Growing Your Own Herbs

A starter guide for growing culinary herbs plus 5 tips for beginners

Having your own herb garden sounds like an idyllic situation: You'll have an endless supply of fresh, fragrant herbs, and it will be an incredible way to get in touch with nature. But how do you actually make this happen? 

We turned to garden expert Ellen Ecker Ogden for some basic advice. She started her first garden over 30 years ago in Vermont and began just like everyone else: She read tons of books to learn ways to remove soil, replace it with compost, and how to sow seeds. She quickly realized that gardening takes time, practice, and a lot of trial and error, but it hasn’t stopped her. She recently published a fantastic new book called The Complete Kitchen Garden as a comprehensive guide for planting almost any type of garden. Plus, recipes to use for your newly grown accomplishments. Check out her tips and delicious concoctions below so you can get started on your own garden today. 

Click here to see the Fresh Basil Vinaigrette recipe. 

From Ellen... 

5 Tips for New Gardeners

1. Plan before you plant. Take a close look at your landscape to determine the best place for the garden.

2. Start small. Don’t dig up the whole front lawn, but start with a 4-by-4-foot square and expand.

3. Think carefully about what you want to grow — if you can buy zucchini at the farmers market, why grow it? Instead, choose unusual and delicate salad greens and basil which you will enjoy every day.

4. Keep it weeded. Every single weed if left to go to seed will produce thousands of new weed seeds. Take time every day or week to cultivate the soil.

5. Plant successive crops. Once the first lettuce is harvested, have another set already to go in the ground. This way you can extend your growing (and eating) season longer.

 

Where to Start

First, learn the difference between annual herbs and perennials. Perennials will come back every year, while annuals will grow for only a single season. Annuals grow rapidly however, and actually respond to harvest — the more you pick the larger the plant will grow. It's fairly easy to start seed for basil, dill, and cilantro directly in the garden, which are wonderful flavors for summer recipes.  

City Living: What to do with Little Sunlight

Most vegetables and herbs require sunlight to grow, so give them as much as you can. Many salad greens, however, can manage with dappled light and prefer part shade especially during the middle of summer when the heat from the sun is scorching. Try growing mesclun greens, which are mixed packets with a variety of difference leafy greens. They are "cut and come again," which means that the gardener should harvest the greens just above the root line with scissors and then water the roots and the plants will generate a second growth.

 

Pot Yourself or Buy?

Most perennial herbs such as rosemary, thyme, parsley, and sage are very slow to germinate, and it is best to buy plants for your pots. You can direct sow annual herbs such as basil, cilantro, and dill, however if you want a jump on the season then you can buy plants, as well.  All herbs prefer soil that is not over fertilized, so hold back on the nutrients in favor of flavor in the leaf.

 

Can You Revive Browned Plants?

Generally not. But you can learn from it. Try to figure out why it turned brown… too much or too little water? Too much fertilizer? Try to be consistent with your plants by responding to their needs and you will be rewarded with healthy plants and good food.

 

Watering

Watering indoor plants of any kind does not typically follow a typical routine. It will depend on how much sunlight they receive, and the type of plant. For instance, if you water basil seedlings too much when they are young, they are more susceptible to a blight that will weaken their stems. And again, hold back on the fertilizer and select potting soil that is not pre-fed.

 

Tricks for Cutting and Trimming Herbs

Yes, annual herbs respond best to harvesting just above the basal leave node. That is the place on the stem where the two leaves separate and new leaves will sprout. Many gardeners try to bring herbs indoors during the winter months, yet they often suffer from transplant shock and lack of sunlight. 

 

Miracle-Gro for Watering Plants?

I am an organic gardener and feel that what you feed your plant will ultimately feed you. Do you want to eat chemicals? 

 

Click here to see the Basil-Wrapped Grilled Fish recipe.

Click here to see the Tarragon Chicken Salad with Creamy Blue Cheese Dressing recipe.

Click here to see the Lemon Ricotta Fritters with Lavender Honey recipe.

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