This past summer, my friends and I spent a few days volunteering on a farm in northern New Mexico. The first thing they had us do was replant swish chard and cucumbers. We spent a couple hours taking little seedlings from one pot and transferring them into a bigger pot or the ground. The assistant manager of the farm taught us the process of growing produce and how to tell when the seedlings were outgrowing their original pot. Naturally, after four hours, I thought I was an expert and I could do this at home with no problem.

So I went out and bought basil and cilantro seeds, a lovely teal planter, and some all-natural, pre-fertilized, certified-plant-approved dirt. I thought my “extensive” training in New Mexico and 30 minutes of internet searching would be plenty to make me a professional in no time. Oh, how wrong I was. My cilantro took twice as long to grow and my basil was supposed to come in two weeks ago but has barely broken the dirt.

My poor little basil starting out
My poor little basil starting out

I finally had to come to the realization that I might be a novice at this gardening thing. To prevent further destruction to herb gardens everywhere, I’m sharing four things I should not have done when growing my poor little herbs:

1. Listen to people who grow The other kind of herb

I went to the seed store with someone who claimed to know a lot about starting gardens and growing herbs, and I felt so lucky to have him by my side. He gave me all these tricks — including soaking the seed in a wet cotton ball in the dark — that he said would produce a robust plant in record time. He neglected to mention that he grew a different type of herb that he enjoys “medicinally.”

Lesson: Not all herbs grow the same way. Basil takes longer to sprout leaves than cilantro, but cilantro needs to be replanted more often. My wonderful planting guru didn’t explain this to me because he didn’t know. Do your own homework.


2. neglect the herbs

I live in a very dry climate where it hardly rains. When it does rain, it’s ice-cold heavy droplets. When I experienced two heavy rain showers, I thought for sure my herbs were reaping all the benefits. I let them soak up all the moisture that had finally come through and forgot to water them for two weeks afterward. Needless to say, a few little herb soldiers died.

Lesson: Water your herbs as often as is recommended. Basil needs to be watered 1-2 times per week, while cilantro can be watered three times a week or every other day in dry climates.


3. water with a narrow spout

While we are on the subject of watering, I learned rather quickly that a pitcher is not the same as a watering can. The pitcher allowed water to come out in a very narrow stream that immediately drowned the poor seedlings before they ever had a chance. The water went straight down and didn’t spread around the rest of the planter.

Lesson: Use a watering can to water your plants.  Since I became rather neglectful, I kept forgetting to pick up an actual waterer.  Instead, I used a wide mouth plastic cup and it did the trick.


4. buy the wrong pot

Before I bought seeds or soil, I bought a planter. This planter is absolutely adorable. It’s a cute teal color with nice little designs that make it look girly — but like it still belongs in the dirt. But it’s the absolute wrong size. It’s too shallow for the herbs I was trying to grow.

Lesson: Don’t pick the pot before you know what you’re planting. Cilantro grows very deep roots and needs space to grow both downward and sideways. Basil has more shallow roots but does not need as much water, so it can drown if planted in the same space as cilantro.


got any other gardening tips? Share with us in the comments below!

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