Herbs don’t always get the attention they deserve. We forget to sprinkle fresh rosemary on our baked potato, put cilantro in our guacamole and basil is only eaten on restaurant-made margherita pizzas. How sad is that? That tiny little sprinkle of fresh herbs can change an entire dish into something miraculous and yet…..we often overlook it.
I admit that I often forget to add that final touch…(and then my herbs rot in the fridge crisper, sigh) But that is essentially the issue with purchasing cut herbs….you may not eat them all and it seems so wasteful that you just don’t bother with them anymore. But, what if you had your own herb plants to be able to cut and come back again whenever you need their freshness? No more waste and constantly fresh herbs to take your dishes from blah to wow!
Not everyone thinks they have a green thumb (I don’t believe in this at all, btw) so I want to simplify the way you think of herbs. You can grow them, harvest them and use them yourself whether you have a black thumb, no backyard or live with little space. I promise.
Let’s talk about space for your herb garden:
Whether you have an apartment window, a brick patio or a 10 acre farm, you can ALL have an herb garden. For the indoor gardener, herbs gardens are easy! (growing carrots, not so much) Pick your favorites, your containers and make sure you provide your pots with proper drainage. If your pot is something like a mason jar which has no drainage, make sure to add a thick layer of decorative rocks to the bottom of your pot to help keep the plant out of direct standing water. Whenever you have standing water like this, I like to add charcoal to the pot as well to help deter smells. For the patio or container gardener you have a little more space to grow your herbs but still need to provide enough drainage and make sure that if they are outside in a container, that they get the proper amount of watering. Containers will dry out faster than gardens. For the full size garden, just go buck wild……grow a whole row of lavender. If you are also growing vegetables, consider companion planting (we will talk about that next)… As with any plant, providing it with the proper amount of sunlight is important to the health of your herbs. Do your research on what each herb plant needs before picking your spot. Here are some gorgeous ideas for indoor and container gardening ideas:
Let’s talk about what herbs grow well together:
Growing certain herbs together can promote a healthy and happy growing garden. Some plants will even help deter insects from their plant companions, provide them with rich soils and even enhance the flavor of their garden buddies. When figuring out what herbs make good companions, you must consider each individual plants requirements first. If one herb needs moist, fertile soil and another needs sandy soil, they clearly won’t make good companions. You also need to consider space as some plants tend to take over their space and spread wildly (mint family!) which would steal space and nutrients from other plants. Some plants just don’t get along too! Here are some great plants to group together:
Let’s talk about how to harvest and use your herbs:
If you are growing your herbs in containers, they will most likely stay pretty small and will need regular pruning to encourage healthy growth. If you are growing in a garden, you have more play with how much you harvest, but it’s still a great idea to encourage growth with regular pruning. Each herb has a specific way to prune, so make sure you are aware of how to care for each type. Harvesting fresh herbs means you can use them for cooking, baking and for drying, freezing and oils as well. The typical way to dry a bunch of herbs is to hang them, but it can take 6 weeks. You can also speed up the process by using the microwave – just clean and pat dry your herbs and put them in the microwave on a paper towel and dry in 30 sec intervals. Herbs are also very easy to freeze – my favorite method is to chop and freeze them in ice cube trays of oil or water. Another method is to use them to infuse your cooking oils – just place the dry herbs in the oil and let it steep for 6 weeks then strain and enjoy.
I adore growing fresh herbs in my garden even though I haven’t utilized them as much as I should have in the past. This year will be different for me and I hope it will be for you too!
Happy Herb Gardening!