Picture the scenario, you’re in the vegetable isle of the supermarket and you see a bag of picked basil next to a flourishing basil plant alive and well and the choice is usually an easy one.
So you take the plant home, pick a few leaves you need for lunch, and give the plant a bit of a water by the window sill. After a couple of weeks you find it wilting to a slow death without a clue why. Sound familiar?
So why does the supermarket herb plant always die, after it looks so healthy when we first take it home?
In short, the reason it dies so soon is also the reason it looks so healthy in the supermarket when you first see it: the plant is overcrowded.
The truth is that the coriander or basil plant you take home is actually multiple plants that have grown together in a tight squeeze. As a result the plant dies for two main reasons:
They grow tall (also referred to as ‘leggy’) because each stem is fighting for sunlight, which means that not very many side shoots appear and the plants are quicker to droop.
The roots are too tightly packed, which means the plants are fighting each other for the nutrients they need from the soil.
How to Fix it
So now we know the plants are too tightly packed in their store-bought container, it’s time to turn this weakness into an opportunity. By turning one plant into many!
What we’ll need:
Some additional pots / containers (3+)
Compost / potting soil
A workbench you don’t mind spilling soil over (cover with newspaper if preferred)
Prepare at least three additional pots by filling half way with potting compost (most multi-purpose compost bags from a supermarket or garden centre will be fine). Lightly water the soil so it is damp for the new plants.
Remove any outer film from the plant and tip the container upside down, gently squeezing the sides until the bulk of the soil and roots slide out of it.
Depending on how many plants you want to make, begin to gently tear open the soil, isolating several bunches of stems. Slowly pull each group until the clumps of roots/soil are separated from each other. Each store-bought plant should allow you to get at least 3 or 4 additional plants.
NB: Avoid handling the plants by the stems or leaves. Some roots may tear slightly in the process, but if done slowly the plants will be fine with the majority remaining intact.
Take each isolated bunch and insert into the new pots - ensuring that root still have plenty of space to grow.
Top fill in the space surrounding each plant with additional compost and pat down gently to firm the soil. Feed the plant another spritz of water at the base of the stems. Watering from the top of the plant can lead to rotting if there are recently cut stems open.
Repeat this process for each new plant. Cut any overly ‘leggy’ stems back to encourage further growth and keep the bunch level.
Now place you plants by a sun lit window, watering regularly. You can test if the plants require watering by digging your finger an inch or two into the soil to see if it’s dry underneath.
And there you have it - a sure fire way to get more out of those supermarket herbs! If you’re having a go at this at home, let us know by posting a photo to instagram and tagging @AllotMe_UK
And of course if you want to grow heaps of herbs, using 90% less water - you can always try a GrowPod ;) https://www.allotme.co.uk/growathome