Introduction: Nesting Doll Herb Garden

About: Husband. Father. Artist. Musician. Teacher.

*Disclaimer : I don’t have as much as a green fifth digit let alone a full-blown thumb. My approach was to select the hardiest herbs based on the sage advice of the teenaged garden center employee who shrugged and nodded as I pointed at plants. Thus, increasing my odds of successfully keeping plant life in my home.

A friend had been trying to offload a set of nesting dolls that no longer suited her home décor and thought that I could breathe new life into them. So I adopted them.

This weekend while my wife was away, I wanted to surprise her with an indoor herb garden that could rest on the sill of our kitchen window above the sink. The herb garden initiative prompted a search for interesting vessels. That's when I remembered thinking that the bases of the nesting dolls I adopted would make interesting open-air containers for something like a pencil corral or a candy dish, and might be perfect for this application. After retrieving them from my bin of potential, I went off to purchase some herbs. After careful consideration, I ended up purchasing chives, French tarragon, Greek oregano, chocolate mint, and dill.

Step 1: Tools and Materials

  • Nesting dolls (unpainted ones can be had online, adding to the fun of this project! )
  • Clear sealer (I used Mod Podge Matte )
  • Plants + potted plant mix
  • Small buttons (I used wooden ones )
  • Drill + 1/8’’ drill bit (for the drainage holes )
  • Hot glue gun + hot melt glue sticks

Step 2: Proper Drainage

Start by using a drill chucked up with a 1/8’’ bit (or larger ), to drill drainage holes in the bottoms of the doll bases. As they were turned on a lathe, the centers of the bases are already marked by an indentation left by the tailstock of the lathe. Use this indentation to position your 1/8’’drill bit and drill out the drainage holes.

Step 3: Adding Feet to Accommodate Proper Drainage

After drilling the drainage holes, I realised that I needed to raise the bases a bit to allow for proper drainage. To achieve this, I hot glued three small wooden buttons to each base in a triangular pattern. This encourages a tripod effect, keeping the pots stable on irregular or uneven surfaces. I didn’t bother adding the button feet to the smallest pots as they drain completely within a few seconds of watering, so I just hold them over the sink.

Step 4: Waterproofing the Doll’s Interior

This next step can be skipped if the interiors of your dolls already happen to have a protective finish. To seal the interiors of my dolls I used a clear matte spray varnish. The images are not indicative; however, to the application process of said aerosol spray varnish. This is TOXIC stuff, not the kind of stuff you want to spray indoors. Apply only in a very well-ventilated area or outdoors: I suggest the latter. Wear also a respirator rated for chemicals and aerosol paints, if you don’t, you’ll be tasting it for days.

Once the finish has been applied, again in a well-ventilated area whilst wearing a proper respirator, set them aside to fully cure as per the can’s instructions. You could also use wipe on polyurethane or a similar sealant to seal the interiors, but I opted for the aerosol method in the interest of time.

Once dry, planting can begin!

Step 5: Planting

Eventually, we’ll be using the smallest pots to propagate seeds, but in the meantime, I used them to plant the smallest herb shoots.

Begin by removing the plants from the pots that they came in and start to shape their root system to the shape of the largest pots. Shape the root systems of subsequent plants to the size and shape of the remaining nesting doll pot sizes. Be sure to add some nutrient rich soil in addition to the soil the plant came with to promote its health and growth. Immediately water the plants if the soil is not damp to the touch and place them on a windowsill that receives the amount of recommended sunlight indicated on the information label that was provided with the plant.

Step 6: Trans-Planting

If there are multiple plants within the same pot, carefully split them up by untangling their root clusters and plant them in appropriately sized nesting doll pots.

The only thing left is to try your best to keep them alive!

Step 7: Additions

Houseplant Multi-Tool:

To help plant and take care of these small house plants I made an indoor gardening multi-tool of sorts out of a three-piece miniature set I found at my local dollar store.

Using a metal grinding disk in my rotary tool, I cut slits into the side of the smallest spade to serve as a depth indicator. Then, using the same tool I removed two of the prongs from the three-pronged rake, leaving only the one in the middle. Next, I drilled a hole in butt end of the spade’s handle to accommodate the prong from the rake. I then proceeded to insert the prong into the hole that was just created in the handle of the spade.

Labels (not illustrated):

You can also make simple labels to differentiate your herbs by modifying tongue depressors. Cut one end of the tongue depressor at a 45 degree angle and square off the other end to the height required . Write using an ultra fine tipped permanent marker the names of the herbs and add symbols related to their care if desired (like a sun, or water drops to indicate how much water it requires per week).

Step 8: Enjoy the Herbs of Your Labour!

*Use clean scissors to snip off sections of fresh herbs to integrate into your cooking!

Quick herb usage tips:

Dill : Fresh dill is a surprisingly wonderful addition to a garden salad!

Chocolate Mint : A few leaves of chocolate mint will give your mojitos an extra dash of personality without being overpowering!

Chives : The potency of fresh chives turns some away, instead, grind them into a paste with your preferred cooking oil, place in a freezer bag and remove from freezer to add small dollops of the mix to pasta courses for an extra onion/garlic type kick!

French Tarragon : French tarragon is a delightful addition to many cream based sauces and dips!

Greek oregano : Greek oregano is a must for tomato based sauces; however, add only finely chopped leaves at the very end as a garnish to get the most out of its flavour!

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