I know virtually nothing about gardening. However, I would like to grow
small amounts of chives, basic, dill, rosemary etc. for cooking
purposes. I have a small apartment with a balcony and a good amount of
Are there any good websites that explain how to start this?
Should I get a kit (please recommend one), individual packets of seeds,
or plant existing small plants to start off? What type of soil, etc.
Besides watering, what else do I need to do to care for the plants.
Also, I often go away on business trips, can someone recommend an
automatic watering system that works well.
Something I can fill up with water and operates on batteries (I don't
have a hose outlet near my balcony).
Looking for advice.
What hemisphere are you in? (Are you in australia or new zealand for
example?) In the northern hemisphere its late for balcony gardens..
In the springtime, my local nursery offers window boxes of herbs.
(Waterloo Gardens in Wayne, PA.) Your local garden shop might do that
Get the biggest pots you have room for. Then you can plant things that take
the same type of soil and water needs together and have room for them to
spread. A lot of the more aromatic herbs are from the sunny Mediterranean
area, so they'll often need less water than vegetables, for example. But
pots dry out easily, so they'll need more water than if you were planting in
the ground. Good drainage is a must!
There are lots of books and pamphlets around that focus on herb growing. If
you look through one or two, you will probably get plenty of instruction and
a few ideas for more herbs to add to your garden. You should probably have
one to refer to as the season progresses anyway.
I'd use starter plants, which might be hard to find this time of year
(depends where you are, of course). Most seed packets have way more seed in
them than you will need. With healthy starts, you are several months ahead
In Oregon, the pacific northWET. NWF habitat #32964
Some perennial herbs grow slowly and take a while to get established
(rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives), so you may want to get those as
small plants from the nursery (or even your grocery store--some will
sell small potted herbs). Basil and dill grow easily from seed. Parsley
is also not hard to grow from seed, but it helps the germination rate if
you soak the seeds overnight before planting. Dill grows quite large (3
feet or more), and to get useable amounts of basil you also need several
decent-sized plants--they'll get to a couple feet and should be in
fairly large pots, like 8" in diameter. I don't think there's any
particular advantage to buying a kit.
You can use anything for pots, so long as they have drainage holes.
Herbs are pretty easy to care for and will generally tolerate a lot of
neglect. If your business trips are a week or less, you may not need to
mess with an automatic waterer if you set up a system where your pots
can be sitting in a tray with some extra water, moved to the coolest,
shadiest part of your balcony while you're gone.
Rosemary is a "tender perennial," some varieties are hardy (will survive
outside in the winter) to zone 7 US. If you routinely get winter
temperatures below 10 degrees F, you'll have to get a new one each year
(and as it is slow growing, it's probably not worth it).
The good thing about most herbs is they are weeds in their
native areas. Get types that do well in your zone number
and they will do great with little care.
What I've done - Look up my location on a USDA zone chart
so I know what to look for. Go to a local large nursery
and shop through their pre-sprouted herbs. Look at the
zones listed and pick the types with your zone on the
center of the range. If you're in zone 7, pick the one
that says zones 6-8 on the write-up over the one that
says zones 5-7.
What you'll end up with is a few herbs that will grow
like crazy in your location. Maybe it will be the ones
you listed above, maybe a different list. Roll with the
punches and figure out how to use the ones you get.
We're now in Chicago and my balcony herb garden has
basil and thyme that I already knew how to use and
sorel and lovage that I had to look up in books to even
figure out what they were. The rosemary, it makes a
few leaves, but it broke my rule of picking the center
of the range. So far I've learned that sorrel and
lovage are good in omlettes and as a small addition to
Chuckle. This reminds me of when we lived in southern
California. There they plant rosemary on the slopes
near freeways. The stuff gets so lush it seems like it
eats any car that gets a flat and strays off the pavement.
Lee Valley is a good resource to see what stuff you'll need for
watering supplies. They are a little expensive, but you'll get the
idea. Most of the stuff you'll need (Pump, pvc tubing, spagetti tubes
& drip irrigators) you can get at your local 'growers' store... Ie. the
hydrophonics shop that sells stuff to folks growing cash crops.
Don't know if you can get the required psi on battery, unless you
set up a good gravity feed system. But, a pump with resovoir on a
timer is simple to set up & not too costly...
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