May 10th, 2012

Grow Your Own

Ask any chef or good cook and they will tell you, “Fresh herbs are a must.” Buying herbs from the grocery store is expensive. Those poor sprigs offered in the plastic packs in the produce department are a long way from fresh so their lack of flavor is no surprise. Your best source of fresh herbs? Grow your own!

Oregano makes a beautiful ground cover.

Growing herbs is easy. Anyone can have an herb garden. If you don’t have a spot of sunny ground, then a big pot on your terrace or deck will do. The very best place for an herb garden is next to your kitchen door for easy access.

Mint is best grown in pots as it may become invasive if allowed to roam freely in the garden.

Perennial herbs such as oregano, chives and thyme make beautiful, carefree borders for flower beds and evergreen rosemary makes a nice small shrub, so feel free to mix these into your ornamental landscape, too.

You can never have too much thyme, right?

The best way to start most perennial herbs is with small plants from the garden center. Don’t be fooled by their tiny size. Most herbs are tough plants that will survive neglect, poor soil and harsh winters. They will increase in size and many will multiply over the years so you will have more plants for your garden or to share with friends.

Rosemary is planted close to a glider so that the fragrance can be enjoyed. Basil seedlings visit Rosemary's pot every spring.

Annual herbs such as dill and basil may be started from seed (or nursery plants). Sprinkle seeds on top of moistened soil. Top with about ¼” of additional soil and pat down gently. Mist lightly until the soil is wet. Keep moist until sprouts are at least 2 – 3” tall. You may need to thin plants as they grow. Do so carefully and give to a friend. In fact, it’s a good idea to buy seeds with gardening friends as one packet will produce a plethora of plants.

Chives have adorable blossoms which are also edible.

Give your herbs plenty of sunshine and don’t let them get too dry, especially as they are becoming acclimated. A scoop of organic compost mixed into the soil is all most herbs will need to flourish.

While not technically herbs, lettuces are also easy to grow from seed. The flavor of just-picked salad greens is something many people never experience.

Coming up next: Ways to use your herbs.

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