Growing herbs for your own cooking use can be very rewarding. There is nothing like a handful of freshly picked herb leaves. The aroma is fantastic, not to mention the flavor. If you are new to growing fresh herbs, here is a guide to help you get started.
Choosing Herb Seeds
There are a few classic herbs that are easy to grow from seed, either in pots or in a garden. You might want choose annuals for your outdoor garden and perennials for pots that can be placed outdoors in summer and brought inside in winter. Here are some good options:
Starting with Seeds
When you purchase your seeds, be sure to pick up some small biodegradable starter pots too. These pots hold moisture well, so find a sunny space in your home where the pots can sit for a few days or weeks until the seeds sprout into tiny plants.
Fill the pots with loose organic potting soil that drains well. Place a few seeds inside the soil of each pot, making sure they are covered with the soil. Place the pots on a sheet tray or other container to collect moisture. Water the pots generously, and keep the soil moist until the herbs sprout and become small sturdy plants that can be transplanted to a more permanent home.
Planting and Caring for your Herbs
If you are growing herbs outdoors in a garden or in a pot, it is best to wait until the weather is most appropriate.
Choose pots, such as terra cotta, plastic, or wood, that have holes in the bottom and a drip tray to catch excess water. Place a layer of gravel in the base of each pot, then fill with loose potting soil. Transfer the seedlings to the pots, being sure to leave adequate space between them for the roots to take hold. Place the pots in a sunny spot and water daily either at sunrise or sunset.
Prepare your garden by removing grass, weeds, and rocks. Loosen the soil with a pronged gardening rake or a shovel, then add some compost to the soil and turn to mix well. You will want 6 to 12 inches of soil depth. Plant your seedlings, again leaving several inches between plants. Water the garden as needed in the morning or evening.
Note that mint has a tendency to spread and choke out other plants. It has a long and sturdy root structure. I suggest planting mint in pots to contain it and prevent it from taking over the garden.
Harvesting and Using
Harvest the top leaves often so that the herbs do not bolt into flowers. Once an herb has flowered the leaves can have a bitter taste. Use the fresh leaves whole or chopped up in your favorite dishes. At the end of the growing season, before winter, you can cut the stems with leaves of the annuals and hang the plants to dry or store the leaves in baggies in the freezer for later use.
Be sure to check out the selection of seeds available at Famous Foods in Vancouver and start your kitchen herb garden this spring.