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Tiny Gardens, Big Rewards

Parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, finger hot peppers, or heritage cherry tomatoes: Whether they are perched on a kitchen windowsill or populating a raised-bed garden, the joy of gardening no longer must come at the expense of a bad back.

Starting from seed is rewarding, but quality seedlings are readily available in early spring everywhere from nurseries to hardware stores.

Mother’s Day is a great weekend to transplant your seedlings or plants to their “new digs.” Once you have built or purchased your Pinterest-worthy garden setting, there are several basic guidelines to follow for a successful small garden. Here are a few suggestions before Mother Nature has her say.

  • Soil depth should be about one-third the projected height of the plant. Go with a couple of inches of loose compost or mulch as a buffer over your drainage holes, then make sure to invest in high-quality potting soil—it is worth it!
  • Locate your garden so your sunworshippers receive about six hours of exposure per day.
  • Water regularly: Basil leaves will be the first to let you know if they are being neglected.
  • Basil, oregano, hot peppers, and tomatoes grow well together. Research species that make good bedfellows.
  • Keep a close eye on your plants so they do not bolt or “go to seed”: Pinch off flower buds a centimetre or two lower on the stem. This preserves their peak flavour and avoids bitterness.
  • The essential oils produced by herbs can also serve to protect them from insects and critters; however, tomatoes and peppers may need some protection from squirrels and birds.
  • Keep some organic liquid fertilizer on hand. Fish emulsion, kelp-based, or some home-steeped compost tea will quench their thirst and need for some extra minerals and nutrients.

Have a great gardening and culinary season! Remember to save a few containers; come autumn, you may even want to invite a few transplants back inside for winter.