Homegrown Flavor: Growing Your Own Herb Garden
If you love the zesty taste of fresh herbs in food, wouldn’t it be great to have some growing right outside the backdoor or in a sunny kitchen window? Consider planting your own tasty herb garden either indoors or out. Here are some tips for herb gardening.
Where to plant a herb garden
Herbs require about six hours of sun per day, so carefully choose where you plant your herb garden. Most herbs originated in Mediterranean climates so they tend to do best when the temperature stays above 50 degrees. Even if the weather is not ideal, you can still be successful if you manage the herbs’ environment by growing them indoors or in planters that can be moved when needed. A sunny kitchen windowsill is an ideal place for a small herb planter.
Seeds to transplants
Starting from seeds is less expensive than buying herbs as bedding plants, plus you receive the satisfaction of seeing them sprout and grow. Start your seeds in seedling trays using loose soil. Avoid direct sunlight; instead, place a growing light just a few inches above the trays. A light treatment of diluted liquid fertilizer gives your plants a good start. Cover the tray with plastic to hold in moisture until the seeds begin to sprout, then remove it. When the plants are a few inches tall, transplant to individual pots or a planter box.
Herbs require well-drained soil, so blend compacted or clay soils with compost, sand or even pea gravel. Crushed limestone also helps herbs to thrive. Transplanted young plants need at least two inches of soil around the root ball. Leave several inches between plants to allow room for growth.
Give your herb garden at least an inch of water weekly. Snip tops to promote branching. When harvesting, don’t take more than a third of a branch so that the plant can recover new foliage easily. Herbs taste better if they’re harvested before flowering, so keeping flower tops snipped aides the flavor.
Basil and cilantro sprout from seed in 10 days or less. Water their soil thoroughly once per week. Several other herbs, such as parsley, oregano, sage and thyme, take two to three weeks to germinate.
Some herbs, such as cilantro and parsley, don’t fare well with transplanting, so start them in containers large enough for them to grow to maturity.
Mint can take over an herb garden, so it’s a good idea to plant it in a separate area or pot. Rosemary can grow over time to become a perennial shrub.
Different varieties of each herb have distinctive flavors, so try growing several breeds in your herb garden to find your favorites.