Hi everyone! This week, The Dirt continues right along with best practice tips & tricks for potting herbs indoors. Planting season is already winding down, meaning there’s only a few more weeks to get healthy herbs nicely established. The great part about indoor gardens though is the year long growth. So no more procrastinating! Lay down your cardboard, grab your basic tools (If you’re new to the series, check out the ‘Essential Tools for Beginners‘ post), and let’s get dirty 😉
Transplanting Steps & Giving Them the Good Stuff
At the risk of speaking ad nauseam about the importance of using good potting soil & pots with drainage, do it. Because potted herbs are confined to one space, they’re growing environments need a bit more attention. Each plant has its own light, soil, water, fertilizer, and even air flow requirements. For beginners, I highly suggest starting with 1-2 herbs, really learning their needs, and then growing your plant family.
Tiny House Hunters
1| Give them the home they’ve always wanted. Researching rooting requirements for each herb beforehand will help you choose the best pot style and keep your babies happy & healthy. Some have deep root systems (like thyme) while others like confined root balls (like lavender) so their potting needs will vary. Line the bottom of the selected pot with gravel or stones for extra drainage. Layer with enough soil over the gravel so when placed on top, the base of your herb lines up with the lip of the pot.
I’ve found that giving the herbs a light watering before repotting helps get them out of the plastic pots and decreases transplant shock. After watering, slowly upturn the carrier pot while grabbing the stem at the base. Gently shake & pull.
2| Loosen up the root mass to promote root growth in the new pot by massaging your fingers up through the bass. If you discover unhealthy roots, you can trim them with clean shears. Herbs are pretty resilient as long as the main roots & leaves are intact.
Tuck Them In
3| Just like you padded the space underneath the herb with dirt in step 1, you’ll need to surround the herb on all sides with more soil. Kinda like a dirt blanket. Don’t worry about packing it in tightly. If there is enough dirt to support the herb while watering, you’re in the sweet spot.
Potmates & Maintenance Overview
4| If you’re planting indoors, you might also be dealing with a small space. You can cut down on the number of pots you need by co-planting. Basically, this means you can group plants together with similar soil, light, & watering requirements.
If I scared you about over/underwatering, a good rule of thumb is to water once the top inch of soil is dried out until you develop your own schedule. On especially hot weeks, a daily misting can help tide herbs over until the next good soak.
Besides water, potted herbs don’t have a way of finding their own nutrients. Fertilize with a quarter strength liquid fertilizer every other week (unless it is a flowering herb, like lavender).
With the fertilizer your herbs will grow rapidly. They’ll need consistent pruning to be kept bushy. To harvest most herbs, pinch off leave in pairs directly at the stem making sure to always leave new nodes. Go for the big leaves first. They use up more of the plant’s energy that will keep it from growing more leaves.
That does it for this week! The Dirt will be temporarily on hold as ctrl + curate gears up for ‘Back to School’ posts. Let me know if you have any questions, and tag your plant pics with #plantscurated so I can see!
Part of the appeal of apartment gardening to me was all the pretty accessories. Copper clipping shears on top of kraft paper with carefully chosen watering cans as cozy backdrops. While I still love those things, I’ve learned that plants do. not. care. They will grow much better if you pay more attention to the soil than what your putting the soil in (I feel a life lesson in here).
So, what do you need to start your apartment gardening dreams? Let’s start with the basics and build from there. You’ll need:
Did you know there are more types of soil and soil mixes than Jeni’s ice cream flavors? You don’t have to be paralyzed by information overload though. Because this series is focusing on apartment herb gardening, you can use normal potting soil for most indoor, potted herbs. Some of the Mediterranean herbs, like Rosemary & Sage, will need sandier soil. I like using Herb Gardening’s articles to learn soil requirements.
Do not swap out for garden soil or with dirt from outside! Potting soil is much lighter and mixed to promote water control in potted plants. This is especially important to prevent root rot down the line. Using any old dirt from outside can introduce diseases that will make quick work out of your baby transplants or seeds.
For my first lemon balm I tried being creative and using a glass bowl as a planter. Lemon balm needs to be kept moist and the glass element rounded out my planting shelf. Well, moist doesn’t mean wet, and wet roots does mean dead plant. I learned that any planter without drainage holes is not suited for healthy plant growth. Even that mid-century modern planter on sale from West Elm that’s been in your cart for months. It won’t look as cute with a dead plant anyways.
What should you be using? Look for ones with good drainage that are deep enough for root growth. Terracotta is an exceptionally popular choice because the clay breathes and helps with moisture control. The minimum size you should get for starter plants is one you can comfortably fit the starter in with extra soil on all sides. If you go with pots, make sure to get the draining dishes for underneath to protect wherever you set up your garden from water.
I didn’t forget this is an apartment gardening series! Maybe you live in a carpeted studio with no vacuum or a 6th story flat with no access to an outdoor space. Cardboard will be your friend. Use a shallow, cardboard box or flat sheet as a gardening work space to easily trash extra dirt all at once, no sweeping required!
Another easily overlooked tool that helps tremendously with indoor gardening are towels. Use them to carry plant babies to and from the sink for a deep watering and as a cute alternative to drainage dishes. For my plants that don’t need a lot of water, I like using the striped towel to add some color and texture to the plant shelf.
For deep waterings, you’ll most likely water in your sink to prevent water overflow around the house. Instead of a watering can, I use a spray bottle for dry day mistings. I’ve found that overwatering is very easy with big watering cans, and you can’t directly get to the base soil. Most edible plants & succulents really don’t like their leaves getting wet.
Last but not least! A log isn’t really a necessity, but it’s still helpful. Each plant comes with their own water, soil, & lighting needs, and growing more than a few babies can be hard to keep track of. Right now I use a small journal, but I saw Steph’s (from Make & Tell) outdoor garden planner and was inspired to start creating a printable one for indoor herb growing. Hope to have that up by next week, so keep coming back!
Hope you got all the dirt you need to get your own beginner gardening tools. Got any questions/comments? Leave them below! There’s still a lot I’m learning and I’d love to hear from you guys too. See you next week!
Hey everyone! That hiatus took a bit longer than expected. New laptop all set up, completely moved into the new place, and settled in at the new job. Phew! Now it’s solidly into summer and I can dive right into the series I’ve been most excited about bringing you guys: Apartment Gardening.
I’m sure you’ve seen all the gorgeous windowsill setups, modern plant stand diy’s, and adorable pots all over Pinterest. And when there’s so many, it gives you a sense of ‘If everyone can, I can’ right? Well, turns out gardening, especially indoors, is not as easy as picking out swoon worthy planters & popping in any plant. Some poor plants *might* have been sacrificed to the learning curves of this series.
Let’s all learn from my mistakes shall we? I’ll be dishing The Dirt on what I’ve learned and walk you through setting up a real, functional, indoor garden.
What’s to come?:
Find out what tools you really need
How to choosing the right pot
Harvest, Prune, & Propagate
And we won’t just leaf it there, we’ll through in some diy’s and bring the herbs into the kitchen for cocktails, teas, butters & salts! So put down some roots and get cozy. Lots more to come!