our urban herb garden

I may possibly have the blackest thumb in California. Until recently every plant I’ve ever owned or cared for has died. Most traumatically, my hibernating orchid never woke up and my childhood Venus Fly Trap starved to death because there were no flies indoors. Go figure.

I’m not quite sure what possessed me to take on herb gardening recently but one day back in April I walked out of Whole Foods with one bag of groceries and two armfuls of potted herbs, determined to become a better plant owner.

Actually, now that I think of it it was the price of a package of chives that made me rebel and purchase the whole plant instead. And every one next to it.

Urban herb garden2

Urban herb garden1

But somewhere amidst unpacking our new apartment, starting a new job and running off to Italy to get married I lost interest. For over three months, the potted herbs baked in the sunroom all day, received only infrequent watering and not one drop fertilizer.┬áNot surprisingly, the dill didn’t make it. RIP little dill weed.

Losing the dill was what finally pulled my attention back to those poor potted plants. I recently visited our neighborhood garden shop to pick up the three missing pieces -an attractive, wooden window box, organic potting soil and fertilizer. The moment I got home got straight to work transplanting those babies into their new abode.

Urban herb garden after1

Urban herb garden after2

Urban herb garden after3

In our urban herb garden we have rosemary, thyme, dill, two varieties of mint (necessary for these cocktails and this pasta dish), basil and a few heads of baby lettuce purely for fun. I expected them to die but the lettuces are killing it in there!

Don’t they look happy? I know I sure am.

The garden shop owner gave me just a couple bits of advice I thought I’d pass along

  1. Herbs love cool nighttime air. Temperature fluctuation is actually good for the plants defenses which is why greenhouses tend to have more pest problems. I moved my plants from the hot sunroom to our deck outside so they are exposed to the full range of San Francisco summer temps.
  2. Use a quality organic fertilizer monthly and don’t over-concentrate. If too strong, the fertilizer will actually burn the plants.

So, I may have scalded them slightly the first time but with a little bit of practice, my plant parenting skills are definitely improving.
Herb gardening: What do you have growing? Got any tips for novice herb gardeners?

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  • Rosemary is hard to kill–it survives the NYC winters and the hot and humid summers, we have it out in the yard in a box. Mint, if not kept in its own container, will grow like a weed and take over. Haven’t grown thyme, but have done oregano–another one that is hard to kill. I neglected that one too much and it did die, but after a couple of years :) GOOD LUCK!

  • I’m the same way. I’ve managed to keep some succulents alive, but only because they don’t require a lot (though they are beautiful!) My dream is to have an edible garden. Right now we live in LA above a busy road so I always hesitate to grow any herbs on the balcony as I’m concerned they’d be exposed to too much exhaust/lead for consumption. But someday I’m going to have a garden :) Thank you for your tips and gorgeous pictures!

  • OMG, I am the same way! But I am successfully growing a spearmint plant (for brownies etc) and it is actually alive and kicking!
    My former mint plant (RIP) thrived when Elder babysat it for a week, but died immediately when landing in Georgia. Started off with a bigger plant and pot this time and that seemed to be the trick!

  • So cute and fun! I just have to stop being around the world and get a permanent home so I can start my own gardens!

  • I’m a newbie herb gardener myself! I just planted some cilantro seeds that I’m pretty much convinced will never grow, but here’s hoping! :)

  • I did a little patio gardening experiment this summer – squash didnt make it but basil, tomatoes and chili pepper survived. Its nice to be able to pick basil..My only tip is remembering to water the plant :P

    • Basil is one thirsty son of a gun, isn’t it? Ours was definitely yellow after we came back from 2 1/2 weeks in Italy (hence the sparse leaves) but slowly but surely it’s making a comeback!

  • Gorgeous! I have been dying to start an herb garden. Nothing beats fresh herbs that can be handpicked for any recipe when you need it :)

    • Totally agree. It’s a win-win not having to make special trips to the store AND saving a few dollars here and there! Which really goes to more lattes at Starbucks…

  • Your herbs look beautiful! The temperate NorCal climate makes it much easier to grow things here. Not that I’m knocking your skills; you’re doing an awesome job! I have a basil plant and three heirloom tomato plants that I can’t wait to harvest. I’ve killed many herbs in my kitchen window though so I appreciate the advice to keep them outside. What’s the name of the fertilizer you bought?