Monday, August 20, 2012

Meghan Gets Crafty: Mason Jar Herb Garden

Since moving into a new downtown apartment I can barely afford on my graduate-student salary, I’ve become quite crafty. And I don’t mean crafty like sly, manipulative, getting-what-I-want-when-I-want-it. I mean crafty like I’m too poor to buy new clothes so I make them myself out of old curtains.

Well, I would, if I could sew. Since I’m not Maria von Trapp (much to my constant chagrin), I have to stick to more manageable crafts.

For example, I like to think that my sad excuse for a kitchen presents a great opportunity for craftiness. Some people might look at my kitchen and laugh at the idea that it could even be called a kitchen. It’s more of a corner of my living room, designated by its unfortunate 1970s-era linoleum, a 3/4-size refrigerator that is barely large enough to fit a carton of eggs and a half-gallon of milk at the same time, and one row of cabinets above the stove. I like to call it a nook, since I think that word connotes coziness rather than destitution.

Since there is not enough space for all my food in my kitchen nook, I store some things in mason jars with cute little chalkboard labels, displayed on a bookcase. That way, I can pretend to myself that I actually prefer the lack of cabinet space – otherwise, there would be no reason for chalkboard labels and no one would know where I kept my quinoa.

My boyfriend David is generally a bit skeptical of my crafting ways. He’s seen the show Hoarders, and he worries that “Don’t throw out that old pair of jeans – I could turn it into a purse!” might lead to, “Don’t throw out that old diaper! I could add it to my growing pile of health-code violations!” somewhere down the road. Frankly, it’s not a completely irrational concern.

But in a recent bout of supportive craftiness, he surprised me with an afternoon project. It doesn’t get much more local than herbs grown in your own backyard, so David purchased the supplies to make a backyard herb garden. Since most of the ground space in my backyard is dominated by cacti and other local succulent plants, and since I have a love for mason jars that defies reason, my herbs would live adorably in hanging mason jars on my back porch.

First things first: wine.
Mason jars and wine! My two favorite inanimate things. One day, I will drink wine out of a mason jar and my life will be complete. Don’t worry, I’ll blog about it.

After the wine was poured, we got started on the hanging herb garden. Here’s what we used:

Two slabs of wood
Chalkboard pain
8 adjustable round brackets
Gold leaf paint
8 mason jars
Various screws
A power drill

First, we used a ruler to divide the slabs of wood into four equal parts. I measured a one-inch section at the bottom of each the four parts and painted it with chalkboard paint; that would be the label for each herb:
Then I used the gold leaf paint on the brackets for no reason other than that it looked pretty:
While I painted, David pulled a Tim The-Tool-Man Taylor and used the power drill to attach the brackets to the wood slabs. He attached the bottom three at an angle, so the herbs could grow diagonally upward without hitting the bottom of the next mason jar.
Once the brackets were attached, the mason jars could slide right in. We put the herbs in the mason jars before attaching them to the wood slabs: rosemary, thyme, cilantro, basil, parsley, and mint.
There were eight mason jars and only six herbs, so we put flowers in the top-most mason jars. I used colored chalk to label the herbs and voila! An adorable herb garden hanging right on my porch:
Unfortunately, like most beautiful things, this hanging herb garden is quite impractical. A quick online search about how to care for these herbs revealed to me that there are three things most herbs need: sunlight, water, and drainage.

Two out of three ain’t bad, right? No. Wrong. They get plenty of sunlight on my porch and I make sure to water them often. The problem is that mason jars don’t drain. So all these herbs will surely die, unless I replace the mason jars with more practical pots.

But what will I do with all those mason jars? I’m thinking something crafty like lanterns with tea lights… or utensil holders… or individual Barbie jacuzzi tubs… the possibilities are endless.


  1. OK, I don't know that this is possible, BUT. Can you drill little drainage holes in the mason jars, OR move the herbs to little terra cotta pots and stick those inside the mason jars? You'd have to empty them the jars out occasionally, but it'd keep the mason jars in their aesthetically pleasing spot!

    1. That is a good idea! Someone else suggested just putting gravel in the bottom of the mason jar and replanting them; maybe that will be enough. I considered drilling through the mason jars but... would you trust me with that sharp of a drill??

  2. You're boyfriend is hot!

  3. I love your herb garden!! Do you get bugs hanging around? I guess because they're high up, there's less chance of slugs getting on there.. I hate slugs. We get loads here in England.

    Came across your vegan & meat-eating article on GOOD which inspired me to write about my vegetarian/ meat-eater relationship:

    Nicki xx