The Modern Herb Grower – Part 3

Caring for plants, or anything for that matter, is at the same time frustratingly exhausting and one of life’s great joys. Little plants are moody and temperamental, however, it has been my experience that no matter the conditions, a loving environment will produce strong and confident growth.

There have been a great many studies over the last century that focused on plant consciousness. Though these studies have continually produced viable scientific confirmation of the vast intelligence of plants, it was not until recently that “Plant Neurobiology” became an accepted field of study. This study surmises that plants process information, adjust behavior in accordance with external influence, compete for resources, and communicate information within the plant kingdom.

As this is the case, talking to your plants not only serves to bond you with your gentle companions, but will aid in their growth as well. After all, who doesn’t appreciate a kind word and some encouragement now and then?

A Growing Concern

The timeline has traveled now through these installments from late summer, into autumn and winter, and now spring has sprung. Our little investments are bright and green, and excitedly bursting out of the plug trays. It is time to transplant.

The first pot-up is into a two and a half to three inch black plastic pot. I have tried a number of different pots made of natural materials, however they all dry out very quickly and do not maintain adequate moisture levels. For better or worse, black plastic is the best fit for our needs. These small pots are filled with a mix of peat, a pinch of wintered over compost, some exploded rock for drainage and worm castings. Worm castings are what the horticulturally sophisticated call worm poop. This is a super-rich, organic fertilizer that can be somewhat expensive when bought at a supply store. I attribute this expense to the great deal of time spent by worm wranglers who follow these wiggly gold mines around all day with tiny buckets.

When the pots are filled, just stick in a thumb and work the soil around to the outside, making a just right sized hole for the root ball to be inserted. Remove the plant from the plug tray, taking care not to pull at the stem, massage the root ball gently, stick it in the pot, squish the dirt down, and water it in. Individually potted plants multiply quickly; it reminds me of those cartoon bunnies that in a blink of the eye have gone from few to great swelling ranks whose numbers spill out of view.

The Good Earth

When deciding what to do with your plants, there are many avenues to explore. It is true that perennials in many cases will continue nicely if potted up, but they tend to take a good amount of care throughout the summer and will take up valuable space in the greenhouse during the winter. Farmers Markets and roadside stands are a good jumping off point, however, it is the experience of this herb grower, that the lion’s share of time spent in the markets is dedicated to explaining herb functions and educating the public on their many uses and flavors. Listings in circulars and online local community sites are handy to draw herb enthusiasts, however, does pose a timing and logistics issue. A combination of the two will find many of your plants happy homes.

Herbs are not generally picky and don’t need much more than a little elbow room, so if a person is not blessed with a sprawling homestead, any patch of earth will do. I plant as much as can be planted. There is the garden for fresh cut and drying herbs, a just in case plot that has many often used herbs mingled together in a haphazard mosaic of scent and color, and a rabbit patch out by the creek to share our bounty with our furry friends.

When all that is to be, is, and when every friend and family members gardens are full of life, there can be only one solution to the question of what to do with extra plants, and that is guerilla warfare.

Guerilla planting is the practice of randomly planting perennials in vast expanse of earth. Roadsides and field edges call out to be planted. Empty lots lost to the ages and open trails call out as well. Occasionally my inner anarchist overwhelms me and plants find their way to the manicured foregrounds of golden estates, golf courses, and capital building lawns. Though I don’t recommend this practice, it is a liberating experience. Any way plants are mingled with the good earth stands as a shining light in a weary world. Agricultural practice and municipal intervention are pushing hard to eradicate these trusted weeds from every visible corner of the countryside, but not without a fight.

Stay tuned gentle reader, for the end is nigh.

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