Ask any cook worth their salt and they’ll tell you herbs are a must for flavorful cooking. Most of us keep some herbs along with spices in a cupboard near the stove, but prepackaged herbs are dried and as a result, have lost some of their flavor. Fortunately there’s a simple solution to this problem - you can grow your own herbs. Herbs are easy to grow and you don’t even need to have a garden. In fact, if you have a little space in a sunny location (a window ledge will do) and just a little time, you can grow your own fresh herbs.
Where do I get herbs?
- You can grow your herbs from seeds or purchase seedlings from a garden nursery. Growing from seeds requires a little more care (and time) but either way you'll shortly end up with a supply of fresh herbs to enhance your cooking.
Growing from seeds
- You can plant your herb seeds in just about any kind of small container. Clay pots are the traditional way, or you can be more ecofriendly and use recycled Styrofoam or even plastic cups (as long as you put a hole in the bottom for drainage).
- Simply fill the pots with compost enhanced soil, plant the seeds and put the pots on a plate to catch any excess water. Now just put the plate in a sunny location and wait a few weeks.
- Alternatively, plant nurseries and garden centers often carry ready made kits containing small pots of soil with seeds already planted. You simply add water and place the kit in a sunny spot. Many of these kits come with a clear plastic lid that acts as a mini greenhouse, ensuring consistent temperature and controlling moisture, making growing your own herbs even easier.
Taking care of your herbs
There is a tremendously wide variety of plants considered ‘herbs’ but with the exception of a few shade loving herbs like sweet woodruff and mint, most herbs prefer three basic growing conditions.
- Sunshine and lean soil – the combination of sun and lean soil are what cause the natural oils in the plant to develop and give the herbs their fragrance and flavor. Herbs grown in soil that is too rich will have less odor and taste.
- Moisture – herbs like most other plants don’t like having their roots continually wet. Regular light watering so the soil stays moist (not wet) is the secret to growing flavorful herbs.
- Regular harvesting and trimming – cut your herbs as needed for use in your recipes and pinch off old plant growth to stimulate new growth. Plants left unharvested will grow tall, lack flavorful and be useless for cooking.
Growing herbs outside
- Herbs planted outside have basically the same needs as those grown indoors - lots of sunlight, moist soil and regular harvesting. Herbs don’t need to have a separate spot all to themselves in the garden, you can plant them mixed in with or beside other vegetables and flowers – just be sure they get can full sun at least 6+ hours a day.
Murray Anderson is an experienced freelance writer with over 500 articles published on the web as well as in print magazines and newspapers in both the United States and Canada. He writes on a wide range of topics and is a regular contributor to DoItYourself.com. He can be contacted at [email protected].