Plant fragrant, flavorful herbs in containers or in the garden
Whether you enjoy sprinkling parsley and basil in Italian dishes or prefer fragrant herbs, such as lavender and thyme, planting herbs can add a lot of joy to your garden at very little cost. Growing herbs from seed is very affordable and annual herbs grow quickly. You can start them from seed inside or sow them directly outside. The easiest method is to buy young herb plants and grow them in containers or plant them in the garden. Once they have grown and matured, you can harvest and preserve your herbs for use in the kitchen or in craft projects for months afterwards. Before you buy herbs, consider the following:
Types, Growing Tips, Harvest, Preservation and Selection
Before buying herbs, it’s good to familiarize yourself with the different types of herbs and what they are used for. The most common use of herbs is in cooking, although certain herbs are used to create aromatic crafts, such as wreaths or sachets. Like other plants, herbs are also categorized as annuals, biennials or perennials. Each type has advantages and unique requirements for planting and growing. Regardless of which types of herbs you decide upon, you will need to learn about planting requirements and determine if you need to start seeds indoors, sow them directly into your garden or buy plants in containers.
Types: Herbs are used most often in the kitchen, although aromatic herbs have other uses, such as potpourri. Herbs also play an important part in flower and vegetable gardens by keeping pests away and providing a beautiful backdrop to other plants. Some people plant entire gardens composed of herbs, such as the age-old knot garden, which has been around since medieval times. Herbs are classified as annual, biennial or perennial. Annuals only last one season and perennials return every year, often forming the backbone of an herb garden.
Growing Tips: You can start annuals from seed about six weeks before it’s time to plant them outside. Plant the seeds in pots or flats with moistened seed-starting mix and cover with plastic to keep moisture in until sprouts appear. Keep the seedlings in the sun, if possible, and transplant into pots when they are 2" tall. Transition plants outside after the danger of frost has passed. Some herbs are easy to grow, such as basil, cilantro and dill, so you can plant them directly into warm garden soil.
Harvest and Preservation: Some gardeners locate herb gardens right next to the kitchen so they can easily snip a few leaves for whatever is bubbling on the stove. You can also keep fresh herbs in the refrigerator for a week or so. To keep harvested herbs for later use, dry or freeze them. To dry herbs, remove and wash the leaves, tie the stems together and hang them to dry. You can hang them inside a paper bag with the stem ends at the opening of the bag or lay them flat on screens in a warm, dry location in your home. Herbs that are lying out in the open may require 2 to 5 days to dry, whereas it may take up to 2 to 5 weeks for bagged herbs. Keep drying temperatures under 100 degrees for the best flavor.
|Herb Selection Chart|
Straight Seed Packets: You can buy herbs in seed packets, which list most of the important information you need to know about planting, growing and harvesting. The instructions will also tell you if the herb is hardy in the zone in which you live. Check the package date to ensure the seeds are less than one year old and also look for a germination rate above 65%.
Seed Kits: Some herbs are sold in collections, according to a type of cuisine or with several popular herbs grouped together, such as herbs for tea, herbs used in Italian cooking or herbs that attract butterflies. A kit will usually include different seed varieties, a planting guide, stakes, garden labels and a design guide.
Window Sill Herb Gardens: These types of gardens are typically sold in small, decorative pots or containers, which you can fit on your window sill or countertop for a year-round supply of fresh herbs. In the garden kit, you will find herb seeds, growing medium, pots or containers and growing instructions. Some even include a recipe booklet.
Plants: Herbs are also sold as seedlings. Planting an herb as a seedling means that you can use the plant immediately. For example, when you buy a basil plant, the leaves are already mature enough to chop up and use the same day. Planting instructions vary for mature plants so check the tag that comes with the container to ensure you follow the correct directions for soil type, sun exposure, watering recommendations and spacing.
To create herb container gardens on your window sill, porch or patio, The Home Depot has a variety of pots and containers to choose from.