Planting your own vegetables and herbs can be so rewarding – both happy and money wise! It’s a fantastic way to make a positive contribution to ye olde mother earth, and get back in touch with your rootsy side. Too many people have started to lose touch with not only where food comes from, but how. You can trust me when I say that the veges, fruits or herbs you grow yourself will ALWAYS taste better than anything else – not just because they’ll be fresh, but because you’ll have a full appreciation of how it got to your dinner plate.
Baby Basil on my windowsill
Anyway, enough rhapsodising – what I really wanted to do was post a quick guide on planting your own herbs, cheaply as possible, because now is a great time to start sowing seeds (yay Spring!).
Herbs can be expensive, and fresh herbs even more so. However, here are some really cheap ways in which you can skimp on both effort and dollars:
1. Get fresh herbs in the soil punnets (usually available at your supermarket or Greengrocers, I used SuperbHerb for basil and spring onions), take them out of their tiny pottles, and separate them very carefully (trying not to break roots). Replant these into the ground slightly apart, or in an ice cream container to put on your windowsill. These will grow bigger (giving you more herb for your dollar) and eventually flower and go to seed. Once they do, you can harvest the seeds and you will have herbs for life!
2. Once you have seeds, you can replant them in seed trays (as pictured) or re-use the pottles you once had. Yoghurt pottles and ice cream containers provide great, movable and (pretty much free) seedling pots, just poke some holes in th bottom (on the corners and edges is best). You can use takeaway boxes underneath them as a water tray. It’s always good to have a water tray and keep your plants moist by refilling the tray rather than sloshing them with water, because then the nutrients from the soil don’t get flushed out. Water daily, particularly at night (on sunny days the water will mostly evaporate, meaning several trips to water them).
3. To save on potting mix when you’re planting your seedlings (it’s good to use a loose, dark potting mix to plant your seeds in), try mixing some soil from around the garden in, or fill the bottom with soil and the top with potting mix.
4. Plant your seeds in pots or pottles that will fit on your windowsill, and keep them on the sunniest north-facing windowsill in your house until they’re about 3cm tall, especially during early spring.
I’m no expert on veges, but here are some tips that will save you a bit of money:
1. Sow vege seeds just like you would herbs, and move out when about 3cm. This way you’ll get more out of your seeds as they’ll grow faster, and won’t be so exposed to cold, birds, and other elements. You’ll also remember to water them if they’re inside!
2. Supermarket fertisliers can be nasty and expensive. Use your kitchen scraps (minus meat and onion skins) on your garden (not during seedling stage) by digging holes around your plants and smushing them in – cutting them up into little pieces using a sharp small hand trowel.
one several plants to go to seed so you don’t need to buy seeds again the following year. EDIT: Leaving more than one to go to seed will ensure genetic diversity and better plants (thanks Stuart for this tip!) To get seeds initially, why not share seeds with another flat or the family?
Finally – enjoy yourself! It’s always exciting seeing your seedlings grow, and always really fulfilling watching them grow to adulthood (when you can finally devour them!). If you’re a little scared of planting your own, I strongly suggest you try visiting the Okeover Community Garden at UC (I’ll add a link to the Sustainability section soon). Not only will you get a first hand experience working in a garden that is already set up and running, you’ll get your share of the veges harvested that day! It’s a really fantastic way to finish the working week – 2pm-5pm Fridays, off Engineering Rd (follow the Cleaning Services Sign). Sometimes things get started more around 3pm, so if it’s your first time, you can probably show up around then.