Indoor and Outdoor Herb Gardens
Herbs are used to add flavor to food and cooking, for medicinal purposes, as ingredients for making soothing herbal teas and to add color and variety to a garden. Many cultures use herbs in various ways and in recipes as they make food taste better and provide health benefits through diet. Herbs grown at home or in the garden are much healthier than industrially grown herb plants because of the use of pesticides and because freshly picked herbs have more taste and medicinal virtues.
Where to Buy Herb Plants and Herb Seeds
Herb plants can be grown organically from seeds or cuttings. The better quality plants are available between April and June or in Autumn. Herb plants with lots of leaves in tiny pots may look healthy but have been grown in heated greenhouses and won’t last very long once outside this environment. Leaves must be whole, green, without spots, holes or obvious parasites.
Seeds and plants can be bought from nurseries or through reputable online categories. Nurseries also give valuable advice on whether it is better to buy seeds or plants for certain herbs. Thyme, for example, is difficult to grow from seeds and is better bought as a plant.
Swapping seeds, cuttings and plants is an inexpensive way to grow a garden as herbs are quite expensive to buy. Many gardeners exchange cuttings with neighbors, family, friends and other gardeners and plant them in Summer when the heat makes roots grow quickly.
Check Out: Herbs – Gardening and Collecting
Outdoor Herb Gardens
A small, sunny plot of about 4m² should be enough for a medium-sized family. Herbs plants do not grow well in stagnant water so a well-drained, slight slope with lots of sun is a good choice. Fine gravel and garden compost can be added into holes before planting to improve drainage and the quality of the soil. An organic nitrogen source like alfalfa or soy meal can also be added for heavier feeders like basil. Generally, herbs grow well when they are watered regularly.
Perennial and annual herbs have different soil and water needs so perennial herbs should be grouped together in border areas of the garden and annual herbs with the vegetables.
Indoor Herb Gardens
Herbs can also be grown on windowsills, terraces or balconies. They grow well in pots and can compete with any flowering plant for color. Lavender’s purple flowers, chive’s blue pompoms and the red, yellow and green leaves of the sage herb are a feast for the eyes.
Pots can be hung from the rails of a balcony, the ceilings of covered terraces or from wire mesh fixed to a wall. Shelves are good for herbs that grow better in shade than direct sunlight like mint, parsley and bee or lemon balm.
For gardeners who don’t have a balcony or terrace, herbs can be grown together in a mixture of soil for flowers with some sand and compost in a terracotta pot on a windowsill. As stated before, herbs need well-drained soil so some fine gravel at the bottom of the pot should help with drainage. Some plants grow well together and others don’t. Parsley, chives, basil and sage are a good combination. Mint is an aggressive spreader and likes a lot of water so should best be grown alone. Rosemary, thyme and tarragon like drier conditions and taller plants like dill grow quite high so they should rather be put on the floor in a pot than on a shelf or windowsill.
Check Out: How To Save Your Own Seeds
Some crops can be abundant and much more than one family can use. Most herbs can be dried in a dark, hot, well-aired room or in an oven at 50°C.
Freezing herbs preserves their aromatic qualities better than drying them. Herbs must be cut up finely and put into ice-cube containers with water and then frozen in the freezer. When needed they can be put directly into meals being prepared.
An increase in the popularity of ethnic and organic foods combined with the fact that fresh herbs have more taste and qualities than dried herbs means that more people are growing their own indoor or outdoor herb gardens for fresh use, drying or freezing.