Archive for January, 2010

Herbs for Inside

Saturday, January 30th, 2010

Starting Herbs at Home

Last week we looked at window planters for herbs, now let’s talk about getting your herbs started. Yes it’s January, and there is no way we will be starting these outside. Most of us have been led to believe that in order to start herb seeds, you need fancy equipment and lots of time. While it’s true that when growing plants from seed professionally, having lights, multiple flats with cells, special soils and maybe even warming pads work wonders, the truth is that before commercial sprouting of seeds, folks started their own seeds in their homes for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years and we can too.

Get the pot or planter you selected (because you read last week’s blurb on planters and went out and bought some that will fit on your window) and put some stones in the bottom for drainage, put a little fabric over the stones, and add some moistened commercial seed starting mix-ha ha small joke, not so easy to get that. Make your own by mixing 50% peat moss with 50% potting mix and fill your pots/planters with this stopping one half inch to one inch from the top of the pot.

Next, sprinkle your seeds lightly over the soil. For a 4”- 6” pot, you can sprinkle 3-6 seeds just to give you an idea of distribution. If you use less you run the risk of failed germination, more will give you a whole lot of sprouts, which is the lesser of two evils really. Cover the seeds with maybe an eighth of an inch of soil mix. Press the mix down with your fingers, and gently water or even spritz with water (you don’t want to drown the soil and have the seeds float to the top).

Take some saran wrap or similar product and cover the pot over. Seal it by putting a rubber band around the pot to hold the plastic wrap down. Next, set the containers in a sink filled with 2 inches of water until beads of moisture appear on the soil surface or until you are sure the soil is good and soaked. If a self watering pot, fill the well to capacity. Put the pot in a saucer if you did not get a self watering pot, and water the plant daily by filling the saucer with water or less often if there is still water in the saucer the next day. Seeds need moisture to germinate!.

Make sure you have the pot in a nice south facing window, or at least one that gets a few hours of sunlight a day, as the seeds sprout, they will look for light and you will want to cut back on the water somewhat. Probably you will want to water half as often, but this really is determined by how fast the soil dries, more soil can wait longer, less will need more frequent watering. When the seedlings touch the plastic, remove it. When the seedlings reach 2 inches tall, thin those started in small pots to one seedling per pot, or one seedling for every 2”-3” if a larger pot, by snipping off all but the strongest-looking seedlings.

For more on herbs and related links, follow our fan page on facebook: to Germinate

Pots & Planters for Indoor Herbs

Monday, January 25th, 2010

Growing Herb Indoors: Pot Selection

Picking up where we left of last week, its 54 degrees today as I write this column. However, by the time you read it, it will be closer to 36 and any hopes of gardening this week will be dashed on the jagged rocks of winter despair.  A centuries old practice that sees an increasing revival as people epicurean adventures expand, and pocket books remain watched, it growing herbs indoors.

Growing herbs indoors will add a little green to your home and fresh herbs that you can harvest in a pinch. These can be grown in any sunny window, but most folks prefer the kitchen for ease of access.  Some say the sky is the limit when choosing containers for your herb garden but certainly not if it’s going to  be your window sill. Other limits are pots that are food safe. Some glossy colored pots may not be food safe as they may contain lead based coloring. Of course you can use plastic pots, or terracotta is excellent as it breathes.

We have a couple of 4” x 8”  wide terracotta rectangular planters that fit perfectly on the window sill over the sink and when in use have housed beans and grass sprouted by our industrious little herd. The problem with ours is drainage, they don’t have proper saucers, but the window box format allows more soil for rooting as opposed to individual round pots which though sweet, do dry out faster and can limit plant development. There are some great lines of self watering fiberglass planters on the market that can be ordered in custom lengths available through Brookstone ( and Flower Window Boxes (

Of course if you forgo the window sill experience and  have a nice large bay window you can put some full sized pots in, your yields will be much higher and there will be a lot more room for variety. We will be posting more information on herb gardening on our facebook fan page. Search Greener by Design and on facebook and become a fan for ongoing updates on this topic. In fact there is an interesting link to a video on hydroponic window gardening made easy up there from last week.


Dreams of Spring: Vegetable Garden

Tuesday, January 19th, 2010

Veggies and Small Spaces


It’s particularly warm this week which generally inspires a little spring dreaming. Of course we will be back to ice and snow soon enough, it is only January after all, but in the mean time, let’s roll with it a little. I have wanted a vegetable garden forever. Ai remember one year in Brooklyn, growing tomatoes on my roof. I neglected them somewhat but at the end of the summer I had some amazing tasting tomatoes and of course more than I could eat all at once. Being a single guy, I made tomato sauce and it was incredible! Of course it would have been better if I had peeled the tomatoes first, live and learn.

So I have been researching small vegetable gardens and came across an article on the gardener’s supply website : The whole article is a clever ad with links to gardener’s supply products throughout, but fortunately it’s a great little piece and deals with issues we in the ‘burbs come across all the time.

First is the vertical issue, many of us have small spaces, due to the size of our property, or just difficulty in finding un-shaded space. One tool for growing veggies more vertical is a product they call the “vegetable ladder” this also doubles as the tomato ladder by the way, a three post triangular upright with cross pieces that support foliage and veggies that is really quite simple and clever.

They also note that sub-urban and even urban gardens can be shared with locals like raccoons, skunks, and bunnies and recommend fencing them in. Really aggressive bunnies need buried fencing, but friends who grow veggies in Pelham tell me we don’t have any that hungry…yet. Another recommendation is some kind of weed barrier to reduce weeding, always an excellent recommendation. These can be U-pinned to the soil and mulched over to help hold the mmat down and reduce evaporation.

Studies show that raised beds are more conducive to vegetable production as they tend to be warmer, better aerated, and provide better drainage as well. So if you’re interested in a small plot, even 8’ x 8’, you will want to pick a relatively sunny spot that you can tend regularly. For more information on vegetable gardening, go to the greener by design fan page on facebook. We will be posting links to videos and articles for the next week or two. Just put “greener by design” in your facebook search box and it should come up.