When you find yourself cooking with tons of fresh herbs, it might be beneficial to start your own herb garden.
Fresh herbs take cooking to the next level. You can zip up pesto with basil, poolside guacamole with cilantro, or fresh salad with mint. After weeks of trying to maintain pricey store-bought stems in mason jars full of water, I made the decision to start growing my own herbs.
I drove to the small plant shop across the street ready to buy everything I would need for my new project. I imagined a lush array of green herbs soaking in the sunlight on my apartment balcony, ready to be sprinkled onto whatever dish I concoct for dinner each night. When the nice man in gardening gloves asked me if I needed help, I confidently informed him I had come to purchase some herbs for my new garden.
But then the questions came. What kind of herbs did I want? Where would I place them? Do I get quality sunlight on my deck? I suppose the blank stare on my face told him I was ill prepared for this purchase, and maybe I should have done some research before jumping in.
If you're planning on growing your own herbs, try these tips before investing in a plant.
Know What You Want
One of the first things you need to consider is what kind of herbs are worth your time and money. Consider what style dishes you typically cook. If you like Mexican cuisine, try cilantro; or if you cook up Italian dishes most nights plan for basil and oregano. Next decide if you'll be starting from scratch with a seed or buying an already established plant. Planting seeds is definitely the cheaper route, but it takes a lot more knowledge and effort. For beginners, I recommend starting with a blossoming plant.
Keep in mind how long you want to have the plants around. Herbs that are annuals like anise, basil, cilantro, and dill will bloom for one single season and you'll need to buy a new plant the following summer. Biennial plants like caraway and parsley can last you two seasons, but only bloom on the second season. Perennials like chives, fennel, mint, tarragon, and thyme are the most money saving, because they can bloom every season they live.
Figure out where you can place your plants and what kind of sunlight you get in that area. Most gardening experts will be able to tell which plants will thrive in the environment you have to offer. Some herbs like basil succeed in the outdoors with tons of sunlight while marjoram prefers to stay shady and indoors. Be sure you arrive prepared so you can get all the right information to help your herbs live a happy life.
Get The Right Equipment
If you plan to keep your herbs in a pot instead of in the a garden, most gardening centers can help you pick out a pot for your plants. Aim for a clay container with about 8 inches per plant, without overcrowding. You also will need to purchase soil and fertilizer to plant your herb in the container, but some gardening stores will be kind enough to plant it for you without the need to purchase your own soil. If you're planting somewhere that needs to be protected, you can also purchase a saucer to keep everything clean. Check with the staff if your particular herb needs anything other than water, though most do not.
Treat Them Right
Almost every plant needs a minimum of four hours of direct sunlight. Make sure you check with the gardening staff about what the sunlight needs are for your specific plant variety. Keep the temperature in mind as well. If a day is way too hot and dry for people to be outside, it's most likely way too hot and dry for your plant. If possible, move your plant to the shade on super hot days, and periodically check the dryness of the soil. Be sure to water your plants any time the soil is dry to the touch.
Use Your Herbs
It might seem simple, but if you're going to invest in these plants you should make sure your use them. For recipe inspiration, try some of our favorites based on what kinds of herbs you're harvesting. Just be sure to add them to your dish at the end, because heat tends to kill some of the fresh flavors.