Nothing tastes better than fresh herbs. There’s nothing better than cooking something and walking outside and picking some of your own fresh herbs to add to your dish. Once you start cooking with them, it’s difficult to imagine cooking without them. A side benefit of growing your own herbs is that you can dry them and store them for use later in the year when you may not be able to grow them because of the weather. You save so much money when you have your own herbs. Here’s a few tips for growing your own herbs at home. You can grow these directly in the ground, if you have the room, or in pots. They are easy to grow, you’ll save money, and your food will taste fantastic.
When you buy herbs, try to purchase 2-3 plants of each type and at different stages of growth. This way, they will mature at different rates allowing you to have herbs for a longer period of time. You will be able to use some of the larger plants while the smaller ones are trying to establish themselves. I look for those that are marked “organic”. Look for herbs that are healthy in the pot and look ready to eat.
Repot the herbs as soon as possible. Leaving them in their original pots won’t allow the roots to spread out and they will suffocate themselves and die. (Make sure you don’t disturb the roots when you are repotting the plant.) Repot in pots 2-3 times the size of the original container. No larger, as too large and the plant will expend all its energy on root development, and very little on plant development.
Repot in organic potting soil especially formulated for vegetables. Water well once you pot and then don’t worry about watering them again for a couple of days. The plant(s) may droop a bit, but that’s okay, they are readjusting to their new pot. They also need to be in partial shade the first day or two. None of the herbs mentioned here like to be over-watered.
Pots that are plastic are better than clay as the clay ones dry out too quickly and can break easily. You can use virtually any plastic pot, such as a gallon milk carton with the top cut off and holes poked in the bottom as all pots have to have good drainage so the roots don’t rot.
If you have pests on the plant, use a vegetable spray like an organic insecticidal soap. Be careful with what you’re buying, making sure it is specifically made for plants to be eaten.
If your plants are outdoors, think about investing in some shade cloth. Herbs are sturdy plants, but they do need some protection from the sun and cold. I have found that some herbs, like dill, state that they can be placed in full sunlight, but, for me, they do not like full hot sun all the time. They do better when they have some relief from the hot afternoon sun, especially if that sun is accompanied with a hot drying wind. I find the same to be true of cilantro.
Herbs like rosemary, sage and dill like direct sun and do not need a lot of watering and prefer to be deep watered when a bit dry. (Note my comments above though. The directions may read, “plant in direct sun”, but they do best if some shade is provided for relief from the boiling hot sun.)
Herbs like basil, thyme and oregano and parsley like to be kept moist, but don’t like overwatering and do not like direct sun, regardless of what the label that comes with them says. To keep your basil producing leaves, do not pick off just the leaves. Go to the stem, and see where the leaves come out of a little node, pick off the stem and leaves at the node. The node will regenerate another stem with more leaves. I planted thyme, oregano and rosemary plants 5 years ago, and I have never had to replant them.
Chives like sun and regular watering. Again, I planted a few chive plants a couple of years ago and they stay green year around. All you have to do is clip off the stems as you need them. If they start to seed, clip them off as the plant may die back. These plants do not like full sun, and do best with morning sun and afternoon shade.
Mint, the garden weed! If you want to grow something that has many uses in your kitchen, grow mint. It grows like a weed. And like weeds, it spreads and can take over an entire area. The best way to grow mint is to grow it in a contained area of your garden with borders around it, or in a pot so it can’t spread. It does like water, but isn’t a water hog.
I hope some of these tips that I’m Giving Back will help you in establishing your own herb garden. The more variety of herbs you grow, the more you’ll want to try growing. One that I love is pineapple sage. It is a beautiful plant that stays green year around, and in addition, has beautiful small red blossoms on it once or twice a year. Part of the joy of growing your own herbs is drying them for sharing with friends and family and for later use. In another post, I’ll be Giving Back some tips for drying herbs.