In this article I will go through the important points for starting an herb garden from cuttings and small plants.
Starting from Cuttings.
When you make a cutting, in essence you are literally cutting a stem of the plant off and replanting it in the hopes that it will grow into another whole plant. Again, you'll want to use a soiless mix - most include vermiculite, peat, and perlite. This is a mix, although for Bonsai plants, might work really well for other plants as well.
Thyme, mint, and rosemary do very well from cuttings, as do bay, catnip, lemon balm, marjoram, and oregano. You'll want to take a portion of the plant that is no more than 3 to 6 inches from the growing tip. Before potting the cutting it's very important to remove the lower leaves. Roots will grow from each place where there was previously a leaf.
From this point, you have two options to encourage root growth. The first option is to plant directly into your soiless mix. Water the plant and place a plastic bag around the pot and plant to create a greenhouse effect. Once new growth begins to appear, you can remove the plastic bag. Your second option is to put the cutting into water to let the roots develop. You can even use cutting from grocery store fresh herbs. Remove the leaves from the bottom 1/3rd (the whole portion that's in the water) and clip the stem diagonally (this exposes more of the live plant). Be sure to change the water everyday and leave the plant in the sun. Once the roots develop, you can place in soil and begin watering it regularly.
Starting from Small Plants
This is the easiest option of course! I am a huge fan of going to the local nursery, Whole Foods, or even Wal-mart and finding some great herb selections. They generally run from $1.99 to $4.99 and these days most places have a very wide selection. Prices are becoming more and more affordable as well. The organic varieties at Whole Foods were in the $2.99 to $4.99 range for 4 inch pots – which to me is stupendous!
Buying small plants allows me to instantly play with creating fun containers as well. In general, if planting in one big container, you'll want your sun lovers in the center and less demanding plants around the sides. Oregano is one of the most sun-loving indoor herbs and so is a good candidate for the middle spot. Chives, mints, rosemary, and thyme do well along the sides to name a few. I have found for myself also, especially when I haven't gardened in a while, that starting with small plants builds my confidence. Working with seeds is just like working with any small, delicate living thing. The anxiety of treating it right and giving it all the right conditions can be great! It can even stop us from experiencing the joy of our own fresh herbs just because we are afraid it wont go well. Beginning with a few small, hardy herbs that don't require immense attention to detail is a great way to break through that fear!
In the next articles, I'll talk about good herbs to start with and some fun ways to use them. Be on the look out!