Pondering the old college days always bring back a good deal of memories. One of which, like most, was practically inhaling copious slices of pizza on a weekly basis. But unlike the typical college student who slathered on ranch dressing to top, or was content with a dash of stale red pepper flakes; I was used to eating some rockin’ pizza. For two years while I lived on Edison Street, my neighbor would allow us to freely use his vast herb garden, and my pizza had freshly cut basil, parsley and oregano to top each slice. Was I lucky or what? Ever since, I have enjoyed the advantages of herb gardening. All the while, maintaining a full time job and going on short vacations without having to worry about my little herby pots. If you’re looking to zest up salads, burgers, dressings, sauces and marinades, dips and sandwiches without having to drive to the store, and pay the ridiculous amount for a small package of herbs; herb gardening is a great way to unleash your green thumb without the commitment. I’d
like to share a few easy tips on how to grow a successful herb garden. You’ll find that with a little insight, you can get started right away!
Finding a Location: Discovering the perfect location is paramount when starting an herb garden. Most herbs prefer filtered sunlight and slightly moist soil. If your kitchen window provides this; build a smaller garden and use small strawberry pots to build your garden in. You will find the kitchen provides easy access to your lush array of herbs! Perhaps your back patio or balcony is the perfect location? If the backyard works best, but you find it is very sunny; plant some large flowers or plants nearby to provide some filtered shade. Sunflowers work very well for this purpose.
Choosing The Right Herbs: Select herbs that have similar needs if you’re placing your plants in the same location. The following herbs can be found in Uncle Herb’s Favorites, and are excellent choices to grow together, especially if you’re combining herbs in large pots.
*Bouquet Dill, Greek Oregano, and Titan Parsley
*Bronze and Green Fennel and Bouquet Dill
*German Winter Thyme and Greek Oregano
*Common Sage and Santo Cilantro, which grows well next to most herbs
Preparing The Soil: Quality soil is generally 50% solids, like small rock materials, and 50% porous soil to allow room for water, air and roots. For larger herb gardens, including organic matter like your own compost pile can greatly enhance your garden. It is also an excellent way to save money and recycle the ends of corn, onions, tomatoes, fruit peels, coffee grounds, grass clippings, and other organic matter. Be sure to exclude any diseased or pest-laden materials, as these will only hinder the garden.
Harvesting: A general rule when harvesting is remembering herbs are most fragrant and taste best right before the leaves are about to bloom. Harvesting is also best done throughout the growing season. Perennials like thyme, sage and rosemary require their active growing branches snipped at 4-6 inch lengths. Whereas it is acceptable to collect a few branches and leaves as needed with basil and other annuals. Freezing or hand drying herbs that you would like to save for later use is a great way to preserve your herbs if they are little blooming idiots. You’ll find that the herbs stay flavorful even if preserved for weeks.
Go Techno! Gardening has never been easier thanks to some fantastic websites that allow you to virtually plan out your garden before you roll up your sleeves. I use Smart Gardener to plan out the design of my garden, view how my location could effect the growing of the herbs, and receive a customized to-do list on what needs to be done. It’s free to join and you get a chance to see some really drool worthy gardens to aspire to.
About the Author:
Jesse Silver-Nattamai lives and gardens in Tucson, Arizona with her herb loving husband and adorable dog. She taught middle school history for five years, and currently runs her own food blog at Happy Go Lucky Vegan. On the side, Jesse enjoys leading tours and workshops at Tucson Botanical Gardens, and writing short stories and articles.