Grow Abundant Herbs and Greens


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Grow Abundant Herbs and Greens In Pots; by Abundant Veggie Patch Organic System, Australia
For more information, Please see websites below:
Organic Edible Schoolyards & Gardening with Children
Double Food Production from your School Garden with Organic Tech
Free School Gardening Art Posters`
Companion Planting Increases Food Production from School Gardens
Healthy Foods Dramatically Improves Student Academic Success
City Chickens for your Organic School Garden
Simple Square Foot Gardening for Schools - Teacher Guide

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Grow Abundant Herbs and Greens

  1. 1. STARTER PACK Nicola Chatham
  2. 2. WHAT’S INSIDE THIS EBOOK? 2 My Story 5 Why I Love Growing Herbs & Greens in Pots 10 3 Plants I Love to Grow 14 These Babies Need You! 16 Gone Potty 23 Rosina’s Awesome Potting Mix Recipe 31 Organic Potting Mix Supply List 33 Don’t Break Your Seedling’s Neck! 39 Going Deep: Planting From Seed 44 Watering & Feeding Your Potted Herbs & Greens 47 45 Herbs & Greens for Dynamic Health & Flavour 51 How to Grow an Indoor Herb Garden 55 Augh I Killed My Basil 58 4 Secrets to Growing Coriander 61 11 Strategies to ‘Pest & Pet Proof’ Your Potted Garden 66 Your Potted Garden Shopping List 68 The Weekly Garden Check-List 70 How to Make Fresh Home-Grown Herbal Tea 72 Want to Grow More Organic Food? i
  4. 4. IT GOT SO BAD I REMEMBER PUTTING AN ICE-PACK ON MY BELLY TRYING TO REDUCE THE SWELLING AND BURNING AFTER EATING A CONVENTIONALLY GROWN RED CAPSICUM. My naturopath did some tests and we discovered I could eat organically grown veggies without feeling like I wanted to cry. Which brought me to a rather scary realisation... If I was going to feel safe eating anything again, I was going to have to know it was grown organically. And the only way I felt I’d know for sure it hadn’t been sprayed with pesticides, was if I’d grown it myself. So I bought one and a half acres in the country and had visions of rows and rows of vegetable beds extending down my property. I thought my life was going to become a fulltime occupation of growing food. Thankfully, I was I wrong! I found I could grow enough organic food in the back corner of my yard, and I only spent about one afternoon every three months actually maintaining the garden. But how did I do that? How did I make a garden that’s so abundant and requires such little maintenance? I did what you’re doing now; I armed myself with knowledge and insider tips from people who’d done it before me. I flew down to Victoria and studied my N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M Permaculture Design Certificate at Melbourne University, joined my local Permaculture group and made friends with older, wiser organic gardeners who taught me so many clever organic gardening methods and tips so I could make a garden that saves me time, effort and a great deal of belly-ache. Doing that research armed me with an understanding of how plants grow, what they need, where to put them, and ways to have a garden that produces organic food all year round. It’s a little bit like heaven. Right now I have mandarin trees laden with fruit. The lemon tree is literally drooping with lemons. There are over forty herbs in the garden including basil, rosemary, chives, parsley and a bunch of more unusual ones I’ll introduce you to in the following chapters. The mango tree provided my dessert for months over Christmas. I eat salad from the veggie patch every day, and the changing seasons continue to provide delightful inspiration for my other love, which is painting landscapes and abstract oil paintings based on nature. My health has improved SO much since I’ve surrounded myself with all this nutritious food and included it in my day-to-day meals. Watching the garden develop and grow has nurtured my soul. My stress levels have gone down. And my digestive system is the best it’s been in over a decade. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 3
  5. 5. But where does my herb garden fit into all of this? Why do I believe growing herbs and greens in pots is the best way to begin growing organic food, particularly if you don’t want to do what I did, and turn your life upside-down to move to the country and start anew? And how can herbs support your health, improve your nutrition and provide a deep sense of abundance to your life? In the next chapter you’ll discover why I love growing herbs and greens in pots... and you will too!!! Welcome to the joy of growing your own organic food. It’s so much fun once you get started! I’m sure we’re going to have a blast on this journey together. With love, N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 4
  7. 7. I LOVE THINGS TO BE PRETTY SIMPLE IN MY LIFE. EASY. MANAGEABLE. AND FUN. AND GROWING ORGANIC FOOD IN POTS IN ALL OF THOSE THINGS. When I lived in the city, I was renting and didn’t have permission to make permanent gardens in the back-yard. Plus, I never knew how long I was going to stay there (it turned out to be 7 years… plenty of time to have made a garden!), if the rent was going to go up, if I’d meet a man and fall in love, or some other enticing adventure might come along and make me want to end my lease. So instead of digging up the lawn and planting potatoes, I gathered together five small, and three large pots for herbs, leafy greens & flowers. I remember saving up to buy those pots (some of which I still have today). Even though they were only a few dollars, I was on a tight N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 6 6
  8. 8. budget as an art student living alone, and was always counting my coins. I remember the pride and excitement I felt, bringing my pots home. The sense that they were not only going to help me save money (one of my favourite things to eat was baby rocket and spinach; both of which were about $3 a bag) they were also going to give me something to nurture and look forward to checking on each morning. I knew enough about gardening from my Grandpa and watching Gardening Australia to find some sunshine, which was on my backsteps, and placed them carefully in a row. They looked delightful. I still remember what I grew; in the 5 small pots I planted parsley, spring onions, lemon thyme, oregano and Greek basil. In the large pots I sprinkled seeds for rocket and spinach, and planted seedlings of mixed lettuces and colourful violas. For years I cared for those pots, and they produced an enormous amount of food for my salads. I stopped buying lettuce and always had herbs on hand to spruce up my simple meals and make them taste mouth-wateringly delicious. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 7 7
  9. 9. When friends came over, I’d boast how I’d grown the lettuce we were eating, and the proudest moment was when two chef friends ate my chicken and mango salad. They said the lettuce was the best they’d tasted. “It actually has flavour, Nic. Most lettuce these days just tastes like water,” they said. the time, as well as digestive problems I also had chronic fatigue and Epstein Barr Virus. My veggie patch out the back was already growing an abundance of food and very low-maintenance since it was set up with a simple automatic watering system and plenty of mulch to keep the weeds down. Wow. Satisfaction. However, lots of people were asking me for helpful instructions on how to grow organic food in their rental property or apartment. And I like to maximise my efforts, so I decided to make my balcony garden and film my online gardening course Grow Organic Food in Pots at the same time because that way, if I decided I didn’t need my potted garden, it would have still been a useful exercise in helping other’s learn what to do. Back then, I didn’t know how to make my own organic potting mix, and I simply used a bag of Searles vegetable and flower mix. I fertilsed with liquid worm castings though, which were organic, and can’t remember ever having a problem with caterpillars or bugs. I’m not a scientist, and I haven’t tested this theory, but I suspect even if you grow your own food in conventional potting mix (some of which are much better than others) and feed your plants with organic fertiliser, you’ll be far in front when it comes to nutrition, flavour and less chemicals on your food than the conventional food you buy at the supermarket. But since then, I’ve studied organic gardening and learnt a few handy tricks I’m going to share with you. One of which, is how to make your own organic potting mix which will ensure you’re eating the best, most nutritious food possible. These days, I grow organic food in pots on my balcony… and funnily enough I had to convince myself it was worthwhile, that I wouldn’t kill them, and I’d find a way to water them even with my limited energy. At N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M Fast forward one year, to now. Recently I returned home after a nine week road-trip in my van down to Melbourne and Tasmania, and came back to discover exactly what all that time away (without anyone doing any watering or gardening) had meant for my veggie patch and potted garden. Well, the veggie patch was like a jungle. It had rained quite a bit, and the nasturtiums, bush basil, pumpkins, and not to mention weeds such as cobbler’s pegs and bluetop had pretty much taken over the pathways. In fact, there was a pumpkin bigger than a basket ball, just waiting to be made into soup, where there hadn’t even been a pumpkin plant growing when I left. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 8 8
  10. 10. So, while it felt like there was an abundance of sorts, it also felt like a lot of work to get things back in order. I’m planning some clever new ‘veggie patch renovations’ over the coming weeks; to lay better pathways where weeds won’t grow so easily, and improve the edging of my garden beds which will make the patch even less maintenance when I go away for long periods. The balcony garden, however, surprised me the most. Two pots of spring onions, a large window box of sweet basil, and another window box of rosemary, were not only hanging in there, they were thriving. There were no weeds, and the couple of plants who’d passed away (violas and lemon thyme) where easily replaced with pretty white alyssum and a new lemon thyme the following day. Job done. Where as three weeks later, the veggie patch is still feeding me, but it’s also waiting for extra N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M hands to make light work. And maybe a bobcat as well! So, what I love about growing herbs and greens in pots, is the simplicity of it. The neatness. It’s all so tidy and under control. Not like a big garden that spills over its edges and likes to grow beyond its boundaries. Don’t get me wrong, I love my veggie patch too, but this book is about pots and I’m just saying, sometimes I miss those simple days back in the rental property when I didn’t have one and a half acres of lawn to mow, pumpkins that take over my pathways, and cobbler’s pegs sticking to my track-suit pants when I pop out to harvest a salad from the veggie patch. Growing herbs & greens in pots is delightfully simple when you know how & anyone can do it. No matter where you live, there will be something you can easily grow to enjoy with breakfast, lunch & dinner! : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 9 9
  11. 11. 3 HERBS & GREENS I LOVE TO GROW IN POTS EVEN IF YOU DON’T HAVE A LOT OF SPACE, OR TIME, YOU CAN STILL GROW ENOUGH ORGANIC FOOD TO DELIGHT YOUR TASTEBUDS, SAVE MONEY ON ORGANIC FOOD, AND FEEL EVER SO PROUD OF YOURSELF. If for some reason I was only going to grow three plants in pots, these following herbs and greens are what I would choose... 10
  12. 12. SORREL I love sorrel!!! It’s a leafy green (actually an herb) and I use it instead of lettuce. It tastes kind of ‘zingy’ with a lemon flavour, and adds SO much flavour to almost all my meals (I even have it with my eggs for breakfast). But what I really love about sorrel, is it’s super-low maintenance. It’s a perennial, which means it grows for years and years, instead of only lasting for say spring or summer and then going to flower and dying (like lettuce does). N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M I planted my sorrel three years ago, and it’s still growing vigorously. I literally grab a handful, chop it up and add it to whatever I’m about to eat. So, it doesn’t take up space in the fridge, and it doesn’t go ‘manky’ or soggy like leafy greens we try to store in the crisper. It’s just sitting there, waiting for me outside, dancing in the sunlight. Try it, but mix it with some other salad leaves if you like a blander flavour! : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 11 11
  13. 13. ROCKET I love leafy greens that have a lot of flavour, and rocket, also known as arugula, is no exception. Kind of ‘peppery’ in flavour, it has a lovely kick to it. The bitterness is supposed to be very good for our health, but I eat it mostly because I love the taste. (depending on how valuable the ‘real estate’ is of the pot it’s growing in, you may choose to plant something else to eat) and you can save the seeds in a brown paper bag and plant them again, basically giving you free plants and therefore free food. Rocket isn’t a perennial, which means it needs to be planted every year, but it’s super simple to grow from seed and if you decide to let it go to flower, those flowers will turn into seeds Gotta love that! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 12 12
  14. 14. SWEET BASIL I’m really scratching my head as to the final plant I’d choose if I could only have three. Also in the running would be lemon thyme, spring onions and parsley. But sweet basil goes so beautifully with eggs, salad, soups, and pretty much everything else, I think it would be my third compliment to the sorrel and rocket. Who doesn’t love sweet basil with fresh tomatoes? What a match made in heaven! During the summer months I stroll around the garden picking cherry tomatoes, wrapping them in fresh sweet basil leaves and popping them in my mouth. They’re still warm from the sun and literally explode with flavour. If summer had a flavour, I think that’s what it would be. It’s a good thing it’s easy to have more than three pots of herbs. But these three plants are a beautiful start even if you don’t have a lot of time or space. Now, let’s find out how to grow herbs and greens in pots at your place! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 13 13
  16. 16. not going to die, scream or need a nappy change. But what they do need, is some nutrients, water and shelter. This is particularly true for potted gardens, because when a plant is growing in a pot, it has to rely solely on us to get its needs met. Being encased in a pot means it can’t send its roots down deeper to get more nutrients or water. Those have to come from us. But in fact, we do have a bunch of willing helpers who LOVE helping us feed our plants and make them healthy and naturally pest resistant. What am I talking about? The secret to healthy plants who pretty much grow themselves, is making sure your plant are growing in healthy soil. And what makes healthy soil? The wonderful world of microorganisms! When you grow a plant organically, that is, without the use of synthetic fertilisers or chemicals, the way it takes up nutrients and minerals from the soil is with the help of tiny little micro-organisms in the soil who unlock those nutrients and make them available for the plant to absorb via its roots. These tiny little micro-organisms include things like bacteria, fungi, protozoa and yes, even our delightful and much loved earth worm (which, did you know as an interesting side note, are hermaphrodites? Clever little things.) So, when we are growing herbs and greens in pots, we need to make sure the potting N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M mix we plant into is alive with little microorganisms. Because not only will those micro-organisms unlock the nutrients in the soil for our plants to use, those nutrients will then make our plants naturally pest and disease resistant! Similar to us, plants have an inbuilt ‘immune system’ and for them to stay strong and healthy, they need minerals and nutrients in their soil, which boosts their health. If you and I have been getting enough rest, exercise and good nutrition, and our immune system is strong, we can stand next to someone with a cold or flu and not get sick. Plants have a natural defense system too. Which means, if they’re getting their nutrients from the soil, they have the right amount of water, enough sunshine and aren’t getting blown to bits in the wind, they’ll be able to resist bugs and diseases just like we can resist a common cold. It’s nature’s way of protecting the strong and building up a healthy population. But how do you make your soil alive with micro-organisms? How can you ensure your herbs & greens are growing in excellent conditions that’ll help them grow up strong? You’re about to discover how to improve store-bought potting mix in the next chapter, and in chapter 6 you’ll discover how to make your own super-charged potting mix that’s full of micro-organisms, so your plants grow strong and healthy! : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 15
  18. 18. CHOOSING WHERE TO PUT YOUR POTS COMES DOWN TO TWO MAIN FACTORS, WHICH WHEN COMBINED, I LIKE TO CALL YOUR ‘SWEET SPOT.’ Finding your sweet spot is pretty simple. It’s just a matter of taking into account two main things... SUNSHINE Most edible plants need a minimum of four hours sunshine a day to grow well. Many gardening books from Europe suggest more, but here in Australia we have much stronger sun and can get away with less. In fact, sometimes during summer it can be a matter of creating shade for our little ‘babies’ to stop them frying. During winter plants slow down their growth and need as much sunshine as they can get to thrive. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 17 17
  19. 19. So, one day when you’re going to be home all day, set your alarm for two hour intervals, and take notice of where the sun actually falls on your balcony, patio or court-yard. You may be surprised to see where your sunniest spots are when you actually track the sunshine. On my balcony, which faces south-east, only the railings get sunshine in the morning, which is why I used window boxes to catch that all important and precious sunlight. You may need to use vertical space at your place to get the most sunshine you can too, or you may need to look at the front, instead of the back of your house. The second thing to look at when choosing where to put your potted garden is... N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 18 18
  20. 20. T H E S M A RT P E R M AC U LT U R E PRINCIPLE OF ‘ZONES’ I adore the common-sense practical thinking that goes into much Permaculture design work. Permaculture, by the way, is a concept of working with nature to live in a way that’s more sustainable and focuses also on building solid communities. One principle I teach my students in my online gardening courses, is the smart principle of ‘zones’. Which, while it doesn’t apply so strongly to balcony gardening because we’re already working in such a small space, is still a very useful concept to be aware of so you can make your garden less work, easy to manage, and a pleasure to harvest from. ZONES HELP MAKE YOUR LIFE EASY! I’m a huge advocate for making things simple. And one way to do this, is by putting those things you use the most, the closest to where you will be using them. Zones follow this simple idea: Zone 1: is closest to your house and is for small veggies, herbs & things you harvest regularly, like lemons Zone 2: is for larger veggies & small fruits and is a little further away from the house Zone 3: is further away still, and suits large fruit trees Zone 4: is great for growing firewood / woodland Zone 5: is left for nature’s regeneration N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 19 19
  21. 21. WHEN IT COMES TO GROWING HERBS AND GREENS IN POTS, IT’S EXTREMELY HELPFUL TO KEEP YOUR PLANTS CLOSE TO YOUR KITCHEN. Find a spot for your potted garden where you’ll see them everyday and they’re easy to dash out to harvest, even if it’s raining. That way, you’ll notice when it’s time to harvest them, if they need some extra loving, or if they’re due for a drink. Since they grow pretty much continuously, it’s highly likely you’ll want to use them multiple times a day... and you’ll be encouraged to do just that if they are easy to harvest! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 20 20
  22. 22. I harvest my herbs up to six times a day. I pick them to make teas, sprinkle them on my eggs for breakfast, chop them up for salads, as a garnish on top of soups and pretty much with everything I eat. The reason I’m happy to use them so often, is because I’ve planted them supper close to my kitchen. Making it just as easy to pick a few leaves of fresh mint from the garden for a herbal tea, as it is to get a tea-bag from the cupboard. So, when you’re looking at where you get the most sunshine, combine that with a spot closest to your kitchen, and viola, you’ve found your ‘sweet spot.’ Put your pots in the sunshine & close to your kitchen. Your legs (& tastebuds!) will thank you for it! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 21 21
  23. 23. CHOOSE YOUR POTS WISELY Not all pots were created equal. Some will save you work, while others will have you chained to your garden with a watering can in one hand and an umbrella in the other during summer. Basically, I recommend using pots that are not porous if you want to cut down your time watering. I don’t suggest using terra-cotta and unglazed ceramic pots if you want a low-maintenance garden, as they soak up your water. Instead, I love to use fiberglass, glazed ceramic or even simply green plastic ones. They hold the moisture longer, and make my garden less work. Also, choose pots with drainage holes in the bottom, so water can drain out and your plants won’t drown. The size of your pots will depend a little on what you want to grow in them, but I’ve had success with pots ranging from 15cm to 45cm in diameter, as they’re not too small so as to dry out quickly, and not too big so that they’re too heavy to move around when filled with potting mix. Finally, choose pots that light you up to look at! And remember you can recycle used ones (even those your friends and family no longer use) to save yourself money and give the environment a break. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 22 22
  25. 25. BUT BEFORE WE DIVE INTO WHY ABUNDANT GROWTH BEGINS WITH AWESOME POTTING MIX, HERE’S A LITTLE BACK-STORY ABOUT WHY I CARE SO MUCH ABOUT GROWING HERBS AND GREENS ORGANICALLY. About three and a half years ago my intestines were in a very bad way. They were incredibly painful whenever I ate, due to an infestation of the water-borne parasite giardia. Those nasty little critters had burrowed through my gut walls, allowing partially digested food to leak through my intestines and cause some pretty serious inflammation. I lost ten percent of my body weight in a very short time because I couldn’t eat without causing more pain. With the help of my naturopath and a mora machine (an amazing machine developed by a German scientist), we discovered the parasite infestation had also made me highly sensitive to fruits and veggies grown with chemicals. Which basically meant eating conventionally gown food caused me hours and hours of swelling, bloating and “Oh-My-God-My-Gut-Is-On-Fire” burning pain. I remember Googling trying to find the information I needed to learn how to grow organic food, and I came across some free talks at my local libraries by a wonderful, eccentric and fun-loving woman who’s since became my organic gardening mentor, Rosina Buckman. 24 N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M
  26. 26. I volunteered to help carry her bags around the libraries and listened wide-eyed as she showed photos of the abundant, organic potted and veggie gardens she’d created on her quarter acre suburban block. Rosina convinced me it was worth doing my Permaculture Design Certificate, and taught me about growing seeds, pricking out, planting seedlings, making a no-dig garden and, you guessed it, growing organic food in pots. I visited her home and she showed me how to make a shade-house, how to set up a simple irrigation system with an automatic timer, how to make incredible compost, grow bananas, even how to make a little frog pond and best of all, how to remember to have lots fun along the way. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M She helped me transition from growing vegetables in pots using traditional, conventional potting mix (which is made with chemical fertilisers, wetting agents and other questionable ingredients) to growing in organic potting mix where the plants thrived. Rosina shared with me the value of improving store-bought organic potting mix with extra nutrients to really make sure the plants had the best chance of success. The bonus was the plants were naturally strong and healthy and that meant they could ward off pests and diseases with their own natural ‘immune system’, and thus provide me with the best nutrition possible to help heal my health. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 25 25
  27. 27. It’s been over three years now, and I think some of her goodness must have rubbed off. Because my gut no longer burns when I eat, my veggie patch and potted gardens keep producing an abundance of organic food for my breakfast, lunch and dinner, and my energy levels are on the up and up. Thank you Rosina, you are a total gem and I love you. I’m so blessed and inspired by knowing you. Wisdom passed down through the ages... Now, here is the awesome potting mix recipe I learnt from the one and only, delightful Rosina Buckman (who said to tell you she learnt it from Permaculturist Jade Woodhouse, who learnt it from who knows who…!) HAVE FUN GETTING YOUR HANDS DIRTY!!! Giving our plants awesome soil to grow in is like fueling our body with excellent, high-quality organic food. Totally worth it. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 26
  28. 28. ROSINA’S AWESOME POTTING MIX RECIPE BONUS VIDEO! Watch along as Jess Ainscough and I make this awesome potting mix in this super fun video post on The Wellness Warrior’s website here: http:// STEPS TO FOLLOW 1. You can begin with a layer of garden roughage such as leaves, twigs or weeds that don’t have any seeds in the bottom of you pot (I often skip this step and the mix still works beautifully… but including this layer will add extra nutrients and extend your potting mix for no extra cost). N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M 2. In a wheelbarrow, bucket or large container, pour a large portion of good quality certified organic potting mix (be careful to check the bag has an organic certification label, since some companies will use the word organic in their name, but not actually be organic. In Australia you can look for an organic : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 27
  29. 29. stamp of approval from NASSA or BFA as the certification bodies). 3. A few handfuls of well-rotted cow, sheep, or horse manure (I like to use Searles Organic 5 in 1 for this step because I never seem to have well-rotted manures just lying around the house!) 4. Some compost (home-made is best… or you can get a bag of organic compost from the nursery) – add a few large handfuls 5. Rock minerals (I love a locally made product called ‘Natramin’, but ‘GroLife’ is another alternative, as is ‘crusher dust’ from a landscape supplier) – add a handful 6. Fill your pot with your awesome organic potting mix, then... 7. Put a dollop of molasses and a splash of seaweed fertiliser in a bucket and half fill it with water. Mix well (the smell is wonderful because of the molasses! Yum!) 8. Soak a portion of straw, lucerne or sugar-cane mulch in the molasses and seaweed mix until it has softened. You may like to chop it up finely if it’s not already in small pieces to make it easier to curve around your plants in the next step. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M 9. Cover the surface of your pots with the mulch soaked in molasses and seaweed to help feed your free work force of microorganisms (they love molasses!) BONUS EXTRAS In addition to that basic mix, I sometimes like to add a bit of coconut coir peat if I can be bothered going to the hardware store to get it. Coconut coir peat is useful because it holds moisture in the potting mix which results in less work since you don’t have to water as often (I’m always eager to find simpler ways to garden)! To prepare the coir peat, simply soak the compressed brick in a bucket of water and it will expand like a gorgeous, crumbly, wet and fibrous sponge. You could also use well-rotted saw-dust (from untreated timber) or leaf mold (which is made of leaves that have been piled up and allowed to rot down over about a year or two) to increase the water holding capacity of your mix. I sometimes add a few handfuls of mushroom compost from an organic mushroom farm if I have enough stockpiled for the veggie patch. Mushroom compost adds even more nutrients and holds moisture in the potting mix as well. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 28
  30. 30. Rosina likes to sprinkle about 6-10 pallets of Organic Xtra (a chicken manure product) around the base of her plants when they’re planted, kind of like a slowrelease fertiliser. I usually just mix a couple of handfuls of it into the potting mix as I go. the liquid drains out of my worm farm so it’s automatically added to my watering can each week. And I keep the other jars of molasses and seaweed next to my watering can so they’re easy to remember to use too. You can also add some coarse washed river sand to your mix, to help improve its drainage. I sometimes add it and sometimes don’t... I don’t think it’s essential. FERTILISING & ‘FEEDING’ YOUR POTTED HERBS & GREENS When it comes to feeding her plants, Rosina likes to alternate with her ‘secret ingredients’ which are the molasses and seaweed solution, or store-bought fish emulsion, home-made worm juice (the liquid collected from a worm farm) and once or twice a year she likes to add a bit of blood and bone and another sprinkling of fresh rock minerals. When I feed my herbs and greens in pots, I use a dollop of molasses (just the ordinary stuff you can pick up from the supermarket) and a splash of seaweed fertiliser, along with any worm juice from my worm farm mixed into my watering can. To make it super simple, I keep my watering can sitting under the tap where N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M We both like to feed our plants weekly, because it’s easier to remember than the fortnightly recommendation on most products. Just use half the recommended strength of the fertiliser and feed weekly if they recommend feeding fortnightly. Handy tip: Set a weekly reminder on your phone to help you remember to feed you potted herb garden. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 29
  31. 31. CONGRATULATIONS! With Rosina’s Awesome Potting Mix you’ll be enjoying abundant herbs and greens from your very own potted garden in next to no time. It’s well worth the little bit of extra effort it takes to prepare the mix in the beginning, because it will speed up the growth of your plants, resulting in more fresh organic food for your plate. Now, let’s check out how to plant your seedlings with out ‘breaking their neck’ in the next chapter! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 30
  32. 32. ORGANIC POTTING MIX SUPPLY LIST If you can get your hands on a quality organic potting mix, it’s a great base to start growing you herbs and greens in pots. However, to really improve your success rate, grow more abundant food, help your plants ward of pests and diseases naturally, and make sure they taste delicious, then it’s worth adding some extra nutrients to your store-bought potting mix. Here’s a list of organic soil conditioners and fertilisers I recommend. You can add one, two or three of these to your potting mix. I always recommend including ‘Natramin’ or crusher dust in your soil, to give your plants the minerals they need, and ensure you’re eating minerals in your organic food. Ingredients marked with * are highly recommended to use if possible. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 31
  33. 33. ORGANIC POTTING MIX SUPPLIERS LIST Ingredient Function Supplier & more info Worm Castings* (Highly recommended) Adds nutrients, water-holding capacity & microorganisms Your (or your friend’s!) worm farm. Liquid Worm Castings Adds nutrients & micro-organisms McLeods Soil Conditioner Adds nutrients, minerals, water-holding capacity & micro-organisms http:// Organic Xtra Provides slow release fertiliser of essential nutrients and trace elements Nutri Tech’s ‘Nutri-Store GoldTM’ Adds nutrients & micro-organisms Natramin* Adds minerals GroLife Adds minerals Blood & Bone Adds nutrients Local nursery or hard-ware store Dynamic Lifter Adds nutrients Local nursery or hard-ware store Dr. Grow it All Liquid Fertiliser: adds nutrients products/store-locations/ Seasol Liquid Fertiliser: adds nutrients Local nursery or hard-ware store Available in USA - adds nutrients organic-fertilizers/neem-gantec-prosolid-6-oz-bottle/ Neem Gantec Pro N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 32 32
  35. 35. You know how it’s pretty stressful when you’re moving house? Or have you ever visited a third-world country and had culture shock? Well, seedlings are pretty similar when it comes to ‘moving house’ from their little punnet, out into their big new world of a larger pot. So, to help them adjust to their new surroundings, send down their roots, and really get off to a flying start, we want to give them a little extra tender love and care during this process. WHAT YOU WILL NEED • Seedlings • Potting mix. • Liquid fertiliser (worm ‘wee’ fertiliser is awesome, or liquid seaweed from the nursery is excellent). • Pots or containers. • Molasses (Optional, but a very handy trick! Pick up a jar from the supermarket - it’s perfect. It will help the roots grow and feed our ‘free workforce’ of micro-organisms; they love the stuff!) • Watering can with a fine ‘rose’ attachment • Plastic tray larger than the base of your seedlings, so they can have a ‘soak in the bath’ before being planted out. HANDY HINT: Swapping seedlings with friends is a great way to get more diversity if you don’t want to eat a whole punnet of one type of plant. For example, you might not need six parsley plants, so you could have a ‘garden party’ and share with a friend. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 34 34
  36. 36. STEP 1. CHOOSE YOUR SEEDINGS Select seedlings with strong stems, no yellow leaves, and not too ‘leggy’ (meaning stems that are already so tall the plant is prone to falling over). Often smaller seedlings are better! Check the variety of seedling is in season and suits your climate. You can use or Google. Plus, make sure it’s something you love to eat! (or you’re excited about experimenting with). Place your seedlings in the nutrient rich, water bath to soak up the nutrients and help ease any transplant shock. STEP 2. PREPARE SEEDLINGS TO PLANT Grab your gloves, pots and potting mix materials (you may like to put down a tarp or old bed sheet to keep things clean... I usually just sweep up after all the dirty work is done). Get a container and pour in a splash of liquid fertiliser (can be liquid worm juice or seaweed fertiliser) and a dollop of molasses. Just the ordinary molasses you get from the supermarket is perfect. Add water until it sits just under the rim of your seedling’s punnet or existing pot. Mix molasses, water & fertiliser together. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M STEP 3. GET YOUR POTTING MIX READY Choose to either improve store-bought organic potting mix with added nutrients or make your own from scratch. Option #1. Improve store-bought potting mix by adding a few handfuls of rock minerals, chicken manure pallets, home- : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 35 35
  37. 37. made compost, worm castings, or blood and bone. Option #2. Make your own organic potting mix from scratch by choosing one of the recipes in the ‘‘Super-charged DIY Potting Mix Recipe’ chapter. Make a little hole (I usually just use my fingers) slightly wider, but not deeper, than the seedling’s soil in the plastic tray or the pot it’s in now. HANDY HINT: Which ever method you choose, adding these nutrients to your potting mix will really help your plants thrive, be disease and pest-resistant, not to mention taste delicious! It’s worth the extra effort in the beginning. STEP 4. PLANT SEEDLINGS IN POTS Take the seedling tray out of the water bath, and gently squeeze the bottom of the plastic ‘cell’. Use your thumb at the base to pop out the seedling onto your up-faced palm. Fill your new pot or container with the potting mix, leaving 3-4cm from the top of the pot. Pour a splash of liquid fertiliser into your watering can and fill it with water. Give your potting mix a drink of water to help settle down all the soil particles, and get ready for the seedling’s roots. Be careful not to bruise, squash or damage the stem of the plant because that’s the equivalent of breaking its neck (it will stop all the ‘blood flow’ or the nutrients from getting to the rest of the plant.) If you need to hold onto something, it’s better to hold the leaves at the top because they’ll grow back. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 36 36
  38. 38. “Plants want to grow; they are on your side as long as you are reasonably sensible.” ― Anne Wareham Use your other hand to pick up the base of the seedling where the roots and existing soil are, and drop it into the hole in your potting mix. STEP 5. FINISH UP Pull the potting mix back around the base of the plant and firm down gently - like you are wetting a stamp on a sponge at the post office. Consider putting mulch around the base, especially if it’s summer and a lot of potting mix is exposed. You can use chopped up lemon grass, sugar-cane mulch, even stones will help to protect the soil from drying out. Give everything a good drink with the watering can of liquid fertiliser mix. IMPORTANT: Be careful the potting mix isn’t any higher around the base of the stem than the soil from the seedling’s plastic tray was. It should be at the same level so it doesn’t rot, and still allows airflow around the stem, or else it can kill your baby plant! So just make sure you keep the soil the same height around the base of the plant, and it’s not planted any deeper up the stem than it was before. Well done! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 37 37
  39. 39. BON APPETITE! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 38 38
  41. 41. HOWEVER... THERE’S NOTHING QUITE LIKE GROWING FROM SEED. SEEING THEIR LITTLE SPROUTS PUSH THROUGH THE SOIL BRINGS A JOY UNLIKE ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD, AND JUST PROVES THERE IS HOPE, LIFE, AND IMMENSE NATURAL, YET GRACEFUL DETERMINATION IN NATURE. Plus, on the practical side, growing from seed is often much cheaper in the long run. You get 30-200 seeds in a little bag of seeds, which is usually around the same price for a punnet of seedlings, in which you’ll only get 4-8 plants. Plus, when it comes to growing unusual varieties of herbs and leafy greens, sometimes the only way to get them is if you grow them from seed. Here’s the low-down of how to successfully grow herbs & leafy greens from seed. WHAT YOU WILL NEED • Seeds suitable for the season, and your climate. • Pot or container: you can recycle yogurt tubs, milk cartons, and even little cherry tomato or strawberry containers from the supermarket. Just punch holes in the bottom. Or sow directly into your pots or seed raising trays. I like to sow seeds for leafy greens directly into the pot in which I’ll be growing them. • Watering can with a fine ‘rose’ attachment or a fine mist spray bottle. • Optional: Clear plastic storage container with a lid, propagating house or damp newspaper and plastic kitchen wrap. (Helpful if you are having trouble getting your seeds to germinate). HANDY HINT: Ask at the nursery or use Google to help you find what’s right for your area now. Simply search “Vegetable Sowing Guide + Your Region” and you should find a lot of free resources online. I like the ABC Gardening Australia Veggie Guide. HANDY HINT #2: Swapping seeds with friends is a great way to get more diversity since it’s rare you’ll ever get through a whole packet of seeds before they expire (yes, seeds have expiration dates!). SOWING SEEDS IN YOUR POTS • Seed raising mix or fine potting mix. • Labels (ice-cream sticks or plastic bottles cut into strips). • Pen (waterproof is best). N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M It’s important to use good quality, fresh seedraising mix or fine potting mix each time you sow new seeds. You can make your own by sieving potting mix and mixing half and half : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 40 40
  42. 42. with fine washed river sand. I usually just buy seed raising mix. • Give it all a drink with the watering can to help the soil particles settle down. Seed-raising mix has very fine particles, allowing the little plants to be able to push through the surface without a huge ‘bolder’ or rock on top of their heads. • Pat it down gently. You still want it to be a loose mix, but don’t want air-pockets in the soil (seeds need to be in contact with soil on all sides to grow strong roots and stems). It’s best to wash your pots or containers, to kill any bacteria or fungal diseases that may have bred in the old soil. I occasionally wash mine using hydrogen peroxide, as a natural alternative to the commonly used bleach. STEP 2: PLANTING YOUR SEEDS • Open your packet of seeds and sprinkle them on your palm. Write the name of the seed on a waterproof label and put in the pot if you are sowing a few different varieties (it’s difficult to remember later, trust me!) STEP 1: PREPARING YOUR POT • Fill your pot with either the potting mix you’ve added extra nutrients to (see the ‘Super-Charged Potting Mix’ chapter), or a mix you’ve made from scratch. Leave about 5cm from the rim of your pot. • Sprinkle a layer of sieved potting mix (to remove any large bits) or seed-raising mix about 2cm thick on top. Or, if you are only sowing into seed raising trays, only use seed raising mix. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M • Use your thumb and forefinger on the other hand to sprinkle them fairly evenly over the surface of your potting mix. • Now gently cover them with another few handfuls of seed raising mix. Just sprinkle it on top with your hand, removing any clumps as you go. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 41 41
  43. 43. SEED RAISING TIPS & TRICKS HANDY HINT: Don’t let your seeds dry out that’s important!!! It helps to keep a spray bottle or full watering can right next to your pots, so you can give them a regular drink. HANDY HINT: A good ‘rule of thumb’ is to know that a seed only needs to be planted to the depth of its own diameter. So, very small seeds don’t need much soil covering them, or else they’ll find it hard to ‘feel the sunshine’ and push their little heads through so much dirt. STEP 3: FINISHING UP • Give it all another drink with either a watering-can with a fine ‘rose’ attached so you don’t wash all those little seeds away, or use a spray bottle on a fine mist setting. Both work well. Put it in a sunny position to grow (f you have morning sunshine, that’s the best)! You may start ‘thinning’ out the seeds once they begin to germinate. This basically means pulling out some of the plants who have taken up residence right next to each other. Overcrowding will lessen your crop, so pull out smaller, weaker seedlings and allow the stronger, hardier ones room to grow. You can eat the little ones as micro-greens or sprouts! Begin feeding your young seedlings with liquid fertiliser every two weeks after their ‘true’ leaves appear (usually the second set of leaves growing on the stem that look like the actual plant itself). Have fun and experiment! Get the kids involved :) SPEED UP GERMINATION Seeds like even temperature and humidity. To help keep them warm and moist, you can keep them in a clear plastic container with ventilation, a propagating container, or cover them with moist newspaper and a loose covering of plastic kitchen wrap (I’ve had success with both methods) to help with germination. Great job & ‘Bon appetit’! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 42 42
  44. 44. ORGANIC SEED SUPPLIERS - WORLDWIDE! Company Website Region Green Harvest Australia Eden Seeds Australia The Diggers Club Australia The Lost Seed Australia Seeds of Change USA Johnny Seeds USA Organic Garden UK Earth Easy USA Seeds Now USA Seed Savers Network Global Chase Organics UK Simpsons Seeds UK Suffolk Herbs UK Naturally Organic cat=313 New Zealand Mudbrick Cottage Australia Your region not listed? Don’t worry! Simply type into Google ‘Buy organic seeds’ plus ‘your region’ and you’ll find a supplier of organic seeds for your area. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 43 43
  46. 46. Plenty of beginner gardeners kill their plants with too much love in the early days. Because, while yes, it’s true plants do need water, there is such a thing as too much, and overloving, or over-watering, your plants can lead to their early demise. THE ‘FINGER TEST METHOD’ You can avoid this common mistake by using what I call the ‘finger test method.’ This involves simply poking your finger into the potting mix and checking the moisture in your soil before you water. You’re looking for a moisture level of about a damp sponge, not mud and not dry sand. It’s best if you don’t let your pots dry out, or else you can stress the plants and the potting mix can become ‘water repellent’, which means it won’t absorb water when you pour it from above. If that happens, dunk the entire pot in a bucket, pond or the kitchen sink until the potting mix become rehydrated, then let it drain (I actually do this pretty often, as I tend to forget to water my pots. Thus, my pond is my greatest help in my potted garden. I highly recommend making one at your place too.) You’ll probably find you need to water your pots around every three days in winter, and up to every day in summer, but it will depend on the individual plant, and where it is situated. Use the finger test method to know what’s actually going on moisture wise beneath the surface. If you see leaves turning yellow, that’s one of the first signs of over-watering. PERMACULTURE PRINCIPLE OF ZONES The clever Permaculture principle of zones, and keeping your herbs close to your kitchen where you’ll see them everyday, is the only key to success I’ve found in remembering to water them. If they’re tucked away around the back, it really is a matter of ‘out of sight, out of mind.’ So make it easy to remember to water them, by keeping them somewhere you’ll see them everyday. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 45
  47. 47. MAKE A POND & KEEP YOUR WATERING CAN FULL OF WATER Having water on hand, ready to water your plants makes it so much easier. So refill your watering can after using it, making the job feel nice and easy for the next session. Plus, as I’ve mentioned, a pond is awesome for dunking dried out pots in, as it rehydrates the potting mix with a good soaking. FEED YOUR PLANTS REGULARLY Feed your plants with liquid fertiliser added to the watering can every two weeks to keep them thriving. You can use seaweed fertiliser, liquid worm castings, compost tea or an organic liquid fertiliser. Using a mixture of different liquid fertilisers is a good way to ensure your plants get a variety of nutrients. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 46
  49. 49. I ADORE FINDING HERBS TO TRY AND HAVE FOUND THERE’S ONE THAT TASTES PRETTY MUCH LIKE ANY OF YOUR FAVOURITE FOODS. Love chocolate? Try chocolate mint. Love celery? Try Lebanese Cress. Love pineapple? Plant some pineapple sage (it makes my favourite herbal tea!). Love mushrooms? There’s even an herb called ‘mushroom plant’ and yes, it does taste like mushrooms. Here’s a list of herbs I’ve personally grown and love, to whet your appetite for experimentation. In Australia, you’ll find you can order, pay for and have your young herb shipped to you from They offer a huge range of quality plants and I love the convenience of having rare herbs posted out to you. However, if you have friends with these herbs in their gardens, many of these herbs grow from root division or cuttings, which is like getting free plants and is my all time favourite way to add diversity to my garden and build relationships within my community. Try it! Many gardeners are happy to swap this for that and proud to share their surplus. Just make sure to ask first! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 48
  50. 50. Many of these plants offer lots of medicinal properties too, so add as many to your garden as lights you up. And don’t forget to eat them! 1. 2. Pineapple sage - delicious as herbal tea! One of my favourites, actually. Lemon thyme - great with feta and in salads. 12. Chocolate Mint - need a sweet treat? Chew some leaves fresh, or steep in boiling water for a herbal tea that’s perfect for after dinner. 13. Spring Onions - great in soups, salads, with cheese. Mmmm. 14. Chives - same as spring onions. 3. Oregano - perfect in pasta or a few fresh leaves in a salad for an earthy flavour. 15. Garlic Chives - for a special depth of flavour. 4. Sage - so pretty. I love the silver grey leaves. 16. Rosemary - oh, the earthiness! Sprinkled on roasted pumpkin is my favourite. 5. Sweet Basil - YUM, YUM. What can I say? Sweet basil is a joyful exploration for your mouth. 17. Parsley - so good for our health! I chop up a handful and include it in my salad. 6. Bush Basil / Perennial Basil - bees LOVE this plant and I have it growing from cuttings all around my garden. It looks a little like lavender when in flower. 7. Lime Basil - for a surprising twist. 8. Gotu Kola - great for reducing inflammation and getting rid of back pain. 9. Lebanese Cress - tastes a little like carrots! Loves having ‘wet feet’ so you can even grow it in your pond. 10. Mother of Herb - my favourite herbal tea with honey to soothe a sore tummy. 11. Mint - I use mint in my salads to add a new dimension of flavour. It’s also great for herbal teas. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M 18. Italian Parsley - same as above, only a little bit ‘fancy’ looking. 19. Ceylon Spinach - great for digestion. 20. Brazilian Spinach - chickens love this! And it grows easily. Chop the leaves finely for salads. 21. Greek Basil - a more delicate flavoured basil. Very tasty! 22. Nasturtium - you can eat all of this plant! The leaves, flowers, seed pods, stems and roots. It’s a little peppery, like rocket. 23. Brahmi - great for improving your memory! Tastes bitter, but a little goes a long way. 24. Rocket / Arugula - one of my favourite salad leaves. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 49
  51. 51. 25. Sorrel - the least maintenance plant in my whole garden! I eat it pretty much every day, often two or three times and because it’s a perennial, it keeps growing back. 26. Kale - so good for us. I don’t worry about ‘massaging’ it or doing anything fancy to prepare it. I just chop it up and add the leaves to salads. It’s also great in green juices. 27. Mizuna - a spicy ‘hot’ Asian green. 28. Mabuna - another ‘hot’ Asian green. Grows well in summer. 29. Herb Robert - said to have healed patients from cancer and all kinds of ailments. It’s also very pretty! 30. Lemongrass - great in Asian dressings, and of course herbal tea. 31. Mushroom Plant - yes, it tastes like mushrooms! 32. Coriander Perennial - the ‘saw-tooth’ variety that grows easily. Just chop the jagged edges off with scissors if you’re worried, or chop finely with a knife. 33. Aloe Vera - great healing herb. 34. Curry Leaf Tree - ok, it’s actually a tree. But it’s great added to curries. 36. Comfrey - heals broken bones and helps compost break down faster. Truly an amazing plant. 37. Dill - great with eggs and cheese. So feathery and pretty, I love dill. 38. Lemon Balm - perfect for herbal tea. 39. Kang Kong - great in stir-fries cooked with sesame oil. Grows in a pond! 40. Salad Mallow - easy to grow from seed and good in salads. 41. Variegated Apple Mint - very pretty little plant, just for something different. 42. Turmeric - grows from a root division and is ever so good for our health. Probably best to include only if you have a lot of other things growing, since it will take a while to develop roots for harvesting. 43. Ginger - same as turmeric above. Great in green juices too! 44. Coriander - the reminder that all of us are only here for a short while, so best bloom, be eaten and savoured while it lasts. 45. Kaffir lime - ok, so this is actually another tree. But you can grow citrus in pots and this little beauty is SO good in Thai green curries. 35. Vietnamese Mint - grows in ponds and has that special heat perfect for Vietnamese spring rolls! Yum. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 50
  53. 53. 1. LOCATION LOCATION The most important thing to know if you want to grow herbs inside, is you’ll need a spot with lots of natural sunlight. A sunny windowsill is perfect, particularly if it gets morning sunshine (which it will if it faces east). However, if it faces west it may get too hot in the summer months, when the afternoon sun is burning through the glass. So keep an eye on your plants and move them back if they’re looking stressed out (wilting, curling or browning leaves). The amount of sunlight your windowsill gets will depend on whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere when it comes to north or south facing windows. In Australia and other countries in the southern hemisphere, south facing windows won’t get enough sunlight, but north facing windows will be awesome. And vice versa is true for America, Europe and countries in the northern hemisphere, where you’d want your windows to be facing south. The best way to know for sure, is to set your alarm to go off every hour one day when you’ll be home all day, N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M and jot down if there is full sun, part sun or full shade in your chosen spot on the hour, each hour. Just so you know what’s really going on (it’s easy to think you know where the sunlight falls, only to be surprised when you actually take notes). You’ll want a spot where your hand casts a well defined shadow. And if you can find a spot with multiple windows in the room, it will add to the ambient light and thereby speed up the growth of your plants. 2. GETTING ENOUGH SUNLIGHT? If you don’t have a spot with about four to six hours of good sunlight indoors, you will probably need to invest in some grow lights. They can be purchased pretty easily online these days. Although I haven’t used them myself, I’ve read many success stories about how they’ve boosted the growth of plants in darker parts of the world. If you’re worried about the price of electricity, just add up the price of the herbs and greens you’ll grow in return, and I think you’ll find it’s a : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 52
  54. 54. worthwhile investment, not to mention soul-satisfying! I know if I lived somewhere with long cold winters, an indoor herb garden would delight my soul and get me through to spring. You can choose whatever herbs light you up and experiment with them, or go with the tried and tested varieties we all love; mint, rosemary, thyme (I love lemon thyme), chives, parsley, sage, basil, oregano, or if you’re happy to keep cutting and You could also experiment with replanting every month or so, leaving your existing ceiling lights coriander. on, or a lamp beside your herbs. I’ve read about gardeners in 4. PROTECT YOUR BENCH America who do this with good results in autumn and winter. Pop them on a saucer or plate to 3. SEEDS OR SEEDLINGS? We can get herbs and leafy greens started growing from seed indoors before transplanting them outdoors. However, if you want to keep the plant inside, it’s best to get mature, established plants to begin with. Growing from seed purely indoors is pretty difficult and usually results in spindly, small plants. protect your bench or windowsill from getting water-damaged. 5. WATERING 101 Watering is super simple, just fill the kitchen sink with about 5cm of water, and sit them in the ‘bath’ to soak up the moisture about twice a week. Use the ‘finger test method’ explained in chapter nine to check if the individual pot needs water, since different plants are thirstier So, go for an adventure to the than others! nursery and splurge on some larger ‘ready made’ plants. Not only will Once they’ve soaked up the you be able to start eating from moisture, pull out the plug and let them right away, you’ll end up with a them drain for a few minutes, then stronger plant that produces more put them back on the windowsill on food in the long run too. their little plate or saucer. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 53
  55. 55. 6. WHAT’S NEXT? 7. HARVESTING... YUM, YUM! Maintenance... is very low! No weeds to worry about and very few pests will get to your indoor herb garden, so you can relax. If little bugs do appear, you can fill the sink and submerge the entire plant for up to 15 minutes (don’t forget to take it out or it could suffocate) in which time the bugs will have drowned, and you didn’t have to resort to using any sprays. It’s so easy. Picking your herbs is the most fun part. Well, no, actually, eating them is! Or making them into herbal tea. yourself. You deserve fresh herbs in your meals and life. ‘Yum’ indeed! When you pick your herbs, it promotes new growth, so don’t be afraid to use them. Just pick the tips of herbs like thyme or oregano, or cut a few lengths of long leaves like chives or spring onions towards the base of the plant. Always leave about half the plant to continue growing, and you’ll get more food, Brown leaves? Simply trim off any flavour and delight from this little dead or brown leaves with scissors plant than you dreamed possible. and keep in mind the herb’s won’t grow so much during autumn and My biggest tip when it comes to gardening, is to enjoy eating what winter, and may look a little bit you’re growing, ideally every day. scraggly. You can just give them a hair-cut and trim them right back, That way, even if your plants only and usually they’ll grow again when live a short while, they will have the weather warms up. more than paid for themselves, and But, if they don’t pull though, don’t you’ll enjoy better health and loose heart. Just get another plant d e l i g h t e d t a s t e - b u d s i n t h e for the new season and treat process. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 54
  57. 57. When people discover I’m an artist they’ll often confess they don’t have an artistic bone in their body (something I don’t believe is the case... but that’s another story), similarly, when they hear I help people grow organic food, they often confess how they killed their sweet basil. Or their cherry tomatoes. “They were going fine’” they’ll say, “but then they didn’t look too good, and I had to take them out.” They often look down at the ground and shrug their shoulders at this point. Like they’ve admitted to a personal flaw. What if I told you you weren’t to blame? Nature was just taking its course and everything is as it should be. Because, you see, not all plants were created equal. Some plants were granted the gift of eternal life... well, almost. They’re called perennials, and they live for years and years. Others are biennials, and these grow for only two years. And the remainder are annuals, and N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M yep, you guessed it, they live for only one year, or even just a season. So that means in one season an annual will grow from a seed, produce leaves and stems, then set flower and those flowers will turn to seed. Then it will pass away. Its job and lifecycle is complete. Like a butterfly. Annual plants only live for a very short while. Unless you have particularly friendly climate conditions and you may be lucky to get a couple of seasons before it dies back. Now guess what? Sweet basil is an annual. And coriander is too. However, there are perennial varieties of basil and coriander which have been cultivated to live for years instead of only one season. So if you want a low-maintenance garden, or you want to be eating your basil and coriander all year round, you’d do well to plant the perennial varieties. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 56
  58. 58. Sometimes I plant both annual and perennial varieties, because I love the flavour and delicate leaves of the annuals and don’t want to miss out. So, next time your herb or green dies, before you go thinking it was your fault, you may like to check on Google and find out if it’s an annual, biennial or perennial. Then, you’ll know not to come down so hard on yourself over something that’s totally out of our control. Instead, do what I do... Smile, and plant another one! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 57
  59. 59. 13 4 SECRETS TO GROWING CORIANDER! ONE OF THE MOST COMMON QUESTIONS I’M ASKED AT WORKSHOPS IS ‘HOW CAN I GROW CORIANDER? So, if you’re wondering what the secret is, take heart because you’re not the only one. This lovely, delicate herb is a favourite of many and has been
  60. 60. baffling gardeners around the world as to why it doesn’t last long. Here are 4 secrets to growing coriander for your next Asian dish, tasty salad or rice-paper roll. #1. CHOOSE ‘SLOW BOLTING’ VARIETIES The challenge we all face with coriander is its tendency to ‘bolt to seed.’ Bolting to seed means it produces flowers and those flowers become little seeds (which we can eat!) and then, because its reproduction cycle is complete, it dies. However, some varieties have been cultivated to slow down that cycle, so you can harvest leaves for a longer period before it dies. So, secret #1 is when you’re choosing your seeds or seedlings, see if you can find a ‘slow bolting’ variety and go for that one. You can even Google ‘slow bolting coriander seeds’ and you’ll probably find a supplier who’ll send them to you. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M #2. GO WITH THE SEASONS AND CYCLES OF NATURE Coriander is likely to bolt to seed much faster in the hot summer months. During autumn and spring it will keep producing leaves for longer and you’ll get a longer lasting crop. So, if you’re stressed it’s not lasting long enough in summer, try moving the pot into a little more shade and experiment to see if you can slow down the bolting. Ideally, in the cooler months, coriander likes a sunny spot and very good quality potting mix. The mix you made, either from scratch or improving store-bought potting mix following the recipes in earlier chapters will be perfect. #3. KEEP PLANTING SEQUENTIAL CROPS In Asia, they understand coriander is a short lived plant and simply sow more seeds into the garden every one or two weeks, thus : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 59
  61. 61. keeping a consistent supply of leaves. Once the little plants have germinated, the older plants will be getting older and by the time they go to seed, the next crop will be ready to eat. We can learn from this and follow the same principle in our little potted gardens. Even having just two pots dedicated to rotating crops of new seeds and young plants will increase the abundance of your coriander crops. Don’t worry too much about the exact timing, just put some seeds in now, then in a few weeks when you’re thinking about it, sprinkle some more in another pot. Sprinkling about ten seeds in a 25cm diameter pot filled with quality potting mix will be a great way to go. #4. TRY PERENNIAL CORIANDER If you’re like me, and you love things to be extra low maintenance, you may like to try growing a perennial variety of coriander. Also known as ‘saw-tooth’ coriander, it’s a completely different type of plant but has a very similar flavour. The leaves are, as their common name suggests, quite jagged and spiky, which puts some people off. However, I just harvest a few leaves with scissors, then chop them very finely with a knife to add to salads. Delicious! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 60
  63. 63. HOW DO I GET RID OF PESTS? “Once upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were--Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail, and Peter. ” ― Beatrix Potter Ok, I’ll be honest. When people ask me how to get rid of pests, I get all kind of tongue-tied and begin speaking in half sentences. I have so many ideas flood into my head at once, I can barely put any words together. It’s kind of embarrassing. But, I think I’ve come up with a story that will help us both in this situation... So, let’s pretend you’ve picked up a cold or flu. Or worse, you’ve got something really troublesome like cancer or chronic fatigue. What do you need to do to get better? Come on, play with me here. If you had a flu, what would you need? You’d need to rest and make sure you’re getting all the nutrition you need to heal. You’d be wise to reduce your stress and make sure you are well hydrated. You would want to make your body a place that doesn’t support the virus, by boosting your own immune system. You could do that by eating super-foods, juicing, getting Vitamin D in the sunshine, and taking good care of yourself. Plants are no different. Their basic needs are the same, and when they are getting attacked by pests, it’s simply an indicator their natural defense system, or their ‘immune system’ is depleted. So, instead of going to the doctor and trying to fix it with a packet of pills, like our modern culture is likely to do, we need to listen to our body and learn what it is telling us. Likewise, taking care of a plant is like learning to take care of ourselves. Usually, when people have bugs in their garden, they’re expecting me to tell them the best organic spray to use to get rid of them. But that’s like N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 62 62
  64. 64. asking a naturopath for a packet of antibiotics when you’ve got a flu. I want to help you have strong, healthy plants that are naturally pest and disease resistant. Because... Strong and healthy plants don’t succumb to every pest that’s flying past, just like people with strong immune systems don’t catch a cold just from standing next to someone with those germs. It’s nature’s way of protecting us and keeping the species strong. Likewise, when our plants are getting munched on by loads of catterpillars, slugs, aphids, grasshoppers or other bugs, it’s a signal we need to take some action to help them get healthy again. “It didn’t occur to me… that gardening, like music, could demand practice, patience, a willingness to make mistakes.” 5 ORGANIC PEST MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M First thing’s first... Begin with healthy soil that’s alive with micro-organisims! Add compost, compost, compost, worm casting from a worm farm, or store-bought compost to begin. 2. Plant crops that are in season and suit your climate. Plants trying to grow when it’s ‘not their time’ will be more susceptible to pests, because they’ll be stressed. 3. ― Amy Stewert 1. Make sure your plants have all the nutrients and water they need - like us, if they’re under stress and not getting their needs met, they’re more susceptible to pests and disease. : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 63 63
  65. 65. 4. Plant a diversity of crops instead of a monoculture. 5. Include a pond, native plants and flowers in your garden, to increase the natural habitat for pest predators. 6. Drown the bugs! If your plant fits in the laundry sink, you can place it completely under water and leave it for 15 minutes, then let it drain. It will drown insects and get rid of most bugs! Just don’t forget to take it out, or you could drown your plant too! HOW TO DEAL WITH LARGE PESTS, PETS & ANIMALS There’s only one method I know of that works with things like bush turkeys, possums and household pets.... using exclusion methods! That means using netting, fencing or other screening options to keep the animals away from your plants. In a potted garden, you can use bridal tule, bird netting or chicken wire to enclose your plants and keep them safe from larger animals. You may also consider putting your pots up on a shelf, table or platform to keep them out of reach of dogs etc. It’s all about a little bit of effort and foresight that pays off in the long run. WHAT TO DO IF YOUR FAVOURITE PLANT’S BEING EATEN Sometimes you may find your favourite plant is being eaten, despite following all those tips above. When that happens, you can use a few strategies: • Make an organic spray by soaking garlic or chilli in water, or some people mix a few drops of biodegradable dishwashing liquid with water and spray all over the plants daily. I don’t bother spraying anything at my place. Instead I just... • Pick off the offending bugs by hand and squash them. • Water and foliar feed with liquid fertiliser to boost the plant’s ‘immune system’. To foliar feed, just mix liquid seaweed fertiliser, or another organic fertiliser, with water in your watering can and pour over the entire plant. Like us, they absorb nutrients through their ‘skin’ (their leaves), and will benefit from a total dousing. N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 64 64
  66. 66. “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece” ― Claude Monet • Plant EXTRA plants to eat, and accept the concept of sharing with nature. This is my favourite method! Probably because I’ve got plenty of space and a low tolerance for performing menial jobs. You may need to use a combination of approaches. HANDY HINT: When foliar feeding, just be sure to dilute the fertiliser with water and aim to do it outside of the hottest time of the day. Evenings or early morning are best so the sun doesn’t heat up the water droplets and burn the leaves. MY PERSONAL TAKE ON PESTS... I realised years ago I actually really like my ‘pests’. They’re all unique, interesting little creatures with a purpose and contribution to our ecosystems. It’s a lot less stressful when I don’t see them as the enemy. Instead, by recognising their presence as an ‘indicator’ that my soil or plant needs some attention, it makes them allies and friends. Take photos of them, if you need to find a way to enjoy them. Then they’ll be your muse, your portrait, your curiosity. Say ‘cheese’. Click! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 65 65
  68. 68. POTTED GARDEN SHOPPING LIST “By bringing a soulful consciousness to gardening, sacred space can be created outdoors.” ― S. Kelley Harrell, Nature's Gifts Anthology To help you find what you might need to get your potted garden set up, I've put together a basic shopping list for you. You'll be able to pick up most, if not all, of these items from your local nursery. • Gloves (I love Showa Gardening Gloves, they’re thin enough to allow me to still 'feel' through the material and last a long time. The slightly higher price is worth it, in my books!) • Watering can (9L is a good size. Get a smaller one too if you want to water hanging baskets with something lighter to lift above your head). • Planter boxes (if you're attaching them to your wall/railing). • Wire or screws to attached your planter boxes. • Organic liquid fertiliser (if you don't have a worm farm to produce your own). • Dynamic Lifter (to add to your potting mix or compost mix). • Rock minerals or crusher dust (from a landscape supplier). • Pots of your size, number and choice. • Pot saucers or 'feet', if you don't choose self-watering pots. • Seedlings of plants that fit your 'sweet spot'. ie. are in season, grow in your climate and you LOVE to eat. • Ingredients for your potting mix (refer to the DIY Potting Mix recipes to see what you can need). And just a little gentle note...... if you're busy, or don't have time to implement everything all at once, don't worry! This book is here for you when you need it, and you'll be able to make your garden at your own pace. However, I do encourage you to break things down into manageable, bite-sized chunks to keep the momentum going and inspiration flowing. 67
  70. 70. THE WEEKLY GARDEN CHECK-LIST 1. I’ve checked the moisture in my pots using the ‘finger method’ and watered where needed every few days, being careful not to overwater. 2. I’ve fed my plants with a splash of liquid organic fertiliser in my watering can. 3. I’ve removed any plants that are tired or dead and replaced them with something I love to eat and are in season. 4. I’ve harvested my herbs and greens daily, because they happily grow back and eating them is great for my health. 5. I’ve made my taste-buds super happy by using herbs in salads and to make herbal teas. 6. I’ve sat with my plants and enjoyed their company, noticing if any need any extra tender love and care. 7. I’ve given a posy of herbs and greens to a friend! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 69 69
  72. 72. STEP 1. PICK 5-10 FRESH LEAVES Choose leaves that look healthy and v i g o u ro u s . I l o v e p i n e a p p l e s a g e , lemongrass, spearmint, mint, chocolate mint or mother of herb for my homegrown herbal teas. They can fit into your day at different times, and provide a wonderful lift for your tastebuds. Experiment with combinations! STEP 2. PLACE THE LEAVES IN YOUR TEACUP. Surprisingly, there’s no need to dry the leaves before making them into herbal tea. Using your herbs when they’re still fresh will make a delicious herbal tea, and provide you with a lovely range of health benefits too. STEP 3. BOIL THE KETTLE AND POUR IT OVER THE LEAVES. Pour boiling water directly over the leaves in your cup and bon appetite! The flavour of freshly picked herbs made into tea is so full, and feels so cleansing, it’s one of the high-lights of my day. Try it, you’ll love it! N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 71
  73. 73. 18 WANT TO GROW MORE ORGANIC FOOD? Our time together doesn’t have to end here. If you’re excited about growing more organic food I’d be love you to check out my online courses The Abundant Veggie Patch System and Grow Organic Food in Pots. They’re full of juicy information about how make a garden that supports you, delivered step-by-step with weekly videos, resources, and handy check-lists. I’ve taught hundreds of beginner gardeners all around the world with these acclaimed programs, and would be delighted to help you grow more organic food too. Check out my e-books and e-courses at Plus, make sure you never miss any of my tips and updates by signing up for my free weekly newsletter Sprout! LET’S STAY IN TOUCH YT N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M II II : : : : : : : : : : : : PA G E 72
  74. 74. “Grow Abundant Herbs & Greens in Pots Design by Nicola Chatham Photographs ::: Nicola Chatham, Sunshine Photography and The Photographic Philosopher © Nicola Chatham 2013 N I C O L A C H AT H A M . C O M