Grow Your Own Herbs
Posted by Sarah at 2:32 pm in Food & Drink, Gardening

Nothing beats the flavor of fresh herbs added to your cooking. But if you’ve been to the supermarket lately, you’ve seen the prices – as much $5 for a small pack of herbs! – way out of the question if you’re a poor secretary trying to cut down on the food budget. For the same price, you can purchase a small plant that will provide you with the same fresh herbs year round.

Don’t worry – you don’t need a green thumb to grown your own herbs. All you need is a sunny spot, some water and a little tender, loving care. If you have garden space, you can grow herbs outdoors seasonally and dry the leftovers to keep throughout the winter. Or, if you have a small windowsill or sunny place in your home, you can grow herbs indoors in containers.

The first step is to pick the herbs you’d like to grow. I like to grow basil and oregano for Italian recipes and cilantro for Mexican dishes. And while I do have a garden outdoors during the summer, I grow a small container of each of these herbs inside so that I have fresh herbs available any time. Once you’ve identified your herbs, search online for their growth habits. A plant that grows three feet tall probably isn’t suited to an indoor container, and a plant that requires full sun to grow will likely do better outdoors (unless you have an extremely sunny window).

To grow herbs outdoors, begin preparing the soil in early spring. Use a shovel to break up and remove grass clumps from your garden area. Consider taking a sample of your soil to your county’s agricultural extension service – most offer free soil testing services early in the spring. They can recommend the best additives for your soil – like peat moss or compost. Wait until all danger of frost has passed in your area (check the internet for your “frost free date”) before planting herbs outdoors.

Growing herbs indoors requires much less physical preparation. Buy a pot and a bag of commercially prepared potting mix and you’re ready to go. Your safest bet, in either case, is to purchase herb plants from a garden store when they’ve already grown a little (approximately 3-7” tall). You can start herbs from seed as well, but some herbs are picky about the amount of sunlight and moisture they need to germinate. Unless you’re able to closely monitor these conditions from the start, an established plant will be less hassle in the long run.

Immediately water your herbs after transplanting to help their roots adapt to the new environment. If you’ve planted your herbs outdoors, water when necessary and keep the area free of weeds. Potted indoor plants need a regular watering whenever the soil feels dry or the leaves start to wilt and may need a little extra fertilizer since repeated waterings will leach nutrients from the soil. They also need to be rotated regularly – otherwise they’ll begin to grow towards the light source, and may eventually tip over. If you start to have trouble with plant diseases or pests, search the internet for remedies or purchase a general gardening book from a used book store – there’s tons of great information out there to help get you started with the fun and rewarding activity of growing your own fresh herbs.

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