Contributed by Estelle Hayes
Nothing beats adding fresh herbs to home cooking. The distinct flavors of basil, thyme, rosemary and cilantro can transform a dish from good to great. And having those herbs on your back porch means you're more likely to punch up dinnertime with a healthy dose of green throughout the seasons.
This herb garden in a box is actually one of my favorite DIY gift ideas. It's great for a spring house warming party, and this year, I plan to surprise my daughter's preschool teachers with their own little edible gardens — as an end-of-year gift. I'll break down the quick, easy and affordable steps to creating your own herb garden in a box.
Tools and supplies
- One wooden wine crate (most specialty wine stores toss these on a weekly basis. Contact the manager in advance and ask if you can take a few of these gems off their hands free of charge).
- Electric hand drill
- Safety goggles
- Safety or garden gloves
- Organic potting soil
- Hand trowel
- Assorted herb seedlings from your local nursery.
NOTe^ It's best to avoid planting mint with any other plants as it's invasive and will eventually choke out its neighboring plants. I'm using French thyme, sage, dill and rosemary.
- Full sun and water
What you'll do
Depending on the size of your wooden box, you will want to drill several holes for proper drainage on the bottom. Herbs will generally thrive in a location that provides full sun throughout the day. They like a good soak of water in the mornings during the dry season and need good drainage. I drilled four small holes for each plant.
Fill the box with fresh, organic potting soil. It never hurts to add a bit of organic fertilizer to the soil at this point, but it's optional. Avoid using chemical fertilizers since you will be eating these plants. Leave about an inch of room from the top of the soil to the top of your box. Place your plants on top of the soil in the location where you plan to plant. This will give you an opportunity to visualize the spacing of the holes.
Dig a hole for each plant roughly twice the size of your plant (both width and depth) and gently remove the plant from its packaging. I usually loosen up the roots so they can easily start to make a home for themselves in the fresh soil. Situate each individual plant and fill in the holes with more fresh soil. Gently pat down the soil around the base of each plant and water well.
Start using your herbs right away. The more you clip from the plants the more the plant will be encouraged to force new growth. Add flat leaf parsley to salad dressings, fresh thyme to every single veggie you roast and basil to pastas and garlic breads. There is almost no meal (or cocktail!) that can't benefit from a healthy handful of herbs.
And if you find yourself overrun with herbs, clip a bouquet and mix them in with a floral centerpiece for added fragrance and texture — or share your bounty with the neighbors.
Estelle Hayes is a freelance writer, blogger and corporate communications specialist. Her blog, Pink Moon Daily is devoted to all aspects of natural beauty and healthy living. She is passionate about sharing organic recipes, gardening tips and tricks and nontoxic make up brands, as well as the best in sustainable and environmentally-friendly insights for a healthy home and family. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and young daughter.