There’s something satisfying about ripping a handful of fresh homegrown herbs from a plant and sprinkling them into a recipe that opening a glass jar can’t replicate. It’s cheap and easy, and the taste is far stronger and interesting. Growing your own herb garden is easier than you might think – seek out inspiration and encouragement from Agrarian Organics and make a start on giving that meat, fish, vegetable or salad a home-grown buzz.
Available in a varying range of greens and purples, herbs also present an attractive alternative to flowers, trees and other bushes, and many can be beneficial for health. You don’t even need a garden, as long as you have a window sill and access to light.
Your first step is to research the herbs you like eating and plan the optimal time for planting. Garden experts Thompson-Morgan says that knowing if your plants are annual, biennial or perennial is crucial: “Annual and biennial herbs such as basil, coriander, parsley, dill or chervil are fast growing and may need to be sown at intervals throughout spring and summer to ensure you have a continuous fresh supply. Perennial herbs such as oregano, mint, thyme, sage, rosemary and chives are slower growing and will require a more permanent home.”
Herb kits are available from garden centers, which will give full instructions on planting into cell trays or small pots. Place the pots on a window sill where warmth and light can bathe them, waiting until the roots have grown. If you do not want to grow from seed, you may instead buy young plants in small pots.
Either way, once they have acclimated to their environment, you’ll want to plant them into a bigger bowl or in the bed. Test the soil for nutrients and add a little organic matter if needed. Then gently remove your herbs by pushing up from the base, and slot them into their holes so the ‘rootball’ is just below the soil surface. Once firmed, give them a generous dose of water.
Depending upon the herb, you could even be munching on them pretty swiftly. Some herbs and salads such as coriander, wild rocket and cress may be ready to harvest within a few days of sowing, while others may take a few weeks. They can be picked easily by pinching out or cut before flowering to promote bushy growth.
Some herbs such as mint or sage grow more aggressively, so give them a bigger pot or more space. An old bowl or trough will do, as long as it will allow your herbs to grow into the garden you desire. Plastic or terracotta are both viable, as long as there is good drainage. Of course, if you ever move homes a container will enable you to transport your herbs more easily than pulling them out of the ground.
Herbs need watering regularly, but not too often. Herb expert Conrad Richter says that a simple rule of thumb is to continue until water pours out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the container. He adds: “I always say herbs need to be checked frequently, and only watered if the soil feels dry to the touch. In the winter, that might work out to once a week while in the summer that might be once a day. Your finger is the perfect water meter.
The The Herb Gardener even recommends pushing an ice-cube into the soil (not directly against the stem) as a ‘set it and forget it’ activity, as the water is slowly released into the system in colder weather and then in a rush as warm weather arrives. Mulching also helps soil retain moisture.
When it is time to pick, generally stick to harvesting a third of the material from any given plant, from the outside, to leave the tough core of the herb to continue growing. Cuttings, which are frozen, tend to retain their flavor better. In a fully stocked bed of flowers and vegetables, you’ll barely notice any visual difference as the herb leaves are taken.
This article was contributed by Amanda Walters, an experienced freelance writer and regular contributor to Huffington Post. Follow her here: @Amanda_W84
Are you successful at growing your own herbs? What herb do you grow?