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Plant your own vegetable and herb garden

Aly Walansky is a freelance writer and editor based in New York City. She lives with her two Shorkie-Tzus, Scarlette and Max, and a display of pink polka-dot-themed home decor -- not to mention a selection of flavored vodka. Check out he...

Green thumb

Growing your own herbs and vegetables may feel very Donna Reed, but get with the times. Creating and maintaining your own home garden is not only fun, but it's a great way of staying healthy and enjoying fresh, delicious herbs.

Herbs in window

It's easier than you think

Most grocery stores now sell small herb plants that you can put right on your kitchen counter. This is a terrific way to get yourself to utilize herbs and to show kids what "fresh" means, since you can literally pick some leaves, chop them up and add them to the dish on the stove.

Getting started

  1. Use organic soils and fertilizers to minimize run-off of nitrogen, phosphorous and other chemicals that choke our rivers and lakes.
  2. Compost your kitchen scraps—it makes great (free) fertilizer.
  3. Looking beyond edible gardens, collect rain water to irrigate non-edible gardens with rain barrels —especially useful to bank that water for dry spells (which happen more often thanks to climate change). Rain water harvesting for edible gardens isn't the best idea because of the possibility of chemicals from roofs and gutters, but non-edible plants will biofilter those bad guys to keep them from your soil and water ways.
  4. Plant local, native plants. They'll deal better with wet and dry spells and are low maintenance!

Another way to get started is to take empty clear plastic Chinese food containers, fill them with a rich potting soil, and drop a seed several inches down, but near enough to the side of the container so that kids can watch the seed sprout and grow. Carrots are great for this! Plus, you're recycling containers that you would toss out otherwise.

Another way to grow plants easily is a fire escape/balcony vegetable farm or window box garden. I live in New York City in a studio apartment and one summer I bought two tomato plants and soil to start lettuce plants. Since the sun beat directly onto the fire escape most of the day and I kept the plants well-watered, I had tomatoes and lettuce that lasted me all summer. In fact, I shared with friends and didn't buy a single vegetable at the supermarket all season!

Of course, there are also the backyard and windowsill versions of herb gardens, too. And they are done in the same way, although each seed should be planted at the time of the year recommended on the package. Always have good, rich potting soil on hand and a small trough, plus some gardening gloves and a watering can. It doesn't have to be a huge production.

And yes, there are people who literally grow all their own food. But for the average family or individual, adding a food-producing plant or two to your house can help you save a bit of money, learn a lot about how plants grow and really spice up your cooking! Literally!

Ultimately, we can come to see a home garden as a vital component of wellness.

Composting 101

How to make compost

This how-to video by the non-profit group Kitchen Gardeners International shows you step-by-step instructions for successful organic composting.

More ways to go green at home

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