Got an itch to start a garden, but not sure where to start? An herb garden is one of the easiest and most rewarding gardens to grow. There are all kinds of good reasons to start an herb garden:
- Experienced cooks know that fresh herbs take an everyday meal from ho-hum to gourmet.
- You’ll be the neighborhood grill master when you start adding fresh herbs to your BBQ entrees.
- You’ll have more money in your pocket. Growing your own herbs saves a lot of money over purchasing expensive fresh or dried herbs.
- You’ll be the most popular person at the party. There’s something magical about herbs. Everyone wants to talk to the person who grows their own.
My favorite herbs to grow, which not coincidentally are also easy to grow, are:
- Basil – there are several kinds to choose from. I like to plant Mammoth for the large leaves, and then something different like Thai or Lemon for variety.
- Rosemary – A pretty hardy plant that will keep as a perennial most places if well mulched over the winter.
- Mint – Another herb with several kinds to choose from. Keep this in mind; Spearmint is used in Mediterranean cooking and most baking applications. Peppermint is used more for candies and tea.
- Chives – Every home should have a patch of this mild onion substitute outside the door, easily assessable for salads, dips, and grilled potatoes. Just sayin’ !
- Sage – I was never a sage fan, but growing fresh sage changed that! I add the silvery leaves to everything in the summer, including tossed green salad.
- Marjoram – another Mediterranean herb that tastes like a cross between basil and oregano. Grows like wildfire.
- Parsley – Grow either the regular, curly kind or the more peppery Italian parsley.
- Lemon Verbena – I love the lemony flavor of these leaves. Use in a green salad, with grilled veggies, or dry for tea.
Unlike many garden plants, herbs don’t take up much room. You can start them inside and them move them outside when the weather is warm. Herbs can be planted directly in the ground, or you may want to keep them in pots and move them indoors again in the fall. I like to keep my herb garden in pots on the deck. They are not only delicious, they provide an attractive atmosphere and attract butterflies to my deck, making it a little oasis.
Herbs are pretty care-free and don’t require much of your time. The fresh leaves can be harvested as needed, or dried for later use. Fresh herbs can also be chopped and frozen with water in ice cube trays, then thawed and drained when cooking.
If you do plant your herbs directly in the garden beware of chives, mint, and marjoram – all of which will spread. Chives are easy to handle, I routinely dig up part of my chive patch and give it away. But mint and marjoram, once started, are hard to control! If you don’t mind them taking over your backyard that’s fine, otherwise maybe they should be restricted to a pot.