Starting an Indoor Garden From Cuttings
Starting an indoor herb garden from cuttings
Fresh herbs are playing a prominent role in recent cookbooks
and in grocery store produce sections. Experimenting with
these new ingredients is great fun. However, with the herbs
running $1.50-$2.00 a bunch in many areas it can become
expensive quickly. Some of the herbs are also extremely
perishable, making it difficult to use the whole package in
time to avoid waste.
For these reasons it is more cost effective to have your own
small indoor herb garden. You might even find that it feels
luxurious to be able to pluck off a mint sprig on a whim to
garnish an afternoon glass of iced tea. You can go to a
nursery and buy baby plants or seeds. But if you buy fresh
herbs even occasionally, it is even cheaper to grow the plants
yourself from cuttings. I have found the following techniques
work well with mint, oregano, and basil, but any herb with a
similar leaf structure will work, so feel free to experiment.
Next time you buy a fresh package of one of these herbs for
cooking, save a few healthy-looking, unblemished stems and
wash them thoroughly in cool water. Washing will help get rid
of any aphids or other pests that might have hitched a ride
home from the store. Washing won't guarantee that this plant
isn't carrying some sort of fungal or insect infestation,
however, so it is a good idea to keep the new cuttings away
from your existing houseplants for a couple of weeks.
Pull off any bruised or browned leaves. Trim off the bottom of
the stems so that they are between 3 and 5 inches long. The
cut should be made well away from where any clump of leaves
attaches to the stem. Cut on an angle so it is easier for the
plant to draw water. Stand the stems in a clean glass or jar
in cool water. Make sure that at least half of the plant is
covered. Put the glass in a sunny spot. Over the next few
weeks keep an eye on the water level and add more if it starts
to get low. Before long you will see roots sprouting. At this
point, the new plant is ready to be potted like any new
seedling you would buy at the nursery.
Find a pot with drainage holes, or poke holes in a plastic
container that used to hold margarine or something similar.
Add a layer of small stones sufficient to cover the bottom of
the container. Fill the container two thirds of the way with
potting soil and add the rooted herb. Fill in more soil around
the cutting up to within an inch or so of the top of the pot.
Soak the new plant thoroughly.
After the plant seems established you can start taking pieces
for your cooking. Don't just pull off the leaves. Cut off stem
pieces, too. This will encourage the plant to get bushy.
In addition to the grocery store, restaurants can be good
sources of cuttings. Deserts are sometimes garnished with live
mint, and I have seen Thai basil (which has a pleasant
licorice taste) used as a garnish on Asian dishes. Don't be
shy about slipping the little cutting into your pocket to root
when you get home!
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