Boxed herb-garden – a step by step guide with tips

One of the smartest things I did last year was build myself a herb-garden. I thought that if I had plenty of herb easily available at all times I would use more. And I was right. I have been dreaming lately of small vegetable or kitchen garden, but I can’t keep anything alive inside, so I’ve assumed that nothing will live any longer outside. The herb-garden has now, a year later, proved me wrong. The herbs are thriving! And, best of all, they require little to no maintenance. Survival of the fittest is what rules my garden and only the strongest survive.

I wanted to go organic with this, and googled about a bit. Apparently, building a box needs a little more thought than pick a few planks and nail them together, or at least if you want to get picky, like I did. So I found a producer of planks that are not full of all things yucky that will transfer to the soils, the roots, the plants, and to us. I ended up with decking boards(planks) from the Finnish producer Lunawood. Ask around where you are and I’m sure you’ll find something similar to lunawood (maybe with a less cool name).

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I had the planks cut in lengths of 120 cm and 50 cm and simple made a box with them. In each corner I had a small 2×2 (I would think) to support the corners and stabilise the box. And after being told so by Husband dearest I used screws instead of nails. I have no idea why I did this, except that I was told. I did do everything myself though! Yes, I’m a little proud of that. It’s been years since I last used a saw.

I talked to someone from a local garden centre concerning the soil. I had no clue what to get, but I wanted something low maintenance, organic (or as close as I could get) and healthy. Apparently the soil you buy in bags vary dramatically in quality. I bought by the bucket (which meant I actually had to bring my own buckets) rather than the bags. And also some cow manure. It’s supposed to be the shit!

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After placing the boxes where I wanted them I started with a layer of newspapers. This is to make sure what’s underneath the box doesn’t compete with what you want inside the box. Then I added a layer of stones, and here I just took what I had. It’s for better drainage, but it’s not very important unless your boxes are placed on solid rock as the soil underneath will help drain excess water. I have a thin layer, for Justin (Case). Then I added a layer of soil mixed with the manure, about 2 thirds soil and one third manure. Loads of good food for the herbs!

For the herbs I wanted something that I use, and perennial plants, so that they will surprise me with their return every year. I chose rosemary, oregano, thyme, parsley, chives and mint. All good choices, except for the mint. When they all came back this year, the mind had spread through the entire box! It’s the only work I’ve done relating to the box this year, but I had to dig it out, find all little strings of root and try to get rid of the entire plant. The mint killed the chive, so that is new this year. The mint was replaced with lemon balm. I bough organic herbs from the shop, drenched their roots in water before I planted them in the box. No magic formula or ancient dance ritual. It worked.

I was a little disappointed with the herbs in April when they first came back. But logically they don’t come back full size. Now they’re perfect! Please, if you consider it, give it a go! I haven’t pulled weeds, I haven’t done anything this year except to eat and kill of the evil mint. It’s fun, and I did it, so you can too!

 

 

Spring is here!

Spring has arrived! The temperature has now reached a two digit number, the days are longer, the leaves are popping out and the world is slowly and carefully coming back to life. We has just returned from a short trip to London, which was fabulous, and life is good! To complain a bit: I could do with a better immune system, and I’m behind on work because of lack of energy and oh-too-many days spent under the duvet due to various flu-like viruses. But time will take care of it all and I should soon be back on my feet.

While still only longing for spring, after seeing but a few, discrete signs that winter was letting go, Son and I decided to kick-start spring inside. A few empty milk and juice cartons were remodelled slightly to serve as beds for newborn herbs.

After only a few days green sprouts dotted the black soil, and already before they had reached a centimetre in height, the herbs already gave off a delicate scent and a promise of what’s to come. Son has been tenderly watering and checking on his plants every day and is very excited to observe their development. 

Cheating…

My poor thyme that I mentioned here did not survive the hardship of my inattentive tending. I kindly planted the herbs outside, but after a period of draught in my kitchen window, a period of immense rain and drowning of the plants did not improve their quality (the drowning was involuntary on my part, as the weather gods of our city didn’t eitherapprove of me leaving the area, and thus wanted the rest of the inhabitants to pay for this, and then also my poor herbs).

I have now cheated and bought lemon balm and basil from the supermarket. As you can see though, the rest of my herbs are thriving (except the indian cress which, although vibrant and alive won’t come up with any flowers…). I should cut them down now and make them ready for winter. But summer doesn’t really seem to have started here yet, so I’ll give them another month or so before I look at them again. They are left to the forces of nature, survival of the fittest will be their motto, and only those with good survival instincts will survive. Wish them luck.

 

(the three pots that constitute) My Herb Garden

After a year of packing my daily schedule to the brim of what’s possible I now find myself with quite a lot of time on my hands. My bones ache and I definitely need the time off. My head won’t let me relax completely though. I’m going Martha Stewart on the house and find myself constantly planning and starting minor projects.

The kitchen project, which I wrote about here, was started many months ago. Now it is nearly done, but due to a certain’s warehouse inability to read my mind and automatically know what I want and when I want it, a few things are missing and the photos thus have to wait. The colour, I can inform you, is white.

My herb project started last year. I planted a few herbs, killed most of them by ignoring them while on holiday, and let the rest to fend for themselves. The plants in my house, and also those outside that are not part of Husband’s well tended garden, are sturdy plants. They have to be or they’d never survive. In the explanation of a person with green fingers, I’d be the antonym, the exact opposite. But, the plants that I do manage to grow can survive anything. I grew chives and oregano last year, but left them outside through one of the worst winters I can remember, still, both came back this year. The pot they were planted in did not survive though…

The chive and oregano that can withstand anything

I planted some more herbs this spring. But many died while I was working on the last part of my thesis and my husband was at work. The few that survived was tested again when Son and I went to Denmark. Two survived when I came back, a small, but not weak, thime and some indian cress. I think both will survive, but never grow as strong and sturdy as they would have been in anyone else’s garden.

A fighting thyme

I won’t spend as much time at work this year so my wee herb garden will have increased by this time next year. I hope the strong, green, little, miracles will still be with us then. (The indian cress however will not survive, it only lives for one season and I have no plans of trying to achieve the impossible!)