You already know that fresh herbs are the key to elevating your home cooking from basic to gourmet, but did you know that herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow? They can be grown in pots on a patio, in your garden, or even in a box inside your kitchen. Read on for a few tried-and-true tips for starting your own herb garden.
Location, Location, Location
It’s important to pick the right location for your herb garden. Most herbs prefer full sun as long as temperatures don’t rise above 90 degrees. In this case, consider planting in an area that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, or a place that receives partial light. Tip: check the area several times during the day to make sure that there are at least four hours of sunshine!
Soil Prep Is Key
Once you’ve identified the ideal location, you can start preparing the soil. If your soil is hard, sandy, or clay-heavy, add some compost to soften the soil and make it more welcoming for your new herbs – about 1 foot deep should do the trick. Even if your soil is in good shape, adding some nutrient-rich compost will help nurture your herbs as they grow.
Selecting Your Herbs
With so many different types of herbs, it’s hard to know what to plant. Learn more about some of the most popular types below. Pro tip: Add labels to each of your herbs to make them easy to find when cooking.
Basil: There are different varieties of this herb, but all of them are great. One of the most popular is sweet basil. It’s extremely versatile, but is most often used in Italian and Mediterranean dishes. Basil is favored for bringing out a warm, spicy flavor and makes a great addition to soups, salads, sauces, omelets and meat dishes.
Garlic: Like onions, garlic can liven up almost any meal while adding tons of flavor and nutritional benefits. Whether used raw or sautéed, garlic is a must-have ingredient for any savory dish. Just don’t forget the breath mints!
Oregano: The oregano plant has antibacterial properties which help eliminate unwanted bacteria in food as well as in your body. This herb also adds wonderful organic flavor to tomato-based soups, sauces, stir-fries and salads.
Chives: Much like other alliums, such as onions and garlic, chives are relatively easy to grow either outdoors or indoors and are great at warding off insects. The leaves of the chive plant have a mild oniony flavor and lend a little kick to salads, eggs, mashed potatoes and sandwich spreads.
Nurturing Your Plants: The Basics
- When planting your herbs, do not use composted manure. Typical composted manure is high in nitrogen, which makes the herbs proliferate but reduces their flavor.
- If you’re new to herb gardening, don’t start off planting on a large patch of land. You’ll be astonished at the constant flow of fresh herbs you can get from a relatively small space.
- Water often, but not too much; about an inch a week should do it.
- When planting, provide your herbs with adequate space and enough drainage.
Enjoy the Harvest
You can start enjoying your herbs as soon as they reach maturity. Allow your herbs to grow back faster by harvesting no more than a third of the plant at one time. Tip: herbs taste best if harvested before they bloom and are most flavorful when harvested in the morning.
An herb garden is an excellent way to introduce nature to your home, and it doesn’t require much space or any special expertise. Give it a try this season and enjoy the spice it adds to your meals and your life.