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Garden Lifestyle

An Indoor Herb Garden Tides Us Over Until Spring

Record snowfall in the mid-Atlantic this winter has kept us inside, so why not sow some seeds indoors?

  • Snowed in, in Maryland! But we managed a little planting anyway. Indoor planting, that is.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The Aerogarden has a grow light overhead, pre-seeded pods, and an optimized oxygen/nutrient/water environment for the plant roots.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • A thriving basil planting on the countertop offers a cheery antidote to bad winter weather outside.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • The Aerogarden's control panel is easy to use.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger
  • Part of the herb pod selection.
    Photo/Illustration: Susan Belsinger

Seems like this time of year, many of us are suffering from cabin fever. In my neck of the woods—zone 7 Maryland, as well as most of the Mid-Atlantic Coastal region—we have had record snowfall this winter. It has also been extremely cold, so the snow has been piled high everywhere and is not melting very fast. Although the snow removal has been a huge challenge and we are all tired of not being able to motivate as usual, we must be thankful for the precipitation that will nourish our garden earth in the year ahead. The snow cover on our garden plants and even in the woods provides an insulative, protective blanket which is much less harsh than an icy covering. Also, with so much cold weather, it should kill off some bugs and help to control the insect population this spring and summer.

As with most gardeners, we are looking forward to spring and green growing things (some of us are chomping at the bit or even feeling the blues). We sit with the garden catalogs that have been arriving daily and dream of our gardens to be or work on a new garden plan; some of us may even have sowed some seeds already. Fortunately for me, a few years ago, I received a tabletop AeroGarden™ manufactured by Aerogrow International. These are self-contained water gardens with growlights—you can choose from all sizes of gardens—and all sorts of plants to grow.

Growing herbs in an AeroGarden

Basil pods
  I chose basils, savory, marjoram and thyme for my custon herb garden.
  Control panel
  The Aerogarden control panel.

I was surprised and delighted at how well my first planting did with this little garden. I chose the basil garden selection and had seven different varieties growing. I started harvesting early on and had snippets of fresh basil to add to salads, vinaigrettes and sauces during cold weather! It was a treat and the plants lasted for about three months.

Once the garden is set up, there is little to do except for adding the water when the light goes on and adding the nutrients when that light goes on; the lights are on a timer. I set the timer to go off at midnight and it comes on again at 8 am. The lights need to be raised every now and then as the plants increase in height.

After perusing the Web site for which garden I might try this winter, I had a hard time making a decision between chile peppers, tomatoes, salad greens, assorted vegetables to herbs and edible or ornamental flowers. I decided to customize my own herb garden—so I chose the herbs that I use/miss the most—3 basils, one lemon basil, marjoram; thyme and savory.

Plugged in and ready to go
  The Aerogarden is plugged in and ready to go.
  Basil growing under lights
  A nice indoor crop of basil!

When my package arrived, I cleaned up the AeroGarden unit which had been sitting since I emptied it after the basils had matured and been harvested. Then I checked the lights and set it up on the counter in my mudroom where there is an electric outlet and water nearby. I installed the seed pods and covered them with the bio-domes, filled the container bowl with water, added the nutrients, plugged it in and voila! I’ve got my own little herb garden growing under lights.

The location of the garden is on a counter by the backdoor, so it is seen by anyone going in or out. We all take note of the progress of the seedlings; only after germination will the little domes be removed. I become accustomed to having the lights on in there and also to the sound of the water dripping through the seed pods, so I usually hear that the water needs filling before I see the water level low light go on.

My garden has room to grow seven plants and there are models with six, and smaller ones with just three, so they can fit on just about any countertop. Originally they came in black, white or brushed silver, however now you can get them in bright Easter egg colors and there are even ones decorated like a ladybug or a tomato. The latter would be a great growing experience to do with kids. They have also designed a wall-mounted unit so you can grow three gardens at a time and not use counter space. Check them out on www.aerogrow.com—they have lots of specials going on.

Meanwhile, I await the germination of my seedlings in my indoor garden, while there is four feet of snow outside!

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