Summer is in full swing and if you are anything like me then you are loving the variety of fresh produce that is available this time of year. Farmer’s markets are popping up all around the city, so that is where I turn to when it comes to buying fresh fruits and vegetables. Yet when it comes to herbs there is an easy (and cheaper!) way to add some excitment to your summer meals.
I’m talking about growing your own mini herb garden in your apartment. Unless you have as much space as this Upper West Side apartment then you are most likely going to have to go for a mini garden.
“It’s a great way to get hands-on and connect with your food from the seed to the table — and extra satisfying to prepare a meal with food you have grown yourself,” says Nikhil Arora, co-founder of Back to the Roots, which makes at-home gardening kits. “Fresh, homegrown herbs also taste great, maintain the most nutrients, and help avoid food waste from over-purchasing at the grocery store.”
It is best to start off by evaluating which plants will work best in your apartment. This aspect largely depends on how much sunlight is available in your apartment and how much extra space you have.
“Let’s face it,” Erin Marino, marketing manager at Lower East Side boutique plant shop The Sill says, “Most plants prefer bright, indirect light, but many have adapted to lower light conditions.”
If you are lucky enough to have a sun-drenched apartment like this London Terrace Towers studio (right), then a trendy succulent or cactus may be right, or herbs like lavender, basic, or rosemary.
Don’t have as much light? Then perhaps go for more low-light favorites like the snake plant, ZZ plant, or pothos. Some herbs, like mint, chamomile, thyme, parsley, and cilantro do well in shade, too.
If you are looking for a place in NYC to pick up a variety of plants check out the Union Square Greenmarket which is open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays year-round between the hours of 8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
So you picked your plants and where they will go. Okay now it is time to get their mini homes in order. That means investing in good, store-bought potting soil (that contains peat moss and bark), Marino says, or making your own.
For window boxes, choose a lightweight, fast-draining, potting soil. It is also recommended to not use plastic containers. Instead go for stoneware, fiberglass, ceramic or terra cotta pots. Don’t cram plants into boxes, either. Leave room for roots to breath and plants to grow.
If you want to save your valuable counter top space then look for a vertical wall garden. It is a great way to have the best of both worlds. Essentially it turns your wall into a living and edible work of art. This particular hanging garden to the left will grow anything from a 4” planter, making it easy to substitute your spice rack for a growing wall of basil, oregano and more. $139, gardeners.com (Photo Credit: Gardeners.com)
Besides being a multi functional piece, these vertical wall gardens also highlight your tall ceilings. For example, by placing multiple gardens high on the walls of this Chelsea apartment, guest’s eyes would naturally be drawn up to feature the high ceilings. Plus they are a great conversation starter for dinner parties!
Once your plants are in their new homes follow the care instructions for each specific plant, making sure to water and prune when necessary.
“Regular pruning keeps plants in a restricted space healthy and happy — and pruned plants grow back more thickly and compactly,” says Marino. Herbs especially benefit from constant harvesting. All the better since you can use them more often in summer recipes!
3 WINDOW BOX IDEAS
Tips and photos courtesy of The Sill:
Sedum Window Box (for bright to moderate, direct light)
If you have a brown thumb or busy schedule, this is the box for you. Sedum’s fleshy, succulent leaves mean you can skip a watering or two. Just make sure to find it a sunny spot to call home. They recommend an eastern or southern-facing sill that receives direct light.
Herb Window Box (for bright to moderate, indirect light)
Herbs are a popular choice for window boxes because their useful. For a shadier spot, they recommend mint, chamomile, thyme, parsley, or cilantro. For a sunnier sill try basil, lavender, oregano, rosemary or chives.
Leafy Low-Light Window Box (for moderate to low, indirect light)
The Sill created these window boxes for a start-up’s NYC office. The windows are large in size, but they don’t get sunlight for more than a few hours a day. If your set-up is like this, choose a variety of moderate to low-light plants including areca palms, pothos, philodendrons, ivies, and dracaenas.