First of all, let me introduce myself. My name is Bo (well really it’s Howard, but we can save that for another day) and I am a native Rockaway beach bum. I have been surfing since the age of 13 and have not wanted to be indoors since I started. The winter months are always hard for me and the second the trees start to bloom again, I bolt outside for any activity I can get my hands on.
One of my favorite things to do besides surf, is gardening. Yes, I’m a gardening surfer. I also love to eat- so that really works out for me (especially because my wife cooks pretty well). Some of the best dishes she makes are simple and clean. What helps make them delicious is using the freshest ingredients available. There is no better way to get the freshest ingredients than by planting your own little garden. Sprinkling dried basil out of a McCormick's plastic bottle with an expiration date of June 2023 doesn't exactly make my mouth salivate in anticipation. But pulling a fresh basil leaf off my home grown plant and ripping it in half to release that sweet yummy basil smell - now THAT'S what I'm talking about.
I get much more benefit from my little potted garden than just fresh herbs or vegetables. After a day of sitting in my office, I love working with my hands in the outside fresh air and taking in the smell of fresh soil and plants. For me, it is extremely relaxing and I always get a feeling of accomplishment when I start to see the plants grow. Whenever I pluck some herbs to cook or to mix in drinks, I get this deep satisfying soul feeling when I see my own handiwork with nature - and it’s so much cheaper than going to therapy.
Planting is also a great family activity. I love to encourage my preschool aged son to participate when I garden. I think it’s important for kids to understand where their food comes from, and that it requires love and care to get to the end result. He loves getting his hands dirty during the planting phase and watering them to help the plants grow "big and strong." It also encourages him to eat vegetables that he otherwise would shy away from.
What you need to get started:
Pots/Planters - you can use plastic, clay or wooden pots. They all work the same - it really just depends on how much you want to spend. If you are buying individual ones for each herb, then they can be as small as you want, but if you want to buy a larger one then you can pot some herbs next to each other. However, it is important to plant mint herbs alone because they grow pretty wild and will kill anything in its way.
Soil - I suggest using an organic potting soil that is fluffy and airy.This year I used Nature's Care organic potting soil (which comes in a green bag and is a product from Miracle-Gro.)
Plants - Look to buy small individual plants that are already growing. They should cost about $3-5 per plant and they grow a lot faster than seeds. Look for plants that are green (not yellowish) and have sturdy stems. The 5 herbs I bought this year are Spearmint, Basil, Oregano, Parsley and Cilantro.(I also bought 2 cherry tomato plants.)
You may want to buy garden tools like a small shovel or garden gloves (there is chicken poop in the soil after all) but you can also use things that are around the house - like a plastic cup for shoveling or latex gloves for protection.
I generally buy all of these items at Home Depot or Lowes because it’s so convenient. There is also an amazing nursery in the Brooklyn Terminal Market called Lapide and they have an unbelievable selection of herbs, plants, pots and soil as well.
Learn to Plant:
It's time to get our hands dirty - literally!! Take some potting soil and put it in a container, bowl, or empty pot that you aren’t using. I do this because it makes less of a mess than scooping out of the bag. Fill your new empty pot about 2/3 of the way up with the potting soil. Dig a hole in the middle of the soil so that your new plant will fit inside the hole. Once your plant is in the hole, surround it with a little more soil on the side. Water the plant well, and Done!
Please note - DO NOT plant the spearmint in the ground as they grow like weeds and can take over your whole garden.
Helping it grow:
This is the easiest part for you and your kids. Just put your planted herbs in a spot where they get the maximum amount of sun exposure. Water the plants often so the soil never gets too dry. The frequency will depend on the weather.
When your next recipe calls for fresh herbs, you'll be ready with the freshest herbs possible and you will taste the difference. Feel free to cut off the herbs weekly to keep in your fridge and they will fill in for the following week. This keeps them fresh, and not too mature.
Post some pictures of your plants and garden on instagram and tag @mylifemymenu