Grow green quarantine friends

Anastasia Fedosova details how to start your own home herb garden

“No way am I doing that!” I thought back in March. Days went on, months crept by. My friends were spread around the globe, shops and restaurants remained closed, all social activities were moved online and I had nothing to do. After a marathon of Friends and Harry Potter, I turned to cross-stitching, meditation, and learning Irish. But lockdown got to me at last. I realised the time had come: time to start gardening. 

“I realised the time had come: time to start gardening.”

Spending most of the time at home indoors, I started to miss nature, and winter was fast approaching. The idea of having my very own piece of flora that would remind me of summer’s freshness and greenness perched on my windowsill filled my mind. However, I didn’t just want fancy blooms, I wanted functionality. Thus, instead of making a simple garden, I settled on herbs. Not only are herbs easy to grow (good, because I know nothing about gardening), they are nice to look at and can be used in pretty much any sort of cooking. 

The variety of herbs one can grow at home is wide: from more traditional ones like parsley and thyme, to lavender and oregano. I settled on basil, parsley and mint – easily found in any local supermarket. Initially my plan was to get the pots from a shop and then re-plant the herbs into prettier things. Indeed, one of the benefits of home gardening is that you can get as creative as you want, so let your inner artist out. You can get some large glass jars, or take old cups and kettles, or coffee cans, or no longer used cupboard drawers, or simply beautiful pots. The options are endless. However, keep in mind that for this you will have to get some loose soil, and perhaps gloves and a shovel. When transferring the plant, keep the roots covered with an earth clod and don’t forget to water it afterwards. If you are putting the plant in a non-conventional ‘pot’, place some expanded clay aggregate (or any kind of small stones, for that matter) on the bottom of the container. That is for good drainage, so that water does not stagnate and the plant’s roots do not rot. Speaking of moisture, water your plants approximately once a week, or when necessary, that is, when the earth dries.  

if you are wondering if supermarket pots put in a row on a windowsill can be considered to be a legitimate garden, my answer is yes! – as long as you name them.”

Unfortunately, Level 5 interfered with my brilliant plans. All gardening-related shops shut down, and I was unable to get my hands on some mud. I would have gone and robbed the neighbouring park, but I am not sure my student accommodation would have approved. Thus, I ended up having three supermarket pots and no gardening tools whatsoever. Now, if you are wondering if supermarket pots put in a row on a windowsill can be considered to be a legitimate garden, my answer is yes! – as long as you name them.

Let me introduce you to my green trio: 

Basil Christopher. Basil originates in Italy and is a beloved herb across Italian cooking. In Genoa, they love it so much that they invented Genoese pesto – a paste with pine nuts, garlic, parmesan, olive oil and basil. If pine nuts are too expensive (which they always are), you can use other nuts or even bread crumbs. It will be delicious. Now, you see where the name of my basil is coming from? Of course, Mr Columbus was another famous Christopher originating in Genoa! 

Mint Alice. That is easily explained as well. For me, mint is strongly associated with tea. Tea, I associate with tea-parties, and tea-parties with Alice in Wonderland. Therefore, meet Mint Alice! As a matter of fact, mint tea is not the only way of using the herb. You can try and make mint jam, you can also add a handful of mint into your morning smoothie; or, and this is the best one, freeze the leaves and drop them into a glass of water, or mojito (depending on how stressful the week in college has been).

Parsley W.B. Yeats. No comment here, it might just as easily have been Joyce, or Agatha, or Bronte, or Dostoevsky after all! On the one hand, I am paying tribute to my degree. If I was studying Physics, I would have probably had a baby Albert on my windowsill. On the other hand, me naming a plant after a writer is just an intrinsic thing. I have to confess, I am not the biggest fan of parsley flavour, but, luckily enough, my flatmate is obsessed with it. She adds parsley leaves to her salad, soup and just uses it as garnish for almost every dish.

If you decide to follow my gardening path, here are a few technical issues to keep in mind. 

it is important to maintain balance, because overwatering causes the roots to rot.

Staying hydrated. W.B. almost died because I totally forgot to water him. Normally, supermarket pots will have little holes in the bottom – that is for drainage. Instead of just pouring water at the top of the pot, place it into a container or a bowl and add water in there. Be generous! To put it simply, the container should never be empty. However, it is important to maintain balance, because overwatering causes the roots to rot.

Let the sun shine. Sunshine is vital for plants. Therefore, place them on a windowsill or a balcony – somewhere light and warm. Now, some might say that Ireland and the sun in one sentence is an oxymoron. Well, if you want to get really fancy, you can purchase a lamp for plants, there are some compact and low-cost ones online.

The key thing to realise here is that absolutely anyone can become a home gardener.”

The key thing to realise here is that absolutely anyone can become a home gardener. I have never grown anything in my entire life, and now I have my own mint leaves to add in tea and fresh basil to use in my recipes. I am excited to keep experimenting with my plants, adding to the family, and I hope I managed to inspire you to grow a home garden too. Enjoy your herbs!

Anastasia Fedosova

Anastasia is a final-year English Literature student and a contributing writer to Trinity News. She is an Editor-in-Chief of the Trinity Journal of Literary Translation and a freelance journalist. Her writing has featured in University Times, CelebreMagazine, Luxury Investment Magazine and other publications.