8 Reasons Why Herbs are Garden Rock Stars, try herb gardening and find out!

fresh herb photo by Do It Delicious

Always wanted to start herb gardening, but never known where to start? This spring, start by planting some herbs. There are countless benefits to having an herb garden, whether it’s in a large plot in your backyard, or just a few pots on your windowsill. In fact, we’d even go as far as to say that herbs are the rock stars of the gardening world. Here are our top reasons why.

Herb Growing Kits from aHa! Modern Living

Top 8 Reasons Why Herbs Rock

(1) You get a lot of bang for your buck. Pretty much the only expense is the seeds, a watering can if you don’t have one already, and your time. Not exactly a pocketbook buster! Many herbs, such as sage, thyme and mint, are perennials, which means you only have to plant them once and they’ll come back year after year.

(2) They can improve the health of your cooking. If you rely on salt to add zing to your food, it’s time to switch to a healthier alternative. Stir some chopped up herbs into your food instead, and not only are you adding gobs of flavor, but you’re adding extra antioxidants, too. Some herbs, such as basil, are even known to offer protection against heart disease, respiratory problems, cancer, and arthritis.

(3) Herbs don’t need fertile soil. Some plants are super finicky about their soil. Not herbs. Many actually do better in non-fertile soil (just be sure the soil drains well). Valerian, caraway, elderberry, and comfrey all actually improve the health of your soil when you plant them.

(4) They are stellar companion plants. You can integrate herbs into your flower, fruit and vegetable beds to help boost the health of your plants and keep pests away, too. Some pairs that grow well together are basil + tomatoes, borage + strawberries, chives + carrots, oregano + grape vines, parsley + asparagus, and sage + cabbage.

(5) Instant gratification is yours. Many herbs, such as mint, are known for spreading quickly and growing tall and strong. You don’t have to wait several seasons before you can harvest your herbs.

Planting Tip: if you give mint an inch, it will take a mile…or two. Plant mint in containers, whether on a patio or in the ground, to keep the underground runners from speading all over your yard.

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Grow Herbs for Cocktail Infusions and Simple Syrups

Vodka infusions

Infused vodkas make great gifts (photo by Ashley English)!

There are several different reasons that you may grow herbs to make an infusion. You can infuse herbs in water to make a healing medicinal liquid; or you can infuse herbs in olive oil to make salad dressings. But the most fun way to make an infusion? To infuse herbs in booze, or course!

What is an infusion?

An infusion is the result of steeping botanicals in liquid to extract their flavor, scent, and nutritional or healing properties. Many of us create a simple infusion every day without even thinking about it by brewing herbal tea. Typically, the botanicals used in infusions are leaves, berries, fruits, and/or flowers.

Herb Infused Vodka

Rosemary, mint, and thyme are common ingredients

We recommend using a good quality vodka for your infusion. Since it is primarily colorless and flavorless, it really takes on the flavors of the infused herbs and spices very well (some people even call it the chameleon of liquors).

To create a vodka infusion, you will need:

  • 1 liter of vodka
  • an airtight mason jar – 1 liter capacity
  • an airtight bottle – 1 liter capacity
  • a funnel
  • a piece of cheesecloth or a small strainer
  • herbs, fruits, or spices to flavor your vodka

The goal of any infusion is to extract the delicious scents and flavors into your vodka. This means that you will allow the herbs, spices and fruits to “steep” in the vodka, then discard the solids. The amount of time that each flavor needs to steep will vary. For example, lemon peels will need to be left in the vodka for a good week or two, whereas strawberries will only take about 24 hours to steep.

Our Favorite Infused Vodka Recipes

Lavender-Lemon MartiniRosemary and Lavender Infused Vodka

This vodka lends a wonderful soft floral note to all of our favorite vodka drinks. Try it in a vodka martini, a vodka tonic, or mixed with lemonade for a fragrant twist.


  1. Pluck 1 large sprig of rosemary and 2 sprigs of lavender from your garden. Rinse them well, and add them to your clean mason jar.
  2. Pour 1 liter of vodka into the jar. Give the jar a few gentle shakes.
  3. Seal the jar of the lid tightly, then store it in a cool, dry place for 3 days.
  4. After 3 days, open the jar and give the vodka a taste test. If the flavors are as strong as you would like, it’s time to remove the vodka from the jar. If not, store the vodka in the jar for 1-2 more days.
  5. When ready, hold a strainer or piece of cheesecloth over a pitcher, and pour the vodka from the jar into the pitcher. This will strain out any lavender blossoms and rosemary needles.
  6. Place the funnel on the top of the bottle, and pour the vodka from the pitcher into the bottle.
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Muddle Your Way to Garden Fresh Cocktails

Hemingway Muddlers

Hemingway Muddlers

We may not all be Tom Cruise in “Cocktail,” with sexy bottle flipping moves, but if you do want to impress people with a delicious signature drink at your next garden gathering or party, a muddler is an essential tool for you. Muddling allows you to add fresh home-grown flavor to any beverage of your choice.

What is a Muddler?

A muddler is a wooden tool, shaped sort of like a miniature club, that is used to mash aromatics at the bottom of a cocktail glass. Muddlers have a specially designed tip in order to crush, or gently bruise, the item in the bottom of your glass without pulverizing it. Some muddlers have a flat tip, while others are rounded or pointed. Each one serves a different purpose. The Roost Hemingway Muddlers are sold as a set of three, which equips you with a muddler for every application, from mint leaves to delicate berries to pink peppercorns.

How to Use a Muddler

A muddler is intended to be used with a gentle wrist twisting action, rather than an up-and-down plunger action. Simply place the item you wish to muddle in the bottom of your glass of choice, then gently press with the muddler, softly grinding and mashing the item along the bottom and sides of the glass. Continue with a gentle pressing and turning action for about a count of 10. If you are muddling both herbs and fruit, muddle the herbs in the glass first, then add the fruit. Or if you are muddling herbs alone, try adding a sprinkle of salt, sugar, or brown sugar. The coarseness will help to abrade the surface of the leaves without complete shredding them.

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Plant the Seeds for a Healthy Lifestyle: Garden With Your Kids

Children of all ages are great learners and willing participants when it comes to spring gardening. If it’s still a little cool in your neck of the woods, begin by starting seeds indoors. This way, your child can plant seeds in small pots inside, then can transplant the seedlings outdoors once the temperatures grow a bit higher, and the days longer.

Get Growing!

Check out the Green Toys Indoor Planting Kit, which includes 3 planting pots, a pea pod shaped pot tray, a trowel, soil, and 3 packets of organic seeds. The pots and trowel are sized just right for mini hands, and even made of 100% post consumer recycled plastic (milk jugs!), too.

Once your kiddo has planted the seeds, all he or she needs to do is water them. You can even make this task fun with a cute elephant watering can and the Greenbo Frog Water Meter. Over watering is one of the most common causes of houseplant death, so prevent it with this adorable and super easy to read meter, which clearly indicates whether the plant’s soil is dry, moist, or wet.

Indoor Planting Kit

Indoor Planting Kit

Green Toys Planter

Green Toys Planter

Frog Water Meter

Frog Water Meter

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Pair Dainty Snowdrops with Roost’s Glass Bird Vases

Snowdrops Roost Glass Bird Vases

Signs of spring are popping up in masses under trees, along walkways, or maybe even scattered throughout your lawn. Early spring flowering bulbs, like snowdrops, crocuses, and tulips, offer flower lovers the season’s first cut flowers for indoor bud vases.

We’ve discovered another perfect pairing for our Roost Glass Bird Vases. Snowdrops. You may not think of Snowdrops – or galanthus – as a cut flower, but their dainty, honey-scented flowers are natural companions for small vases with narrow openings.

What are Snowdrops?

Snowdrops are an early spring blooming bulb from the amaryllidaceae family, with over 20 different varieties to choose from. Look for Galanthus nivalis, or common snowdrop, it’s the most widely known variety and can be found in most garden centers. Galanthus elwesii, or giant snowdrop, have larger flowers and wider leaves than it’s more common cousin. Both varieties grow up to about 4-6″ tall.

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December Week 3 Giveaway: 2012 Buy Local Tea Towel + Roost Farmers’ Market Basket

Tea Towel and Ceramic Basket

Enter to win! 2012 Buy Local Tea Towel + Roost Farmers' Market Basket

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Shelley Crist!

In this week’s December Giveaway, we’re celebrating the Buy Local movement. The idea of keeping it local appeals to many people, not just gardeners and farmers. When it comes to buying your food locally, it’s not just about supporting your local economy. You are buying produce that tastes better and is more nutritious; transportation uses less fossil fuel; and you can enjoy guilt-free dinners knowing your meat came from a cow, chicken, or pig that grazed freely in an open pasture.

This week is a two-part question: (1) Currently, how do you keep it local, and (2) what is one way you plan to become a better locavore in 2012?

One randomly selected winner will receive one 2012 Buy Local Calendar Tea Towel + one Roost Raspberry Farmers’ Market Basket {raspberry}.

How to Enter

2012 Calendar Tea Towel

Click image to see more detail

  • Answer the question in each blog post by submitting your answer in the “leave a reply” section at the bottom of the page – good for 1 entry.
  • Answer the same on our Facebook page (you’ll have to “like” the page to make a comment) – good for 1 entry.

Yep, that’s right, you can enter your name twice for a chance to win our FREE gift idea. Keep ‘em for yourself or find some special to gift them to.

Week 3′s contest ends Sunday, December 18, 12:00 PST. The winner will be announced the following week.

Congratulations to Christina and Janis for winning last week’s December Giveaway!

December Giveaway Week 2: Roost Recycled Wall Terrarium + Terrarium Craft Book

Terrarium Gift Idea

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Christina for winning the first prize {terrarium + book} and to Janis for winning the second prize {book}.

Terrariums are the perfect gift for plant lovers, design junkies, DIYers, and crafty minds. And when you pair our Roost Recycled Glass Wall Terrarium with Timber Press’s Terrarium Craft book by Amy Bryant Aiello and Kate Bryant, it makes the perfect giveaway! One lucky winner will win both the wall terrarium + the terrarium book, and a second place winner will win a copy of the book {pictured below}.

QUESTION: Terrariums are little scenes of nature in glass containers. What’s your favorite way to connect with nature indoors?


We're giving away 2 free copies of Terrarium Craft

Week 2 Giveaway: How to Enter

  • Answer the question above by submitting your answer in the “leave a reply” section at the bottom of the page – good for 1 entry.
  • Answer the same, or similar question, on our Facebook page (you’ll have to “like” the page to make a comment) – good for 1 entry.

Week 2′s contest ends Sunday, December 11, 12:00 PST. Two randomly selected winners will be announced the following week.

Congratulations Julie Lanier for winning last week’s December Giveaway!

Create the Perfect Terrarium Gift

Want to make a big impression this holiday? Think about grouping terrarium related items your gift recipient will need to create their first or 100th terrarium.

  • Terrarium Tools make fiddling with plants and dirt easier in tight spaces
  • Idea Books like Timber Press’s Terrarium Craft
  • Organic Potting Soil
  • Small bag of Crushed River Gravel for drainage
  • Small bag of Charcoal to keep mold and bacteria at bay
  • Water bottle for spritzing the plants
  • Plant material ranging from succulents and cacti, ferns, moss, and air plants.
  • Accent pieces add a nice personal touch and fill empty spaces. Look for crystals, feathers, bones, seashells, bits of wood, porcelain trinkets

WEEK 3 Giveaway: one 2012 Buy Local Tea Towel + one Roost Farmer’s Market Basket {raspberry}

10 Steps to Planting Your Roost Hanging Terrarium

Roost Hanging Terrarium

Roost Hanging Terrarium

Terrarium Tools

Roost Terrarium Tools

Terrariums are a great way to dip your toes – or should I say hands – into gardening without investing a lot of time and money. Maybe you’ve already tested your “green thumb” skills by growing moss in left over canning jars, or you’ve gone a fews months without your air plants shriveling up on you, and you’re ready to step up your design game by investing in a Roost Recycled Glass Hanging Terrarium {small and large sizes}.

Many terrariums can be thrown together in less than an hour. Once you’ve selected the plants you want to grow, follow these 10 easy steps to make sure your terrariums live happily ever after. Okay, maybe not forever, but these steps will help minimize mold, frying your plants in direct sunlight, root rot, and stuff like that.

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2011 December Holiday Giveaway – Week 1: Roost Muddlers + Garden Rules Book

Roost Hemingway Muddlers

UPDATE: This contest is now closed. Congratulations to Julie Lanier!

In celebration of my recent feature in Oregon Home Magazine by Vivian McInerny, I’ve decided to giveaway one Roost Hemmingway Muddler Set and my newly published book Garden Rules, co-authored by Billie Brownell.  You may be thinking, what do muddlers have to do with gardening? My new favorite obsession, Cocktail Gardening!

We’ve all heard the phrase Garden to Table or Farm to Table, but how cool is Garden to Glass? Just Google “cocktail gardening” and you find a handful of resources on what to grow in your garden, garden inspired cocktails, and there’s even a blog called Gardening While Intoxicated by one the Garden Rant ladies.

If you’ve never started your own garden before, Garden Rules is a quick way to learn the basics. One of the easiest herbs to grow is mint, and one of the easiest drinks to make with a muddler is a Mojito. Cheri Loughlin, the creative mind behind The Intoxicologist, suggests topping it with a little champagne during the holidays to add an even tastier and festive vibe.

QUESTION: You’re hosting a holiday get-together among friends and neighbors, what’s your favorite alcoholic beverage to serve your guests?

Week 1 Giveaway: How to Enter

  1. Answer the question in each blog post by submitting your answer in the “leave a reply” section at the bottom of the page – good for 1 entry.
  2. Answer the same, or similar question, on our Facebook page (you’ll have to “like” the page to make a comment) – good for 1 entry.

Week 1 contest ends Sunday, December 4, 12:00 PST. Winner announced next week.

WEEK 2 Giveaway: one Roost Recycled Glass Hanging Wall Terrarium {small}

aHa! Modern Living December 2011 Giveaways

We’re getting into the holiday spirit by spreading some giveaway cheer!  For the month of December, starting Thursday Wednesday, November 30, 12:30 PST, we will be giving away one cool gift idea each week.

And what will you win you ask?

Cool Holiday Gift Giveaways

How to Enter

  1. Answer the question in each blog post by submitting your answer in the “leave a reply” section at the bottom of the page – good for 1 entry.
  2. Answer the same, or similar question, on our Facebook page (you’ll have to “like” the page to make a comment) – good for 1 entry.

Yep, that’s right, you can enter your name twice each week for a chance to win a FREE gift. Keep them for yourself or find some special to gift them to.