A Hopeful Green Thumb

Each year I plant herbs in pots and this year I’ve been putting it off since I’m moving. Yesterday I convinced myself that I was missing out on three weeks of prime growing weather in doing so, so I caved and bought my regular herbs…plus more.

It can easily add up even if each pot is $3-4 a pop, so don’t get overly excited and go nuts like I did! I’d like to think that I’m saving money in the long run, though, having fresh herbs on hand all summer and not needing to buy a $3-4 container of herbs each time I make a recipe (with most of it rotting before I can use it again).

This year I purchased rosemary, onion chives, basil, cilantro, and flat-leaf parsley like I do every year. I also decided to branch out a little (no pun intended) and also bought a banana pepper plant and mint seeds!  And herbs aside, I also bought two begonia plants because they’re my favorite little potted flower and they can survive indoors or outdoors. (Check out how vivid the red one is!)



I very cheerily potted my herbs yesterday and intend on being a diligent gardener in hopes of a successful garden this summer. (Generally my cilantro dies after 3 weeks and the basil takes over everything else, and somewhere in August I forget about them and the chives nearly die before I remember. It’s pitiful.) I also bought organic plant food because even though the herbs were probably treated with something before I bought them, I figure the fewer chemicals I add, the better!

I probably should have read these articles below BEFORE transferring them into other pots together because I may have mixed the thirsty plants with the “Mediterranean herbs” that don’t need as much water – whoops! But for what it’s worth, take a look if you’re going to be potting some of your own. I highly recommend it!

From the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society:

  • Herbs that prefer moisture-rich soil include basil, cilantro, tarragon and parsley. Herbs that don’t need as much water include chives, oregano, sage, rosemary, thyme, bay, marjoram and lavender.
  • Plant moisture-loving herbs in plastic container, which retain water, and Mediterranean herbs in terra-cotta containers, which draw out water. No matter what kind, make sure there are drainage holes at the bottom. (Editor’s note: Again, whoops!)
  • Moisture-loving herbs will need watering twice a week; 10 to 12 days for herbs that like drier conditions. (Editor’s note: That doesn’t sound like enough to me…but clearly I am no expert.)

From Whole Living:

  • Water your plants daily (ideally in the morning), until water drain out of the bottom of the pot. If you’re using a saucer under the pot, empty it of any water collected. The soil shouldn’t stay soaking wet, nor should it dry out completely. (Editor’s note: Now this sounds more normal.)
  • To prevent soil from washing out when you water, place a shard of a broken terra-cotta pot, a few stones, or a piece of screen inside the bottom of the pot over the hole.

From The Tasteful Garden:

  • Cilantro: Cilantro can be the most difficult herb to grow because it is so short-lived and needs somewhat cooler temperatures to thrive. Many people think they kill cilantro because it doesn’t last very long when they purchase plants at their local nursery. Cilantro will bolt (send up a flower stalk) as soon as the roots get above 75 degrees or so. Cilantro needs to be grown in early spring/summer or even during the fall when weather is cooler. It requires mostly sunshine, about half a day and will be best grown in morning sun and shade in the hot afternoon. Filtered light, as in under a tree with light coming through, is best. With the best conditions, cilantro will only last about 8-10 weeks before flowering. Once it does flower, it will make seeds which can be harvested as coriander or replanted to grow more cilantro plants. To harvest cilantro, you can begin cutting as soon as the plant is about 6″ tall by removing the outer leaves and leaving the growing point intact for the new leaves to grow from. Another method is to wait until the plant is almost completely grown and pull it up by its roots to use the whole bunch at once. (Editor’s note: Glad to hear it’s not my fault when it dies!)


  • Rosemary: Rosemary is very easy to grow if you remember a few techniques. It is best suited to humid coastal conditions with very low rainfall, so give it full sunshine withholding watering to once or twice a week and allowing the soil to drain/dry completely before watering again. To harvest, cut off branch tips as needed and new growth will branch out from cuts.


  • Mints: These are the easiest group to grow and most people wonder if they will ever stop growing as they can be very invasive. Mints prefer a shady area with only a few hours of morning sun but they will grow in full sun if watered well. To harvest, trim the branches anywhere and cut off up to a third, chop the leaves or use them whole.


  • Sweet Basil: To grow sweet basils, the daytime temperature must be warm but not too hot and it must get at least 3-4 hours of sunlight a day. If it gets too hot, dry or if it becomes pot bound the plant will begin its flowering process which signals the end of its life. It rarely produces more tasty leaves after the flowers appear. It is important to keep the soil moist and somewhat cool, as well as pinching off the flowers that begin to form. The longest a basil plant will grow is about 6 months in the ground, about 3-4 months in a pot. Always cut basil by taking off the tops of the stems, about a third of the way down, to an intersection of new leaves. This will indicate to the plant to start growing the tiny new leaves into branches of more leaves. If you just pull off the leaf you want, you will get no new growth. Once your plant begin making flowers, if they are not trimmed, your plant will make seeds from the flowers and die soon after. Prune plants regularly and store the chopped leaves in a little olive oil in the refrigerator.


  • Chives: Chives are the easiest herbs to grow. They grow in a clump like grass sending up new sprouts or shoots as they grow to maturity. The water requirements are low but they can be in soil that is most all of the time. To harvest chives, always cut across the plant, only 1/2″ from the ground.


  • Italian Parsley: Parsley will grow over a long season and flowers in its second year. Parsley should be started in early spring or early fall when temperatures are cooler and should be put where afternoons are shaded in the hot summer. Always make sure that you plan parsley so that the center growing point is not covered with soil, this will quickly rot the plant. Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet. To harvest, remove the older branches all the way down to the base of the plant leaving the young leaves to grow into larger branches.

One thought on “A Hopeful Green Thumb

  1. Impressive, Emo! We saw a cinnamon plant at Whole Foods last weekend, and I was intrigued. Though I don’t really know what I’d use it for!

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