Monday, February 27, 2012

The Garden You Can Grow - Herbs

Reaching out to people in the blogosphere has allowed me to "cross paths" with a full spectrum of gardeners. One blogger's husband planted 45,000 carrot seeds over the weekend for their CSA and another wasn't sure she could keep her patio tomatoes alive.

When I started this journey, I focused on flowers. Tulips, to be exact, and our first planting was 150 bulbs. Then I noticed that the massive shrub in our yard was rosemary. Rosemary? Like something you cook with? In MY garden? That summer we used it in everything. We skewered new potatoes with it on the grill. We diced it into salads and rubbed our salmon fillets, steaks and chicken down with it's pungent aromatics. Best of all, there was no labor involved.

The following summer I figured it all out. Herbs! I can grow herbs! Here are the five main reasons you should, too:

1) You will get your money's worth out of the garden. Herbs are spendy. Fresh herbs in plastic corsage boxes are downright expensive. Fresh from the garden. Free-ish. (cost of seed and cost of soil, big woop)

2) Your cooking habits will change. Having all of that fresh flavor at your disposal does something to the way you cook. Fresh herbs out of the garden will enhance the flavor of your meals.

3) It is fun! I love looking at a recipe and realizing I can pop out into the yard to grab the rosemary and thyme. Having fresh herbs in your garden opens up the possibilities for your menu, especially when you are cooking-on-the-fly.

4) Good for your health. We tend to use fats and salts to season our foods, but herbs will add all of the flavor you could ever want at zero calories.

5) One word: Pesto. Course-cut pesto with basil and garlic out of our garden just about makes me squeal. It is the highlight of my gardening season. Throw it on some cherry tomatoes or grilled summer squash. Ahhhhh! Is it summer yet?!? Can you just taste that?

Where do you start? Well, Simon & Garfunkel nailed it with parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme. Add in oregano, dill, chives and cilantro and you are well on your way. Another herb I discovered last summer through our CSA was Summer Savory. We put it on everything and we will try to grow our own this summer.

If this is your first attempt, the Simon & Garfunkel four are fail proof. Simply find some containers to start. This may sound nonsensical, however, you could end up with a garden full of any of these.  It is best to contain them and maintain control of their growth. You don't need to spend a fortune on containers either. Anything that will hold 8-12" of soil and provide good drainage will do.

Soil matters. Seeds matter. Forever and ever. Amen.

I like to use Gardner & Bloome's Potting Soil when planting in containers. For some reason, it feels like I am giving those contained plants a little gift. And I am. You see potting soil is good to go. No fuss. No muss. I am one of those people who HAS to throw a little compost on top of everything as well. 1/2" of happiness.

Seeds. Go organic, if possible. Know where your seed comes from. No GMO action. If you are running to a hardware store/nursery/friend for your seeds, call them ahead of time to ask which brands they carry, then check this list.

After your container is filled with soil, draw a line through the center, about 1/2" deep and sprinkle your seeds in. I like using a pencil to do this. Then lightly cover them up with soil, sprinkle with water and place in a warm spot to wait for germination. Keep the soil moist and warm. When all of the little seedlings start popping through, you will want to cull your seedlings, thin them out. Yes, you just gave them life, but you DO have to thin them out and if it breaks your heart a little, you have started in on the right hobby. The more room each plant has, the happier it will be. Just keep telling yourself that over and over.  Each herb is unique, so follow the directions on your seed packet. The more you use your plant, once it gets going, the better it will continue to grow.

Now let's have a brief, little chat about basil. First, it is finicky. Warm conditions. Moist soil. Sounds simple. It needs to be pinched regularly and it likes to bolt. Did I mention there are over 50 varieties each possessing it's own specific flavor? I would recommend starting with Sweet Basil, Genovese Basil or Thai Basil. If you are just starting, keep it simple. Basil can be tricky, or could be your specialty! You will never know unless you try.

And that REALLY is the heart of gardening. You try something out. Risk free. Sometimes it works and the celebration is on your table or in your little one's hands as they walk through the garden. Sometimes it doesn't work out and we learn. That is the beauty.

Now go find some containers, some seeds and some soil and get started. Don't forget to keep me posted!



  1. Herbs are my absolutely favorite thing to grow! They really are easy and have you seen how expensive they are at the market?! I have a rosemary bush that is about 7 feet tall, it's the crowning glory of the herb bed.

  2. So excited about this! Thank you Val. :-)


  3. Oh my goodness! I have wanted to have an herb garden just didn't even know where to begin! You make it so simple! Thank you!!

  4. Oh I definitely have someone to pass this on to!

  5. I always wanted an herb garden! I started one about a month before getting pregnant with my twins and ended up loosing my garden. You've motivated me to give it a try again this spring!

  6. Loved this post I am wanting to buy seed and wasn't sure where to begin looking for GMO free seeds thanks for the link and the encouragement to just go for it!!


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