is formulated for these types of plants.
    Watering this type of pot takes a little patience since the water must be added slowly to avoid washing out soil from the top holes.
    Turn the pot once or twice a week to give all of the plants some direct sun exposure.
    All except the rosemary and Italian basil will come back the next season.

  4. michael - April 8, 2009

    …one more thought…best to top the soil with small native rocks/pebbles. These will keep disease off off mildew sensitive plants like sage, and, help to mediate day to night temp changes. These plants love heat!

  5. Garden Mad - April 8, 2009

    What a brilliant idea Michael! I have two strawberry planters that have nothing in them except weeds but now I plan to replant with salad leaves in the top and herbs in the side holes. I solve the watering problem by putting a large, hole punched, plastic drinks bottle in the middle as I fill the pot. You them pout water into the bottle and it slowly seeps through to the soil at the different levels. They do fine on a patio!

  6. michael - April 8, 2009

    That’s a great way to water…I should have thought about that! That will consume some root mass area and long term may become clogged by root mass, but an ingenious idea!!!

  7. Glen Burnie landscaping - August 27, 2009

    Even if i love my garden, i ave no time for gardering. I wish i could plant flowers there, with my own hands… but i can’t. That’s why every year, during that season, I am hiering a local Glen Burnie landscaping contractor. They are doing a wonderful job!

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