If you were here for Herb Garden Pt. 1, welcome back! If you're like, "What? There's a Part 1?" You can catch up here!

So when we last left off, I mentioned that we are currently using two different methods to make leafy vegetables and herbs - an AeroGarden (inside) and a wall pocket planter (outside). Both methods have been effective, but I can tell you that both methods have their pros and cons.

AeroGarden



Pros
  • Convenient, controlled environment so you can grow any time of year
  • Has a timed LED light source
  • Yields very quickly from seed
  • No soil needed, just install the pod
  • Notifies you when you when it needs additional water and plant food through an LCD display
  • Seeds are engineered for the space of the unit (which means plenty of room for the roots)
  • You don't have to step outside to harvest
  • Plants in the adjacent area benefit from the extra light 
Cons
  • Light is on for several hours  day (this took some time getting accustomed to)
  • Takes up counter space in our kitchen (but you could put this almost anywhere with an outlet)
  • Tall plants can get scorched by the light source if you don't harvest fast enough
  • Sometimes a pod may not produce (our thyme an parsley pods did not produce enough to eat)
  • Delicate plants may not transplant well outside (we transplanted ours, but only because we were ready to  
  • The machine is an investment (we were lucky to catch an Amazon Treasure Truck deal for $60)

Wall Planter



Pros
  • Great for places like ours that don't have a back yard (we use our privacy fence to hang them)
  • You can purchase plants that have already started and add them to wall pocket to grow
  • Herbs are usually only $3.99 from Home Depot, and the wall pocket was  so minimal investment start up
  • Directly benefits from natural sunlight and rain when hung in the right place
  • Feels super gratifying to see plants get bigger and and spread (a green thumb feeling)
Cons
  • It's hard work tending an outside garden (rain, dirt, scorching heat, bugs, etc.)
  • Plants more susceptible to infestations and weeds
  • Requires regular pruning (notice in the photo above that some pruning needs to be done)
  • Soil dries out quickly, especially in this GA summer heat 
  • Can be a challenge to water (we started with a container, now we use a hose)
  • Additional materials and tools are needed to plant and maintain
Of course most people will go the traditional route and just grow herbs using soil, water, and sunshine, but I just wanted to make sure that you're aware that you have options! Now that we've talked about the pros and cons of each, let's talk about what I use to grow and maintain these herb babies outside.





Herb Garden Essentials (outside)


Currently We're Growing:
  1. Rosemary
  2. Purple Basil
  3. Genovese Basil
  4. Thai Basil
  5. Tarragon
  6. Lavender
  7. Sage
  8. Yerba Buena
  9. Mint
  10. Italian Oregano
  11. Thyme
  12. Lemon Balm
  13. Parsley
  14. Dill
  15. Chamomile
We were also growing Kale, Kolrabi, Mustard Greens, and Purple Cabbage. Only the Cabbage survived (I don't think that the others appreciate the space constraints of a wall pocket). But I did cook what we yielded in a skillet with olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. It was great.

*Bonus time*

My favorite super simple ways to use herbs:

Pesto
When we got ready to transplant our basil from the AeroGarden, I used Purple (from outside), Genovese, and Thai Basil to make homemade pesto. In fact I made 3 separate batches using each type and they were all wonderful. My recipe - at least 2 cups of basil, grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese, a clove or two of garlic, salt, pepper, olive oil, and some red pepper flakes. Blend well in your food processor, and you feel like a Top Chef.









Cocktails
Lemon Balm - It pretty much goes with any light or dark concoction I've crafted and you get extra points for presentation. Smack a few leaves to release the oils and stir them into to the drink. Then use a few pieces on the stem for a garnish.  

Mashed Potatoes
Rosemary - Put a few sprigs in the water while the potatoes are boiling. When you finish, drain the water and mash the rosemary with the potatoes. It's super easy and add so much flavor! Add salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and you're done! 

Pizza
Italian Oregano - I like to dress my pizza up with mixed greens and a little olive oil before putting it in the oven. Adding oregano to the mix amps up the flavor.

Chicken Salad
Dill - This herb can be slightly challenging since it's usually reserved for fish, but I recently added a few fronds to my Blue Apron chicken salad and it was super tasty.

Water
Yerba Buena - I was giving my Yerba Buena a trim outside and unfortunately cut off a few healthy pieces by mistake. I ended up putting it in a water bottle that has a little built-in infuser and the favor was lovely. I felt extra boogie and healthy that day! I want to try lemon balm and lavender next.


Do you have an herb garden? If so, what kind of herbs are you and your family enjoying this time of year? 

If you remember my 2018 Summer Bucket List, one of my goals was to start an herb garden... and I did! Because our townhouse doesn't have a back yard, I decided to try a little wall pocket that a great friend had gifted me and it was perfect for a petite garden.



Our little herb garden was sweet and humble, boasting a collection of 7 herbs and yielded until the last cold snap of Spring 2019 (late April). Though a few of our herbs held out (they were pretty scraggly and crunchy by that point) I decided that an herb garden wasn't as scary or difficult as I originally anticipated and therefore I was ready to expand on our collection. I purchased a new set of planter wall pockets and waited for the gardening bug to bite me.


Here's what everything looked like when I brought it home. :)

 Little did I know that eventually I would double our humble garden of 7 herbs to 14, and add 4 leafy greens to the mix because I happened to be strolling Home Depot on a day where herbs were 5 for 10 bucks. I guess it's safe to say that I got a little carried away. 



But don't worry, it gets a little more ridiculous.

Brandon is one of Amazon's most valuable customers. Like on the real, we had Alexa at least a good year before it was ever available to the public, and Brandon's purchased pretty much everything they've ever invented. We also have 6 Alexa devices in our home, which means that we're super careful about any potential Pinky-and-the-Brain-type conversations we engage in while cooking dinner or getting ready for bed. So it was only natural that Brandon would be a huge fan of the Amazon Treasure Truck.

If you're not familiar with the concept, Amazon offers great time-restricted offers on random products (usually based on the season) where you can reserve and pick them up at a particular location where the Treasure Truck is parked. Our truck is always parked at the Cumberland Mall, and we've gotten a Nintendo console, a live Christmas wreath, roses and chocolates for Valentine's Day, a box of live succulents (oddly enough around my birthday), and even a pack of prime steaks and beef patties for Summertime. Anyhoo... this past spring the Treasure Truck was offering an Aerogarden. Brandon purchased it without telling me, and while I cringed at the idea of allowing an appliance to live on my kitchen countertop (yeah, no toaster, no coffee machine, and no blender reside on Casa Cook's counters) I held my reservation until I could see what the little garden system could do.

Brandon designated a little corner next to the pantry and got everything set up. To be honest, we were both quite skeptical of what the Aerogarden claimed to yield, but boy were we in for a surprise! This little baby pumped out more herbs than we realistically knew what to do with.



And this photo was taken after these herbs had been trimmed and harvested several times!

Long story short, I couldn't cook enough meals to utilize all the herbs we were producing. In fact they were growing so much that they were touching the LED lights and starting to scorch. Thankfully we know people who love cooking with herbs, so we started gifting them to our friends and co-workers which kept the herbs from going to waste. Then we thought, "You know what? Why not put transplant these herbs outside and try growing something we can eat on the regular - like lettuces!" So I purchased another wall pocket planter (the burlap planter gift from the year before had taken a nice beating, plus we needed more room). 




Brandon bought a new set of lettuce pods for the Aerogarden and here they are with two weeks of growth.



Did I mention that I also needed to fill the new pockets so I purchased a few more herbs to round out our garden - I know... it's crazy. This time I added more basil because a good deal of the basil we grew in the Aerogarden did not survive the transplant. I also added lavender and tarragon. Now the wall pockets are looking good and we're excited to see how everything will flourish.

On "Herb Garden Pt. 2" I'll dive into what herbs we're growing specifically, our herb garden essentials, tips and tricks we've learned along the way, and even some of my favorite ways to use what we've grown. Stay tuned!