Starting a Culinary Herb Garden

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I am an amateur gardener at best. However, I have a real appreciation for knowing where my food comes from.  It is the major reason I urged my parents to join a farm share last summer.  Growing your own food is the only way to ensure you know exactly where it is coming from and what is going into it.

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When I was younger, we had a small vegetable garden primarily consisting of cucumbers, carrots, squash, zucchini and tomatoes along with a few pots of basil and parsley.  At the time, I was more concerned using it as a good hide and seek spot than helping my mom take care of it.

Now that I am interested, however, our yard is over run with rabbits and other wild life so we can no longer have a successful garden.  Even though most of our vegetables come from our farm share or my grandpa’s garden, I still like to plant my own herb garden. There is no substitute for cooking with fresh herbs.  They really do make a difference in terms of flavor.  During the summer I add them to almost every dish I make whether it be an in a omelet, a homemade pizza, or a pasta dish.

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Most gardeners recommend that you plant your herbs two weeks after the last frost.  Since we had such a long winter in New England this year, I decided to plant mine in a seed starter in my kitchen about three weeks ago.  I leave it by a sunny window and water each cell with just a few drops every day.  I planted parsley, basil, chives, rosemary, dill, oregano, sage and thyme. Right now I have two inch sprouts in all of the cells except for rosemary.  However, after doing some research I learned that it is much more difficult to plant rosemary from a seed – it is difficult to germinate from a seed and it requires more heat than the other herbs I planted.

I am planting these herbs with the intention of only having them for the summer.  In fact I am only planning on transfering them into a larger pots, not into an actual garden.  If you want to plant a more permanent herb garden that blooms every year I recommend this source.

I am no expert gardener, but here is what I have done to plant my small culinary herb garden these past two years. You can plant whatever variety of herbs you would like: they don’t have to be the same ones that I used.  If you do decide to plant other herbs make sure to check if they have a different germinating period.  You should also keep in mind that if you plant them in a garden (rather than in pots) they can be invasive, for example mint.  Some herbs are annuals so they will come back every year if you plant them in the ground.  For more specifics on different herbs, check out this source.

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Steps to a Simple Herb Garden:

Buy seeds: You can find packets of seeds at grocery stores, nurseries, hardware stores. I bought parsley, basil, chives, rosemary, dill, oregano, sage and thyme because that is what I cook with the most.

  1. Fill seed starter (cells) or small paper cups three-quarters of the way with orangic soil.  Herbs need loose soil with good drainage: otherwise the seeds will drown in the water and never sprout.
  2. Dig a small well with your finger about a quarter way (about 1-inch) down the cell/cup.  Place a couple seeds in the well and cover loosely with soil.
  3. Continue until all of your seeds are planted. Don’t forget to mark them somehow so you know what is what.  For the first couple of weeks, they will look very similar to each other.
  4. Water each cell with a couple drops of water (about 2 tablespoons).
  5. Place the seed starter near/paper cups near a (sunny) window.  Continue to water them everyday.
  6. Once it is warm enough, you can leave them outside.  If the temperature still drops significantly at night you should bring them inside and put them back outside in the morning.  (Most gardeners recommend waiting to plant herbs outside until two weeks after the last frost.)
  7. Once the sprouts begin to fill the seed cells/cups you can transfer them into a larger pot or garden outside. Place/plant them in a sunny part of your yard.
  8. Continue to water everyday.
  9. Once the plants reach a mature size you can begin to cut stocks/leaves to cook with.  I recommend using a pair of kitchen or household scissors so that you do not damage the plant.

IMG_2616Enjoy cooking with all your fresh herbs! Recipes to come in the near future!

Source:
"Germinating Rosemary?!? - Growing from Seed Forum - GardenWeb." Germinating Rosemary?!? - Growing from Seed Forum - GardenWeb. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. 
"The Culinary Herb Garden:Planting, Maintaining and Using Culinary Herb Plants in the Home Herb Garden." The Culinary Herb Garden:Planting, Maintaining and Using Culinary Herb Plants in the Home Herb Garden. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013. 
"Rosemary - You Can Grow the Herb Rosemary." About.com Gardening. N.p., n.d. Web. 09 Apr. 2013.