If you love fresh herbs but simply can’t handle the mess of potting soil on your counters – or even worse, under your fingernails – you’ll love this project. Growing herbs in ordinary household sponges – clean ones, of course – eliminates the need to for soil and provides you with fresh herbs all winter.
If you are struggling with the concept, don’t feel bad. I’m an avid gardener and I didn’t believe it either – until I saw the pictures of lush green herbs springing from an ordinary sponge. The trick of course it to keep the sponge wet, but you’ve probably figured that out on your own.
Some sources recommend that you use recycled sponges, but somehow this just doesn’t set right to me. New sponges are inexpensive and you can be reasonably sure they are free of bacteria or contaminants that recycled sponges can hold. I personally prefer sea sponges, mainly because I like the natural look. You could, of course, choose brightly-colored kitchen sponges to brighten the décor. If that’s your style – go ahead – I promise, I won’t tell a soul.
Select a container for your herb garden. Plant pots, window trays or shallow serving dishes make good choices, but here again; it’s totally up to you. If you want to grow herbs in grandma’s old teapot – go ahead. As long as the container is waterproof and holds the sponge, there are no rules.
Rinse the sponge thoroughly for several minutes to remove any residue in may contain. If you are using recycled sponges, soak them in boiling water for 15 minutes to kill any bacteria.
Place the sponge in your container. A snug fit works best and prevents accidental spilling. If necessary, cut your sponge to the shape of the container to get a good fit.
Water to saturate the sponge. A little water on the bottom of the container is fine, but more that one half inch of water should be poured off before planting your herb seeds.
Sprinkle your favorite herb seeds over the top of the sponge and press them into the sponge with your fingers. Most herbs have tiny seeds and easily penetrate the surface of the sponge. For larger seeds – like chives – push the seeds into the holes of the sponge until they are secure.
Cover the top of the container with plastic food wrap. Punch several holes in the plastic with the tip of a pencil to allow air to circulate and prevent excessive moisture buildup. Place the herb garden in a warm location until the seeds germinate.
Remove the cover once seedlings have emerged and place the herb garden in a sunny window. If light is limited, place them under a plant light or a fluorescent light. Herbs prefer bright light and suffer in shaded areas.
Keep the sponge moist at all times to prevent injury to your herb plants.
Begin harvesting fresh herbs when the plants are three to four inches tall. Harvesting leaves from the growing tip forces new foliage to form along the stem and creates a bushy plant.
So, go ahead. Enjoy the flavor of fresh herbs all winter without the mess and fuss of potting soil by growing your favorite herbs in sponges.
Other work by this author:
How to Make Herbed Butter
How to Make Herbed Oils
Starting Coleus from Seed