Herbs can get expensive. A single bottle of something such as basil could run you five dollars or more, depending on the brand and size. Being a college student, you have to really pick and choose what you’re spending your money on, especially if you’re cooking for yourself. This, however, doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste. There are steps you can take to finding less expensive ways to get the same results with cooking. One, for instance, is growing your own herb garden. Now, before you argue that you have no time to cook let alone maintain your own garden let’s look at some quick numbers.
A packet of basil seeds from Burpee will cost you roughly $4.00 (taken from Burpee.com). From that $4 dollars, you can have an infinite about of fresh or dried basil if you maintain it. You can dry the basil yourself, which is incredibly easy, and whenever you need fresh herbs, you just pluck however many leaves you need off the plant, and don’t have to worry about the rest going bad or wilting.
A medium sized container of dried herbs will cost you about $5.00, and a container of fresh basil will cost you from $8.00 to $11.00. The fresh basil after some time will go bad, and the container will run out, which means not only do you now have no basil, but you have these plastic containers that now have no use other than being tossed into the trash to be dumped into a landfill somewhere. Theoretically, if you use these every day which you might because basil is not only tasty but versatile, you would have to replace the dried herbs every two months, and the fresh ones roughly every two weeks. That adds up after a while, not to mention that you’re not helping much by tossing those plastic containers away after you’re done.
These numbers of course have some flaws, as most numbers do, but the fact of the matter is you’re saving some money by planting your own herbs. Money that can then be spent on other things like concerts, video games, Ben and Jerry’s, and all that other good stuff. It’s not just theoretical number crunching. It’s a scientifically proven fact. Well, maybe not scientifically proven, but J.D. Roth the author of Your Money: The Missing Manual has tried it himself, enough so that he even tried it twice.
Burpee CEO George Ball told the Wall Street Journal that a $1 worth of Burpee seeds produces about $75 worth of beans. That’s quite a big gap for it to be unbelievable, but when Roth tried some home gardening it added up. In 2006, Roth spent $318.43 cents on seeds and supplies (that’s soil, pots, gardening tools, etc) yielded $606.97 worth of food. Granted, they grew a full garden which would explain why the amount spent on seeds and supplies was so high but from that yield, $20.10 of that was in herbs. If you had bought one container of dried basil and one of fresh only once, that would be at the lowest about $13. And that’s only for one herb. Imagine buying a few others, and depending on what they are the prices do vary.
Roth attempted this project again in 2009, and almost doubled his initial investment in seeds and supplies.
That’s quite a bit of money saved.
Even with all this money saved the question still stands “How hard is this going to be to do and how much time will it take?” The answer is not at all, and very little.
An herb garden is the easiest way to start growing your own food, and when you succeed it’s satisfying to see that you were able to produce something usable from a tiny seed and dirt. So without further delay here are some steps to starting a quick and painless herb garden in your own home/apartment/dorm room.
Find out what herbs you use the most. No point in growing things you aren’t going to use. I recommend starting out with 3 of your most used. Buy the seeds for those herbs.
Find or purchase containers for growing. You may not even realize it, but there are things in your home already that you can use such as Dixie cups, egg cartons, yogurt cups, pasta sauce jars, pretty much anything that is deep enough to hold a few inches of soil.
Purchase soil. This is the only thing that I would recommend spending some money on. Soil may be the most basic part of gardening, but it’s the most important part of it. Soil provides all the nutrients your plants need to grow, so make sure you’re getting them the type of soil that they need. I recommend organic matter soil. It usually has the most amounts of nutrients since it’s made of decomposed matter.
Get planting! Yeah, that’s pretty much it. The only thing left is to have common sense. Water your plants, keep them in a sunny spot, and don’t forget to replant them when they get too big for their containers.
Here are some helpful links for those of you more curious about the process of herb growing.
-Written by Maureen Bonsignore, Digital Film student who spent the past semester in Montreal