photo credit: Mike the Gardener
|You can use herbs in a variety of ways, most notably cooking. But did you know you can make various teas, and even freshen up some bath water to give you a great spa like experience as Sue Goetz has reminded us in her bestselling book The Herb Lover's Spa Book: Create a Luxury Spa Experience at Home with Fragrant Herbs from Your Garden.
Herbs are easy to grow at home and with so many choices, you are sure to find a few that you can enjoy with your meals and drinks. I know some gardeners that only grow a couple of basic herbs like basil and parsley, and others who run the gamut of trying to grow every herb they can get their hands on. For me, I fall somewhere in between.
Getting Your Herb Garden StartedSo what exactly do you want to grow in your herb garden? That is something you will need to answer for yourself, but I want to talk about where you are going to grow your herb garden once you select the ones you want. Herbs make great choices for growing in containers. Most herbs do well in small spaces, so small container gardening is great for items such as tarragon, parsley and chives.
If you really want to grow an herb garden that will impress not only others but yourself, set aside a portion of your backyard garden space to dedicate to an herb area. This is what I do. I plant about a dozen different herbs, in small amounts in their own area. The area receives full sun (which is what herbs should receive) and is part of the watering schedule that my other fruits and veggies are on. It works great for me here in zone 7a.
Photo credit: Mike the Gardener Italian Basil
Caring for Your Herb GardenCaring for your herb garden is easy. Most herbs require a full day’s worth of sun. Be sure to read the back of the packet for specific instructions. I have found in my own experience that herbs such as endive can do well in partial sun, it does much better when it is getting eight plus hours. Italian basil is a perfect example of an herb that will absolutely explode with success when getting plenty of sun.
Harvesting Your Herb GardenHerbs are great because you can get them to grow all season long. You simply snip off the herbs you want to use and leave the herb plants in tact. Doing so will allow them to continually grow throughout the season. Dill, basil, parsley and rosemary are perfect for doing this and my top 4 herbs. Remember, only snip off what you are going to use. Taking too much may render the plant, “done for the season.”
Photo credit: Mike the Gardener
Grow an Herb Garden
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Steps to Successful HerbsThere are some simple steps you can follow to ensure not only an excellent herb harvest, but getting the most out of your herbs and preserving them so you can enjoy herbs from your garden during the months when growing them is virtually impossible.
Clean Your HerbsAfter you harvest your herbs, give them a gentle rinsing with cool water to wash off any residue and insects that may be crawling on them.
Dry Out Your HerbsYou can let your herbs dry out naturally by hanging them upside down in small bunches. This will dry them out so you can use them in cooking or save them for later.
Store Your Herbs for Future UseOnce your herbs are completely dry (usually 3 weeks of drying time), crush up the herb and put it in an airtight container. I use a Foodsaver vacuum sealer with the jar sealer attachment so I can store my herbs for long term use. Just be sure to reseal the jar after each use to keep the air out.
Dehydrate Your HerbsAnother method you can use to dry out your herbs is to use a dehydrator. I do this as well if I am running out of “drying” space. I purchased an inexpensive Nesco FD-37A American Harvest Food Dehydrator. It was a great investment since I use it, not only for my herbs, but also to dehydrate apple slices and other fruits.
Photo credit: Mike the Gardener - Chervil
|A final recommendation that I have used and heard others teach, is to crush your herbs before use. Crushing basil for instance is great when used in various sauces, but fresh, sliced up basil works great in a tomato, olive oil, and mozzarella cheese caprese salad. Again, as with anything you use your fresh herbs for, it is entirely up to you.
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