Coco Divine! The essential herb garden

I am going to be honest with you. When it comes to gardening, I can kill grass. But I love to cook and I love fresh produce and herbs. So with a little help, I have been making a go at it with my own herb garden this summer.

For many reasons, mothers are all giving gardening and planting a try this year. Whereas before we depended upon the yard man or hubby to plant a few flowers around the borders each spring, many of us are attempting to grow our our own herbs, vegetables, fruits and flowers this summer. Could be the high prices of everything and it could be the voice of our mothers calling out to us. Who knows.

Gardening conjures up the images from Ladies Home Journal, House and Garden and Real Simple of the middle-aged apple faced wholesome mom with the braids and over sized straw hat planting her perfect upper state New York half acre with rows of fresh cucumbers, sunflowers and carrots. Carefree and cool(!) she bends and scoops up black dirt covered produce and arm loads of fresh flowers which she will trim, can, arrange, dry and do all those things my mother never taught me.

Fortunately, this freak only exists in some Manhattan publishers imagination.

Gardening where I live consists of fighting blistering heat, drought, bugs and pests of all types to only produce a handful of tiny tomatoes and marigolds. But it does not have to be that way.

If a garden novice (or plant murderer like me) consider container planting - growing wonder, easy to care for herbs and vegetables in pots on the patio or deck. It is easy to do and here is what you will need.

Soil - dirt to the newbie. Good soil can be found at home, but take no chances. Pick up a few large bags of Scotts or Miracle Grow soil with nutrients and drought resistance built in.

Pots - Containers of all types can be found from Walmart to Garden Ridge. Pick a container you don't mind looking at all summer on the patio but which is also hardy enough for your area's conditions.

A simple hand shovel - you don't need all those other pesky tools but they look nice if the other ladies come over.

Something to grow - Look seeds look so inviting in their little packages at the hardware and home store. But please remember that these same seeds are sold all over the country. Some plants grow well in some areas and others do not.. Before you buy seeds, consider if the particular strain does well in your climate and "zone" as they call it in gardening circles.

My suggestion is to buy some ready sprouted plants from the garden center. Further, start with herbs rather than big vegetables or fruits. Why? Herbs grow faster and even if they die, you still have the sprout to consume which should make you feel better about your first attempt at gardening!

Okay, herbs to start with that grow anywhere.

Mint - use in salads, tea or a ..mojito (Yum!!), mint grows fast, hardy and will produce again and again. And it makes things like your breath smell good.

Oregano - the staple of Mediterranean cooking, oregano grows well in almost any condition and as long as it receives plenty of sunlight and water, will produce long leaf covered stems of pungent leaves ready for spaghetti sauces...pair it with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, kosher salt, touch of honey and marinate shrimp.. toss it in a saute... a little pasta of choice..dinner party...with a nice buttery Chardonay, Proseco...or even end with a nice Limoncello!

Rosemary - this oily fragrant herb will remain green all year long (which is why it is often trimmed as a Christmas tree in some locations). And rosemary can be used not only in cooking but as a sachet to hang around the house... Roasted rosemary red potatoes rock!

Basil - hardy and heat tolerant, basil is commonly found in Asian and Mediterranean cooking, Add a few leaves to a salad to spice it up. (Note: Basil is a large plant which will impress friends and visitors with your green thumb - size counts). I can taste the pesto now!

Thyme - a staple for cooking throughout the year, thyme is fine leaf which tastes better fresh than dry... Chicken anyone?

Chives - almost a vegetable but easy to grow as herbs. These onion flavored spices can be used in bake potatoes, soups and salads...hmm really good in the classic omelet!

Finally, put your containers in full sun for 6-8 hours a day. Rotate the pots from time to time to increase production and exposure to the sun. Most of all, water daily! If you travel this summer, have a friend or neighbor water your new babies while you are away!

One suggestion I saw looked garden challenged proof:

A three tiered wire basket hanging near the sunlight from the kitchen door. I have one of those!

Each basket is lined with well soaked sphagnum moss, coco fiber, or burlap... hmm.. I am sure they have customer service at some garden center...I beg for help really well!

Then fill each basket with soil... as stated above... then transfer herbs from 4-inch containers into your ready made baskets.

Hmmm... I think I will try this... it really looks adorable (and easy)! Maybe I won't kill it... there are always prayers..

With a container garden, any mother can start her own mini farm in the smallest space and feel closer to the earth and nature.... Whatever.... Go buy the big straw hat, put your hair in braids and invite me over and gloat. Did I tell you I can kill grass with out trying?


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