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Apr 19, 2009 08:01 AM

Black thumb, but want to grow herbs

I truly think I was cursed with a black thumb. I can't keep cut flowers or plants alive. But, I'm fed up with purchasing small bundles of herbs and I want to try to grow my own.

I was thinking to grow several small pots of basil, rosemary, mint, and thyme. The problem is I have literally no outdoor space. The pots can go on a table in my living room (lots of sun) or on the table in my kitchen (very little sun).

Any helpful hints? What grows best? Should I buy seeds or tiny plants? Where should I put them? I really want to get this right!

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  1. I keep thyme and rosemary going all year in a south-facing window. I generally buy small plants at our farmers' market. i plant most other herbs outside -- they don't take up much room. The only troublesome ones are chervil and cilantro: they tend to bolt as soon as it gets really hot.

    1 Reply
    1. re: pikawicca

      Would the other herbs work inside? I have a teeny porch outside and the herbs won't fit.

    2. Cheesecake, I feel your pain, and share it! For me, gardening is largely a spectator sport. The best I've ever done with herbs is when I bought a wide planter dish of pre-planted herbs at the nursery. Most of them had similar light and watering needs; one or two didn't survive long. A single planter or strawberry pot of herbs would look nicer on your living room table than a collection of individual pots, unless you have identical ones lined up single file on a long, narrow, pebble-lined tray. Horticulturally-impaired as we both are, I'd avoid seeds as just one more opportunity to fail; seedlings cost more but at least you know they have a chance at survival.

      3 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        My mom has a tray like the one you're describing with matching pots. I was thinking to plant the herbs in that. My grandma is a great gardener- herbs, flowers, vegetables- I guess I didn't inherit my gardening skills from her!

        Are you going to try herbs again this year? Would love to know how it works out for you..

        1. re: cheesecake17

          There's a local nursery that will, for a fee, pot up a customer's choice of seedlings and I am thinking of having that done. In this way the plants would be properly-handled and least stressed. I can keep them on a covered porch that gets afternoon sun but I think my worst failings are in the area of either over or under-watering, so I can easily kill them off even if everything else has been done right.

          1. re: cheesecake17

            Herbs generally like a soil that drains very well. Basils, chives, mints and dills can take a denser soil, but sages, rosemary, thyme, tarragon like loose soil and lots of warmth and sunshine. Water thoroughly but let drain thoroughly; don't keep their feet wet. I like to use a very diluted plant food every-other watering to avoid fertiziler burn. Keep them in that sunny window, and don't be afraid to snip frequently.

        2. Before I had space to grow outdoors growing in pots was my only option too. The herbs you've mentioned all have different needs - rosemary & thyme need less water but 6-8 hours of sun per day. Basil - a bit more water, but the same amount of sun. Mint - needs a bit more water, and can get away with less sun, say 6 hours. One of the biggest reasons they will fail when grown in pots is lack of light and overwatering. They also need regular (montthly) feeding while they are growing.

          Having said that, I would give it a go if I were you. A decent bunch of basil costs $3+ around here and I can get a basil seedling for less than that at the local farmers market or supermarket so even if the plant dies after a month the outlay is the much the same.

          Another option is the Aerogarden. I don't know how good they are but it could be worthwhile investigating. They have an outlet store on their website with deep discounts.

          1. I'm in a similar boat, starting my fist herb container garden this year. I've already made one mistake (bought potting soil with fertilizer-- though it is at least organic?) but hopefully that won't totally destroy my babies (peppermint, Greek oregano and sage from seedlings; cinnamon basil from seed; one tomato plant and orange thyme on their way).

            My concern is light. I know I need to supplement, I think I'm only getting about 3-4 hours of good sun in my sunniest window (they can't go outside because yard is not ours and the porch is all shade). If I pick up some supplemental light, how much would you say I should get? Is any full-spectrum bulb ok or should I look for a particular "thing"?

            Also: I have them all in their own 8" pot right now which seems a little excessive to me but the planting instructions said that they need space, so. Does anyone have a recommendation on what I might be able to combine to save space?

            And how evil is that fertilizer? Should I buy new non-fertilized soil for the tomato and thyme?

            Sorry for all the questions, hope it's ok to post them in this thread.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Manybears

              There are organic fertilizers, so it the potting soil was marketed as "organic," the fertilizer that is in it should also be organic.
              A common misconception is that all fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides are bad and forbidden. Not so.
              There are many approved, organic versions of these now on the retail market and they should be available at a good garden center. I've used some of them for a few years, and now even the big companies like Ortho and Scott's are getting into the action in response to consumer demand. They're even making organic lawn chemicals because many homeowner associations have banned the non-organic versions.
              How's that for progress?
              Organic produce can be grown with approved fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides so have no fear.

              The bigger problem is growing tomatoes indoors. I don't know anyone who has done that successfully without a greenhouse.
              Tomatoes are a hot weather crop and need temperature hotter than you are likely to want to maintain your home.
              The plants also grow really big - like 4 feet or more. And they need strong sunlight for at least eight hours a day or more. Repeat: strong sunlight.
              I don't want to be discouraging and you have the tomato plant so give it a try and see how it works. Give it its own pot because it will need much more water than any of the herbs which like much drier soil.
              Gardening is one grand experiment and we learn from every effort. Go for it.

              1. re: MakingSense

                Thank you so much for the encouragement and the good advice. I may be able to sneak the tomato onto the roof without too much trouble (well, before it gets big anyway!) so hopefully I'll be able to keep it in its sunny comfort zone that way. It will be an experiment for sure! Thanks again.