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Growing Herbs

by Stephanie Suesan Smith on August 15, 2010

Almost everyone uses herbs in cooking. Fresh herbs can be hard to find, so most people use dried herbs. Although more grocery stores are carrying what they call fresh herbs, the wilted stuff in the box doesn’t really compare to herbs that have just been cut from a garden. In addition, fresh herbs add the most flavor to a recipe and have the most nutrients. The most common kitchen herbs can be grown in a window box or planter. You can’t get much fresher than reaching over and snipping some off while cooking.

The first decision you need to make is whether you are going to grow the herbs inside or outside. While many herbs grow well inside, many do not. The following herbs are best adapted to growing indoors. Others will grow, but these are happiest.

  • basil
    chives
    mint
    parsley
    rosemary
    sweet marjoram

These herbs are planted and grown much like any house plant.  If you provide adequate water, fertilizer, and sun, they will do just fine.  You harvest up to a third of the herb at a time for use then let it recover before the next harvest.  Frequent smaller clippings will concentrate the essential oils in the herbs and make it put out new growth.

SageIf you have a plot outside, you can grow a wider variety of herbs.  A six by ten foot square provides enough herbs for most families.  Basically, you treat this as if it were a vegetable or flower bed and plant the things you want to eat in rows or clumps.  Some herbs are started from seed, such as basil.  Others are best planted from plants you purchase at the nursery, such as lavender.  Make sure you provide adequate water, fertilizer, and sun and the herbs should do well.  Caution:  Mint spreads until it takes over the world.  Grow it in a big pot outside or it will overwhelm everything else.  It does not generally grow inside.

As I mentioned, some herbs are harvested throughout the growing season for cooking.  At the end of the growing season, however, annuals will die.  It is best to harvest them when they are at their peak and dry them for use over the winter.  The easiest way to dry them is to spread them on a screen and cover with cheese cloth of other loosely woven cloth to allow air to flow, but keep dust and bugs off of them.  When the herbs are completely dry, store in airtight containers such as fruit jars.  Keep in a cool, dark place.

Now you have your own supply of fresh and dried herbs.  You can feel superior when you walk down the spice isle at the grocery store.

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Charles from Las Vegas Real Estate Listings August 15, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Living in Las Vegas the only way to be able to get fresh herbs (other than going to Whole Foods) is by growing them inside. A friend of mine actually made his own LED grow light for his little herb garden. He has it under his kitchen sink, mostly basil and a rosemary plant. They seem to do fairly well and taste great.
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Hotpoint washing machines August 17, 2010 at 6:44 am

In the UK my mother has a fresh herb garden that is her pride and joy. The mint she grows is out of this world and served with lamb, makes a perfect Sunday Roast!
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Jay Chua August 18, 2010 at 1:50 pm

We started our container herb planting this summer, and are exciting to see how it turned out. We didn’t get that much sunlight in a year, so we’re also thinking to build a indoor small green house before Fall is approaching
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Stephanie Suesan Smith August 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm

The sunlight is an average of six hours a day, not by the year. However, one great thing about containers is being able to move them into the house, garage, or where ever and put a grow light over them over the winter to keep them going while it is cold and dark out. You just have to gradually reintroduce them to the great outdoors in the spring so they don’t get shocked by the change in conditions.

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Katrina July 3, 2011 at 1:59 am

I grow herbs all year with my indoor large planter. It is so nice to enjoy fresh herbs at your fingertips.

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Stephanie Suesan Smith July 3, 2011 at 6:25 am

That is true. Indoor herb gardens are nice.

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