Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them!)

Originally from The Skinny Gourmet

Image from The Skinny Gourmet

So you’re thinking of herb gardening, or maybe you tried it last year and it was an utter disaster? Have no fear. There are a few simple mistakes that many herb newbies make (and I know, because I made most of ’em myself). Master these simple and practical tips for herb gardening and you’ll be using your own fresh herbs like Mario Batali in no time.

Fresh herbs are one of the greatest ways to increase the taste of your food healthfully. I often toss whatever leafy herbs are hand liberally into a salad to add unexpected variations in flavor (basil, oregano and dill are all great choices). Fresh herbs can add punch to sauces or create intensely flavorful crusts for roasted meats. While fresh herbs are now regularly available at grocery stores year round, growing your own herbs is a great way to build mastery over your food. Growing herbs at home can be easy whether you live in a house in the suburbs or an apartment in the city.

Let it be known that I have the blackest of thumbs. I routinely kill houseplants and whether from too much love or too much neglect I never really know. Moreover, I live in a condo in Chicago, so I only have pots on my back fire escape as my city “garden.” In fact, I’ll argue that it is my black thumb that gives me the bona fides to give beginner gardeners tips, because I have figured out how to grow herbs and am painfully aware of every lesson I learned along the way.

It surprises me how often I bump into friends who are flummoxed about some aspect of herb gardening. And strangely, I feel there are few practical guides to growing herbs on the internet for someone just starting out. Most of the advice is geared towards high end gardeners who can make sense of soil PH and whatnot. When I was starting out, what I really needed was some sort of herb gardening for dummies. So here is my quick and practical advice for growing herbs for beginners.  Continue reading “Ten Mistakes New Herb Gardeners Make (and How to Avoid Them!)”

The Best Deal in Garden Seed Saving — Tomatoes! via @the_daily_green

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Enjoy fresh heirloom tomatoes year after year

Saving seeds sounds great at first -– who could argue with growing your own heirloom seeds instead of buying them? But when you take a look at what’s involved with saving things like squash and corn seeds you start seeing the beauty of capitalism. Even easy seeds like beans and lettuce require you to do your spring planting with fall seed harvest in mind.

But saving tomato seeds is different. Not only can beginning gardeners do it, people who don’t even HAVE gardens can do it, because the best tomatoes to eat are also the best source of seed.

It’s one stop shopping and how great is that? You can save the seeds from a single terrific tomato, no matter where you got it. In theory, at least, you could dig the seeds from a yummy tomato served in a restaurant and save THOSE. The seeds are simple to collect and process. And they last for years.

The only must-have is a tomato that is not a hybrid (read about why here), and that means we should all be very grateful that tomato names are now in style. Instead of “tomatoes,” pure and simple, the farmer — and increasingly the restaurant — offers Brandywines, Jetstars, Aunt Marie’s Marvels and who knows what-all. There are hundreds of possibilities. Doesn’t matter. As long as you know the name you can — bless Google — just look up “xyz seed. ” If it’s a hybrid that can’t be saved, “hybrid” will be part of the description.

heirloom tomatoes at farmers marketThe actual moral of this picture is do not get to the farmers’ market at 9:30 AM if official start time is 9:00.

I’m going to save seeds from a tomato –- a big fat wonderful tomato — I bought at the Rockland, Maine farmers’ market a couple of weeks ago. It’s called Hillbilly Potato Leaf, so I know that like many delicious heirlooms the plant will have broader, simpler leaves than common tomato plants.
Continue reading “The Best Deal in Garden Seed Saving — Tomatoes! via @the_daily_green”

The 10 easiest fruit and vegetables to grow via ‏@changebehaviour


Fancy creating your own supply of juicy fruits, crunchy vegetables and fresh salad greens? This selection of great foods sprout more-or-less like magic out of the ground—with the minimum of effort. Whether you’ve only a windowsill, garden or balcony, get planting today. Here are ten of the easiest fruit and veg you can grow, with step-by-step instructions from the experts at Garden Organic.


Lettuce, rocket and other crunchy leaves are easy to grow. Cut them and they keep coming back!

  • Super-easy to grow indoors all year around
  • Constant harvest – leaves can be picked over and again and they’ll grow back
  • Pick’n’ mix your favourite flavours, textures and varieties – peppery rocket, crunchy lettuce, exotic oriental saladini

 Complete growing directions

  1. You can grow salad all year inside. Try mixing different lettuces or adding rocket. Oriental varieties work best for winter use – sow in September and they’ll last you until March.
  2. Fill a seed tray with compost.
  3. Toss over about a quarter of a teaspoon of salad seeds.
  4. Cover with a sprinkling of compost, water it carefully and place it on a sunny windowsill.
  5. Don’t let it dry out.
  6. Hint: Try stretching cling film over the top of the tray to keep moisture in. Take it off as soon as seedlings start to appear.
  7. When the plants are about 3in tall you can start cutting them and they’ll keep growing back again and again.

Alternative method: you can grow salad in 12 inch pot or directly in the soil in your garden.


  1. The easiest way to tell if something needs watering is with your finger: poke it into the soil to test.
  2. If the soil is damp just under the surface, don’t water. If it is dry up to the first crease of your finger then you need to water.
  3. Seeds and seedlings need care when watering – use a fine-head watering can so you don’t over-water them.
  4. It is better to water well infrequently than to sprinkle a little every day.

Continue reading “The 10 easiest fruit and vegetables to grow via ‏@changebehaviour”