Food Friday: Herb Garden

So the weather has been getting me down. I look out at my yard and it is covered in mounds of deep snow. I long for spring, for sunny days, for greenery.

Meanwhile, I continue to think about my food footprint, the garbage it makes, the food miles it travels. I have come to the conclusion that I have to start growing some of my own food. At first I considered a few tomato plants, perhaps a pepper for fun. We already have raspberries and chives. That should be good for my first foray, no?

Then I found Gavin, who is growing a crop in his urban Australian yard, as well as Little Eco Footprints and Eat at Dixiebelles. These are all Australians who grow lots of food, right in their own backyards. Some of them call themselves urban homesteaders, a term that refers to being self-sufficient in the city. So they grow food their own food, they preserve it, and they walk lightly upon the Earth. I admire what they are doing and the efforts they are making. I covet their pretty veggies.

But can I really do it here, this when it is cold 7 months out of the year? Well yes I can, it turns out. Look at An Avenue Homesteader and Kevin Kossowan. They are doing it too, and both live in the same city as me. Wow.

But what about my small yard? My backyard is as big as a postage stamp, literally. We have lots of patio and not much grass. My front is large but faces north. I have room on each side of the house, but those areas are shady. Where am I going to put all these dreamy vegetables?

Well I am not discouraged yet. Look was the Urban Organic Gardener did, with only a balcony? Look at what you can do with square foot gardening. I do have space; I just have to rethink it.

My plan is to figure out a plan, well before spring arrives. This involves figuring out what food will grow here, what will grow for me in my conditions, and what food I want to be able to preserve and can for use next winter. I decided to work backwards on the idea – I am currently reading books on canning and preserving. What is even possible?

In the meantime I have gotten a quick fix for my longing for greenery and home grown food. I have set up an herb window garden! I purchased plants of basil, rosemary, sage, oregano and parsley, for prices less than a small serving of fresh herbs at the grocery store ($2 each). I also saw an aloe plant and a lavender plant, so I threw those into the mix as well, as they might prove useful later on in the homemade cosmetics department.

Instead of purchasing a nice new set of nice new pots for my nice new plants, I braved the deep snow and broke into our shed. I had never been in the shed in the winter before. It was weird, being so high up on the snow and stepping down into it. I rummaged around and found a bounty of pots, soil (frozen solid) and peatmoss. I put these things in our back entry over night until they thawed and then got to work.

I decided to try some self-watering containers, inspired by Michael Leiberman of the Urban Organic Gardener. The idea is that you have a pot that has a cotton wick threaded through the soil and out the bottom. You place this in another, bigger pot. You water the bigger pot and the wick transfers water up to the plant, as it needs it. I improvised with containers and things I had around the house. I cut up an old t-shirt for the cotton.

Here are my pots, ready for soil. Some have rocks at the bottom for drainage, and some will use the wicking method with two containers.

Here is what they looked like once I was done:

I really wanted to put them in the windows to maximize sunlight, but I figured if I did that they would die. It is just way to cold. So I set up a little table for them in the sunniest part of my kitchen. A few days went by and I realized that they just were not getting enough light. The sun actually never even shines into the room, as it is too low in the sky. Plus we only get about 8 hours of sunlight per day right now. I could not let my first little food plants die! So I got them a special compact fluorescent plant light bulb, just to get us over this hump. I put it into an old lamp I found in storage in the basement and brought up an old mirror to further reflect the light. Here is what they look like now:

My son is so interested in the plants, he likes to water them and smell them and even eat a little of their flavourful greens. I used some basil last night, along with cherry tomatoes from the farmer’s market and mozzarella cheese, all drizzled with balsamic vinegar and local canola oil. It made a pretty little dish that was very tasty. Also – sometimes when I walk into my kitchen it smells like an Italian pizza. Nope, no pizza, just naturally growing herbs…

My little indoor garden should tide me over until the big work begins. Bring on Spring!

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7 thoughts on “Food Friday: Herb Garden

  1. Will you help me in the spring? I have similar aspirations, but have never planted or successfully grown anything in my life. Even houseplants Mom promised were hardy have dried up and died.

      • My backyard is not huge, and there will be at least one dog (our downstairs tenants) if not two dogs (one of which would be ours) who will still need the space to play around in, so I’m interested in the square foot method. Will you be planting from seed?

  2. Basil is up to about 6 inches tall, made me feel so good that today I’m planting Rosemary and Oregano. I always plant from seed, cost less and theres something special about seeing your tiny seeds pooping up all green in a pot full of my home made compost. Its still about 90 day until our last frost so they will have to work over time to keep me happy until spring has sprung in my neck of the woods.
    Happy gardening

  3. @Deannamay – I am going to try to grow from seed for some… I just got about 5 gardening books out from the library, so I am learning what is best to grow from seed indoors, and what is best to plant seed in the ground outside. I probably will just buy tomato plants. I am also thinking of a fruit tree of some sort, but don’t know where to put it. I also discovered last night that the cherry’s I have on my Nanking cherry bush are totally edible and good for jams and WINE! Who knew?

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