With the weather starting to warm up a bit, I’m getting the itch to get going on our garden. As a child, my mom kept an herb garden indoors and she has an herb garden now. Starting an herb garden is something that I’ve always wanted to do because who wouldn’t want to cook with fresh herbs? The other appealing part of herb gardening for me was knowing that I could also grow my herbs indoors. I love using fresh ingredients when I can and the thought of being able to just tear off a piece of parsley or snip some oregano was always one I enjoyed and hope to make a reality.
Herb gardening is becoming more and more popular every day, and for a good reason. Herbs have practical value, serve a purpose, and with herb gardening you can actually use your plants. When most people think of herb gardening they automatically think of cooking, but herbs are also grown for their pleasant aroma and their beauty.
One major benefit of growing your own herbs is saving money. Fresh herbs can be ridiculously expensive, with a single small container of fresh herbs sometimes costing $3 to $5 in many supermarkets!
For just a dollar or so, you can buy a big packet of seeds that can grow many plants, and can keep producing for quite a while. Even when you factor in costs such as tools, fertilizer, and other garden expenses, you should still save a great deal of money if you use fresh herbs often.
Herb gardening is also very relaxing.
Many people find that it really helps them reduce stress and unwind. All types of gardening can relieve stress, but herb gardening combines the stress-relieving effects of gardening with the natural stress-relief of aromatherapy!
Many herbs are very easy to grow. A lot of herbs will grow almost anywhere, and require very little maintenance. Herbs can be grown in almost any garden location, and even in containers where they can be moved around at will. The fact that herbs can easily be located almost anywhere makes them a very good subject for most gardeners.
Get acquainted with herb gardening by growing herbs you think you’ll use, plus throw in one or two that sound interesting to you. Herb gardens can range in size from small containers to vast outdoor gardens.
To best learn herb gardening, start simple with a small, sunny plot, or use a clay pot filled with potting soil.
The two big needs that herbs have are:
– lots of sun, and
– well-drained soil.
Most herbs have a preference of full or partial sun, and the seed package or nursery will have this information clearly stated. Most herbs will not do well in very wet soil, and watering about every 2-3 days is usually sufficient. Raised garden beds are a good fit for herb gardens.
They have excellent drainage and can be easily arranged for proper sunlight.
When planting herb seeds, cover them lightly with soil, and don’t plant the seeds too deep. A good rule of thumb with herb gardening is “the smaller the seed, the shallower you sow.” If you are using young herb plants already started in growing trays, simply transplant them into your pots or garden bed.
Sometimes the plants in the trays are dry; if so, water them first before planting them.
Finally, remember that annual herbs (herb plants which only grow for one season and then die) and perennial herbs (herb plants which will return the following year) do best when planted separately. This avoids disrupting the perennial plants’ roots when it is time to dig out the dead annuals. It also prevents leaving dead root pieces behind which can contribute to fungus growth.
One important part of herb gardening is drying the herbs for use during the winter months, especially if you plan on cooking with them.
First the tops of leafy herbs have to be cut, washed, and hung up for the water to evaporate. Then, tie stems together and hang up in a paper bag to dry. After two to three weeks they must be removed; crumble the leaves, dry them out in the oven, and store in a glass jar.
And, if you’re like me, trying to figure out what herbs to include when you’re starting an herb garden, here are a few to get you going:
Parsley – Parsley is a relatively hardy annual in zones 2-11. Both flat-leaf and curly varieties are easy to care for and grow very well without a lot of extra care. It can do well in full sun to light shade, and needs rich soil that is well-drained but moist. It doesn’t do particularly well in heat.
Cilantro – Also known as coriander – this annual herb doesn’t need exceptionally rich soil, and isn’t extremely particular about sun and shade. It can do well in full sun or light shade. It is relatively easy to care for, and does well in almost all zones.
Chives – Chives are a perennial herb. Chives can grow well in almost any soil, and almost any conditions. Chives have been known to be seen growing in old gardens that haven’t been tended in many years! It’s hardy in zones 3-9, and prefers full sun. It does do better in rich soils, but doesn’t need it to survive. Chives have a rich, oniony flavor, and they taste great on baked potatoes.
Oregano – This herb is an extremely popular herb, and it goes well with many different types of foods. It is commonly used in tomato-based pasta dishes, chicken dishes, and pork dishes. Hard in zones 5-9, oregano does well in raised beds, rock gardens, alongside roads or pathways, or just about anywhere! It needs full sun and well-drained soil, but it actually does better in poor, rocky soil!
Thyme – Thyme is a perennial herb. It is hardy in zones 4-6. It’s a small, shrub-like herb that requires full sun and moist, well-drained soil. It is quite hardy in its standard zones, and doesn’t require much care at all.
Basil – Basil in a warm-weather annual herb. It is hardy in most zones, but it requires hot, dry conditions to reach peak flavor. It needs full sun, and very rich, moist soil. The only major issues with growing basil are slugs and cool conditions. As long as basil has enough light and heat, and its soil is allowed to dry out between watering, it usually requires little additional care.
Bay – Although it is a type of shrub, this is actually a very good herb for beginners to grow. It’s hardy in zones 8-11, and is remarkably hardy in those zones. It needs full sun to light shade, and rich, well-drained soil. It will tolerate variations in conditions rather well. Just remember, bay leaves reach their full flavor when dry, so be sure to press them between layers of paper towels inside heavy books for a few weeks before you use them.
But can you grow these herbs indoors as well? Usually yes, just make sure that your herbs will receive plenty of sunlight.
Before starting any type of garden, take a look at the zones. And if you want some more tips and tricks for herb gardening, check out this free eBook:
Have you grown herbs before? If so, what did you grow?