bring the outdoors in with window herb gardens

A late summer tour through the Boscobel Herb Garden in Garrison, NY provided plenty of inspiration for an indoor winter herb garden. My guide at Boscobel was Miriam Wagner, one of the Philipstown Garden Club volunteers who maintains the garden.

As we walked the space, Miriam encouraged me to pluck and smell and taste. Rubbing leaves and scratching citrus rinds, we inhaled the wonderful scents of pineapple, rose, mint, rosemary and lime, among others.

An avid, long-time gardener, Miriam typically grows whatever intrigues her at the time. She’s cultivated citrus plants (in 5” pots), bay laurel – saying they wintered well, lavender, scented geraniums, along with many other plants over the years. She’s a huge proponent of experimenting, which contributes to “the excitement and pleasure” of the process. And she challenged me to test out my own green thumb.

Stepping up to the challenge, I continued my research and placed a call to Sal Gilbertie of Gilbertie’s Herb Gardens in Westport, CT. A third-generation proprietor of the business, Sal lamented, “Nowadays, people just go to the supermarket and pick up a package of rosemary or basil, already cut,” instead of growing their own. “It’s simple – there’s a lot of good product coming in from countries like Israel,” he remarked.

But you can still find starter pots of rosemary, thyme, sage, marjoram, oregano, parsley and other herbs year-round at Gilbertie’s retail store and other nurseries to cultivate at home. Advises Sal, “Don’t bother with basil or dill – they both need around 14 hours of light each day.” hydroponic starter kit hydroponic starter kit – also pictured above

Much of Sal’s passion and business is now focused toward growing microgreens for New York area restaurants. The beauty and appeal of growing microgreens, which are simply any greens that are cut young, is that they can be grown with indirect light in inexpensive seedling trays, and are ready to harvest in just two or three weeks. Sal insists you start with organic potting soil mix that contains some fertilizer – topsoil is too heavy for sowing microgreens.

Sal’s book, Cooking with Microgreens, co-authored by Larry Sheehan, presents a list of the easiest to grow microgreens, which includes arugula, mesclun, pac choi (bok choy), mustards, nasturtiums and sunflowers. The book has a sowing and harvest guide, detailed step-by-step instructions on how to create your own microgreens garden, and about 50 tempting recipes including Chilled Zucchini Soup with Spicy Microgreens, Country Microgreen Omelet, and Mint and Melon Shake.

Some of the microgreens which require more attention to grow, such as lemongrass, chive and parsley, lend themselves to multiple harvests so you may want to try your hand with one or two of these. If successful, you will reap the rewards again and again.

With advice and encouragement from Miriam, who told me to “Just try,” and from Sal, who made it seem so simple, I’m ready to start my herb and microgreens indoor garden. While my thumb is more pink than green, I’m feeling confident I can coax something out of those pots and trays on my windowsill.

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