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Camp Internet's Global Gardening Studies are open to all Camp Expedition Teams. RAIN's Youth Technology Corps members are Expedition Team Leaders for Communities taking part.

Growing your own indoor herb garden

The taste of fresh herbs in your home-cooked pasta is great! Wouldn’t it be really interesting to have those herbs within easy reach whenever your family needs them for a meal? Even if you have no gardening experience whatsoever, growing herbs in your home or apartment is a simple, enjoyable project, even for those with the blackest of thumbs. With a good container, sunlight, water and your loving care, you’ll be serving up dishes accented with fresh, home-grown herbs on a regular basis!

Containers can be terra cotta, plastic, or metal, and must have adequate drainage at the bottom. The shapes range from round to rectangular, so use whatever will work for your space. Starting out, you may want to stick with three or four selected herbs, so the container must be able to hold the herbs at maturity, and provide enough space for the roots to “breathe”. Decide how many herbs you want to grow, select an area of your home that will provide the plants with some sunlight, and use these factors to determine what size container you will need. A 13-15” container will hold up to four herbs and allow ample room for growth and survival.

You may choose to start your seedlings in smaller, separate containers and then transplant as they grow. There are several small containers available for less than a dollar, and even herb starter kits on the market. If you’ve never grown a plant before, you might like to use this method on your first attempt. Starter kits provide the seeds, containers and even potting soil disks that expand when water is added, making it easy for even the least-experienced gardener.

Now that you’ve decided on containers, it’s time to choose your favorite herbs. Several easy to grow, low maintenance herbs are available, so personal preference is the deciding factor. Try some simpler plants such as chives, basil, cilantro and parsley, or perhaps some oregano and rosemary. Growing periods can range from weeks to months, so patience is a necessity as you embark on your gardening adventure.

Now that you have your seeds, all you need is the potting soil, water and sunlight. There are myriad potting soils available on the market, ranging from simple dirt to the most complex recipes, complete with fertilizers and added nutrients. For storage purposes, it’s best to start out with a smaller bag, unless you’re going to be planting several pots full of herbs. Choose a simple blend that requires no mixing to keep stress at a minimum, and place enough soil in the pots to provide room for the roots to dig in, leaving a ¾ to 1” space at the top of the container, for growth and watering room.

If you’re going to start your seedlings in smaller containers, you can plant up to three in one container, however, you will need to transplant sooner, as the roots grow quickly and will become cramped and not have adequate breathing room. One of the easiest ways to plant the seed is to use a drinking straw. Push it into the soil, about ½”, remove the dirt and then send the seed right down the straw, and cover it up. Leave a 1 ½ to 2” space between each seed, add some water, and set the container in an area with some direct sunlight.

You might even choose to create a mini-greenhouse effect for your new plants. Insert a long straw or long match in the middle of the container. Measure enough clear plastic wrap to surround the circumference of the pot, wrap it around and secure it to the top of the straw with a small rubber band or some tape. This is useful in speeding up growth time, and will provide a bit of warmth, if the plants will be kept in the window sill, especially in winter months.

Once the seeds have grown to 1-2” tall, and get their second set of leaves, or true leaves, it’s time to transplant them to larger surroundings. This is a process which requires a gentle touch, as transplanting is very strenuous to herbs. Prepare the new container, by filling with soil, and creating a hole that will accommodate the transplant. In the old container, take a dull knife and gently run it around the outside of the dirt to loosen it, grasp the plant at soil level and turn the pot upside down, pulling very gently to release the plant from that container. If the roots are congested, loosen them a bit with your fingers, and then set the plant down into the hole in the new container. Press firmly into the new soil and cover with surrounding dirt. After all the plants have been moved, water the new container until soil is moist but not completely saturated. Keep in a warm area with ample sunlight, to help the plants adjust to their new home.

Allow the plants to grow, keeping them in good light, and water as necessary, when soil is dry to the touch. Once they’ve reached maturity, you can harvest leaves as needed for all your kitchen creations.