I have a long list of household skills I want to learn one day: cooking, sewing, cake frosting, interior decorating and gardening. Right now I'm still on cooking. I do at least know how to clean (despite what my fiance might tell you) and I make a pretty mean banana bread, so there's progress being made…slowly but surely.

My few endeavors at gardening have been less than fruitful so far (pun totally intended…heh heh), but the other day my soon-to-be in-laws helped me cultivate my knowledge about the process (oh man, I'm on a roll today!). If we lived in a more seasonal area, we would have started by growing the seeds indoors back in March and cross-planted them around now. But we live in San Diego and do things whenever the heck we want. You can buy plants that are already sprouted at the nursery, but I prefer to do things myself, the old-fashioned way. Here's my handy beginner's guide to gardening, starting with herbs:

1. Buy a Burpee.


I've always just stuck seeds in the ground and impatiently waited for them to come to life. Apparently there's more to it than that. Seeds take a bit of gentle care and – let's face it – “gentle” isn't a word often used to describe me. The Burpee system gives plants a chance to develop in a safe, protected environment and build a strong root structure without having to struggle with other roaming roots, bad soil, lack of water, inattentive gardeners, etc.

You'll also want a seed starting soil, like Miracle Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix.

2. Stick the plastic plant stand inside the outer tray, like so.

Burpee herbs

3. Cover the plant stand with the water mat, tucking the edges into the tray.

Burpee herbs

4. Add water.

Douse the water mat completely and fill the tray up so that the water is almost all the way to the top of the outer tray.

Burpee water

5. Fill the planting tray (the one with pockets where the plants go) with the dirt pellets.

Burpee pellet

Burpee pellets

6. Add water to the pellets.

Fill each pocket about 3/4 of the way with water, and the pellets will foam up to fill the cup completely. Occasionally one gets turned sideways and won't fill the cup up right. Don't worry – you can simply add more seed starting soil to fill up the cup.

Burpee gardening

7. Place the seeds on top of the soil. Don't bury them – yet.

Burpee plant

You'll probably want to label what you're planting.

Burpee seeds

8. Cover the seeds with seed starting soil.

Burpee soil

9. Secure the lid with tape.

The instruction guide doesn't tell you to do this but if you don't, it flies away.

Burpee garden

10. Water about once weekly for several weeks.

Simply fill the outer tray, and the water mat will suck up water and transport it to the seeds.

Burpee herbs

After the plants sprout and grow an inch or two, you can remove them from the Burpee container by gently pushing upwards on each plant pocket until the dirt comes loose. Then, transplant the plant (which is fancy wording for “move it to another hole you've buried”) to a garden or planter box so that the roots have room to spread out.