If you want to know how to start a herb garden but aren’t sure where to start, read on! If you love using fresh herbs but often find yourself disappointed at the supermarket selections, starting your own herb garden is the answer to having herbs at your fingertips.
Fresh herbs like rosemary, basil, mint, or fennel make mealtimes special and there is no reason you can’t start your own herb garden. A herb garden is easy to maintain, fun to work in and has the added benefit of making it possible to enjoy the freshest of herbs each and every day.
A herb garden doesn’t have to be big so you don’t need much space to grow one. You can even start a potted herb garden on your windowsill! This way you’ll have the aroma of fresh herbs right inside the kitchen or on your patio.
So where do you start? When you start a herb garden its location is very important. This is because most herbs require specific conditions to grow to their tasty best. While many herbs enjoy a sunny, dry spot there are also herbs that like filtered sunlight and moist growing conditions.
The first thing do before starting your herb garden, is make a list of the herbs you like to eat and then research their ideal growing conditions. Next examine your garden (morning and afternoon) and determine whether you have the right conditions for them to grow in. If you are lucky you should find an ideal spot in a sunny garden. You can also use taller plants like sunflowers to create shade for sun-shy plants.
As a general guideline the following plants will do best in a sunny location so your herb garden will need full sun for most of the day:
The following plants prefer partial shade in your herb garden:
* Chervil * Lemon Balm
* Planning Your Garden
Next, set about planting only the herbs you know you will definitely use in your daily cooking. Add a few that you haven’t tried before just to spice things up a bit and give yourself something to look forward to. Your herb garden doesn’t have to contain several plants of each variety. One plant can produce enough herbs to keep you happy in the kitchen and most herbs sprout once cut so they will actually grow better the more you use them! However, if you plan to cut your herbs for preserving in oil, vinegar or for freezing you might need several plants to carry you through winter.
You can either start your herb garden by planting seeds, propagating them from cuttings or buying seedlings from your local garden shop or nursery. Basil, chives, lemongrass, parsley, and thyme are best started from seed while mint, rosemary, and tarragon are easily propagated from cuttings or bought as plants.
If you decide to start a herb garden using seeds make sure you know the germination needs for each plant i.e. the correct soil temperature and moisture needed to grow. Be sure that your tiny plants have good air circulation, sunlight, and humidity. Mist them using a spray bottle to keep the humidity constant.
Once the plants show their first few sets of leaves you can remove some of the plants to allow them enough space to spread out and grow. You can ask an expert for advice on how much each plant needs or read a few books on your favorites to make sure they have the space they need to thrive. If the plants in a herb garden don’t have enough room to grow in they won’t produce well.
If you live in an area that gets a lot of frost such as the Midwest you may want to make your herb garden in pots indoors until the weather warms up (May 15th is a good date). Before planting them outdoors make sure to harden them by slowly moving the plants outside so that they have time to adjust to the different temperatures, wind, and light. Cool, cloudy days are a good choice for transplanting.
Water your herb garden often, but never over-water herbs that need dry conditions to thrive. When watering your plants make sure that the soil is saturated but well-drained – this will prevent root rot and deep watering allows the roots to penetrate the soil deeply making a strong root system and a healthy plant.
Make sure you weed your herb garden properly too. Keeping weeds at bay allows your herbs more space to grow and keeps the garden neat and attractive. When your plants are several inches in height you might want to mulch the ground to stop weed growth and reduce water evaporation. To stop pests like slugs and snails from invading the area, make sure to leave an uncovered area at the base of each plant.
Once your plants are big enough to handle some harvesting you are free to start really enjoying all your hard work. This means making the most of your herb garden. There are a multitude of uses for each herb from simple uses in cooking to medicinal herbs that soothe skin and stomach and making home made soaps and keeping insects at bay.
To make the most of your herb garden use your plants in as many different ways as your imagination allows. Use basil leaves on tomato sandwiches or in salads or rosemary in lamb dishes. Perk up a glass of iced tea with a sprig of mint or make herb butter by adding finely chopped quantities of your favorites.
When winter arrives you may need to move your potted herbs inside or remove the plants from your herb garden and place them in pots indoors. If you have a sunny window that gets a few hours of sunlight each day you may be able to grow your herbs throughout winter. You might even try some fluorescent lighting. Make sure you have a supply of herbs for winter by freezing herb cubes in water or oil.
So now you know the basics of how to start and enjoy a herb garden. Go out there and get busy! Good luck and enjoy your fresh herbs!