How to Make an Herb Garden
For Centuries herbs and spices have been used in many aspects of life, from flavorings and food preservatives to medicines for treating illness. Some herbs were not fit for consumption, yet still had special properties that kept them in the kitchen garden, such as fabric dye and keeping the house smelling fresh and pleasant.
In times gone by, nearly every home had a kitchen garden where grew herbs, spices and vegetables for the household. These gardens were very near to the kitchen door so they were readily available. Today, it is rare to find a kitchen garden, though many individuals who love to cook actually have small windowsill herb gardens in their kitchens.
Laying Out Garden Space
An outdoor kitchen garden will need a sunny local with enough room to comfortably accommodate the plants. An herb garden can be as small or as large as desired, however, a space of that is about 20’ x 5’ is a great place to start. Each herb should be given at least one square foot of space.
There are several ways to create the garden space, with an option that should be able to suite any area. A few ideas for carving out garden space:
1. Make a container garden. As the name suggests, different herbs are planted in containers such as window boxes, flower pots and even buckets. This style of garden is great for homes without a lot of green space. Containers can be placed along walkways, on decks and porches, virtually anywhere that has sunlight.
2. Plant herbs in borders. Many homes already have borders along the house and walks. These borders can be planted with herbs and still offer the visual interest they were intended for.
3. Make a traditional, in-ground garden. With this type of garden the soil needs to be prepared to allow for proper drainage as well as provide a nice fertile soil. Begin by removing the top 18 inches of soil and laying a bed of small gravel about 1 inch thick. Mix the soil with either sphagnum or compost and then replace it into the garden bed.
4. Add a few herbs to an established vegetable garden.
It is quite common to have a combination of border plantings and containers together. The garden is only limited by space and the gardener’s needs and wants.
When to Plant
It is important to check with a local nursery for planting times in each area. These times will in part depend on the climate. Indoor container gardens and heated green houses are not as affected by the seasons as are outdoor herb gardens. Another thing to consider is that some herbs are perennials and return each spring, while others are annuals that grow one full season and must be replanted each year. For ease in replanting it is a good idea to keep the annuals separate from perennials.
How to Cook With Fresh Herbs
What to Plant
Most cooks already know which types of herbs they already cook with, that is where to start. Beginning herb gardeners who are just learning to cook with herbs may have a harder time making this decision. Here are a few herbs that are pretty good choices for any garden
Once the garden is established, it can be expanded as needed to include wider variety. There may come a time when herbs for other uses, like aroma or pest control, need to be included in the garden. The main idea here is to allow for growth since any style of garden will need to change and grow over time.
Once the plants have become established and have adequate foliage, fresh leaves may be harvested. It is important to keep from picking too many leaves or cutting back too much of the herb at any one time. The best time for harvest is just after the dew before it is overly hot.
To preserve herbs for use in the winter use, it is best to harvest leaves before the flowers bloom, and the seeds just after the plant changes color from green to brown. Wash and dry the leaves and seeds then dry them for later use.
Many herbs have shallow roots and must be protected from heaving in the spring with the thaw. Apply mulch 4” deep just after the ground has frozen. The mulch should remain on the ground until the plant has green growth in the spring. If the mulch is removed the plant could suffer frost damage.
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