A Perfect Time to Plant Some Herbs
Every year about this same time I start to imagine the smell of fresh herbs, especially purple basil and lemon thyme. Right in the dead of winter. I have no idea why. I have no idea what prompts me. Yet, it happens like clockwork. Maybe it is the subtle lengthening of the days. Or one of those spectacular warm sunny winter days when the light just beams into the house. Maybe it’s my hands yearning to get back in the dirt. Maybe it’s my olfactory memories that get triggered somehow. Or maybe it is some combination of all of the above or something more inexplicable. Whatever prompts me, I want to plant some herbs.
I like to use 3″ plastic cups or the plastic starter containers you see at nurseries. Peat cups, Dixie cups or clay pots work fine too, but not as well in my opinion. Every fall after the last harvest I always fill a couple of 5 gallon buckets with dirt and put them in the cellar, for just this occasion. I fill the starter cups with dirt then sprinkle several seeds in each. That way, if a bunch of plants come up we can eventually separate them (very gently) and transplant them into separate cups. I plant the usual suspects: parsley, dill, oregano, sage, dwarf basil, purple basil, cilantro, tarragon, chives, regular thyme, and my all-time favorite, lemon thyme. Can’t you just smell them? The scent when you rub them in your fingers!!
Placed in the sunniest spot in the house, within 10 days we can see the seedlings poking their tiny green shoots through the dirt’s surface. Each plant is so delicate and unique. Within another 7 days they are well on their way to making their presence known and you can start to tell them apart. It begins to excite others in the house. We water them frequently, but not too much, just enough to keep the soil from getting dry.
And as soon as these little guys are big enough, without fail, one of us cheats. When the earliest little basil leaves and tarragon leaves can be used in a dinner dish, we snip them right away and into the dish they go. Speaking of cheating, I have even been known to be so impatient, I buy those hydroponic basil, parsley or cilantro plants at the supermarket and put them in pots this time of year. Say what you will. For me, there is nothing like fresh herbs. Except maybe fresh vegetables.
Once the herbs are established, if they are still too crowded, we separate them again and transplant them into a new cup. If we eat some, no worries. We just start more. We grow the herbs indoors for the rest of winter and into the spring. And when the weather turns nice we transplant them to a Garden Mat as soon as we can.