I like to plant herbs because I like having fresh herbs on hand.
Any time I need herbs, I just go to my little herb garden and get what I need. There’s no need to go to the supermarket to buy an expensive pack of herbs that are usually not that fresh. And those supermarket herbs also don’t last very long in the refrigerator before they go mushy. I feel bad about the waste of money, so I have tried growing herbs at home when I can.
We used to go to that place called the Manila Seedling Bank near the corner of Quezon Ave. and EDSA that had all the plant stores. Haven’t been there in years because apparently, the place has been shut down. Also, some plants are annuals and die after one cycle.
The plant I really missed the most was basil. For a time, I have not cooked with fresh basil because I hated having to buy basil at the supermarket – I usually have to throw away half of the pack contents because the leaves are brown/black already.
So earlier this month, I decided to finally start up an herb garden again. After some googling, I found a place along Mother Ignacia that sells garden supplies. It’s called Cedar Hills Garden Center. I wasn’t expecting much on the way there, because I know rent in this area can get expensive. I was preparing myself for ridiculous mall-level prices.
CEDAR HILLS GARDEN CENTER
So when we arrived there after going to an event in the area, I was happy to see an organized place with lots of healthy looking plants. I was even happier to see the the prices were reasonable, almost the same as the ones from the old Manila Seedling location.
Of course, it’s not as big as the Manila Seedling Bank, but it has the plants and the things I need. I still had my old plant pots, so I didn’t need to buy new ones. I wanted some basil, wansoy, green onions – those are the herbs we use the most. We already have some rosemary at home that my sis bought from Tagaytay.
I left with some sweet basil, Thai basil and peppermint. I didn’t like the wansoy plants I saw so I might start some wansoy from seed later.
Anyway, the plants I got were all 3 for P100, and I could mix and match them! So I got 2 of each and only paid P200 for the 6 healthy plants! I find that it’s better to have 2-3 of each plant – that way, you can harvest what you need without almost killing the plant by taking all of its leaves. You can take a little from each plant.
I also bought a bag of potting mix, P190. I also bought some fertilizer for our mango tree. I still have fertilizer for the herbs at home.
I’m happy to have found a place that is not too out of the way where I can get garden supplies at reasonable prices.
3 WEEKS LATER…
These are how the herbs look like now. I have already harvested some sweet basil on the first week to top my Spaghettini with Tomato Sauce. Fresh basil is really the best accompaniment to any tomato sauce dish!
Look how much they have grown compared to when I bought them just 3 weeks ago!
How to use the herbs?
Gently wash the herbs in water before using. Throw away any damaged leaves.
Sweet Basil – amazing topping for tomato-based dishes like spaghetti, etc… Also great to add to sandwiches & paninis like how Starbucks does it. You can even make your own pesto!
Thai Basil – for Thai dishes that call for it – Thai Ground Pork with Basil, Thai Basil Chicken, etc… also great for soups like Pho if you want to make pho at home
Mint – for making mint jelly to eat with grilled lamb! Or mojitos. Or just make mint tea. Or make mint desserts. Basically anything you want to add a minty taste to. Mediterranean dishes also use a lot of mint
Rosemary – Turbo Chicken! Just marinate chicken with some salt, pepper, garlic, and rub rosemary all over the chicken, esp under the skin. If you’re using a whole chicken, don’t forget to put some rosemary sprigs inside the cavity. Don’t scrimp on the rosemary! Hey, they’re free and they will grow back. Fresh rosemary is so, so much better than dried!
Pandan – We have 2 pandan plants that are “balding” because we get leaves from them twice a day. We add pandan leaves every time when cooking rice – just get one leaf, wash it, and put it in with the rice to cook. It has a lot of health benefits and there are already those who claim that it fights all sorts of diseases.
Caring for the Herbs & Why I Find it Cost-Effective
After the initial spend for the plants (3 for P100 price) and the potting mix if you don’t have the proper soil, you really don’t need to do anything to the plants except water them. We have this old shoe rack that we repurposed for our herbs.
Handle the plants gently when re-potting them. Add enough soil but don’t pack the soil firmly. Just keep the soil loose so that air and water can still reach the roots.
The soil just has to be well-draining, meaning that excess water should flow out quickly so the herbs don’t drown in very wet soil. The potting mix being sold at the garden center is perfect. Just water them once in the morning with enough water to get all the soil wet. That’s it.
Once in a while, maybe every 2 weeks or every month, it depends on when I remember to, I put fertilizer. To do this, I just dissolve a small amount of the fertilizer (like a small, plastic teaspoon) in a big pail of water, and use that to water the plants (soil part only, don’t wet the leaves with the fertilizer water). You don’t even have to fertilize if you don’t want to, the plants will just grow lusher if you fertilize them, but it’s not a requirement.
Basically, all you need is water. We even save money on water by using aircon drip water if we have any, and rain water that we recycle.
And also just project positive, happy vibes to your plants! Being around my plants always makes me feel better, too, and I really feel that healthy plants add to a positive vibe at home.
When I first started planting herbs like basil and rosemary many years ago, I had a difficult time, probably because they were not used to the hot Manila climate and I watered them too much. However, the next few batches that I planted seemed okay with Manila weather, and now, I don’t even worry about it anymore. I just leave the plants outside in a place where they get sunlight for most of the day. The only time I move the plants to a safer location is during typhoons.
So you see, growing herbs is practically a free source of food. We also get the freshest flavors! And if you harvest some leaves from your herb plant, it’s fine. The plant will grow new leaves in a short amount of time and you can harvest some more. It’s a practically endless supply as long as the plant is healthy. Just leave about 1/3 to half of the plant’s leaves intact when you harvest so it won’t die. Don’t be afraid to cut the “tallest” stem – in fact, it’s better if you do. This way, the plant will be forced to focus on the side stems. So instead of one thin, tall plant, you’ll get a short but bushy / fat plant with more side stems producing more leaves.
All good things must come to and end, and it’s inevitable: plants die. Some plants, like basil, have a 1-year life cycle, and start dying after they flower. To prolong its life, if you see it starting to flower, cut off the part that is flowering to prevent it from flowering. But plants will eventually die. No big deal. Just buy new ones, or start from seed (if your plant produced seeds and you kept the seeds).
Blogging this to help my friends who are maybe thinking about starting their own herb garden.
Cedar Hills Garden Center
57 Mother Ignacia Street, Quezon City, Philippines 1104
0907-ORGANIC | 926-2707
They are closed on Sundays.
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The Barat Queen
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