Now that the clocks have “sprung forward,” and the official start to spring is just days away, why not make plans for that outdoor herb garden you’ve always wanted? A strategically placed herb garden will not only enhance the flavor of your culinary creations, it can help to beautify your yard too. Here are a few ideas for creating an herb garden that just may cool your spring fever!
1. Start with the herbs. Kitchen herbs are also good-looking plants, lending a visual appeal to a garden bed. Experts suggest choosing plants with variegated leaves or that bloom in different colors. Thyme, oregano and mint come in variegated versions, while certain varieties of basil have deep purple leaves. For added interest, choose varieties with unusual texture, such as the velvety gray-green leaves of Berggarten sage. Remember to choose for fragrance too – the luscious lemon thyme gives off the bright scent of citrus, as do the lovely lavender flowers of rosemary. Mints not only smell and taste minty, but some carry the flavor of chocolate or pear. French tarragon tastes and smells of licorice or anise, while rosemary itself adds a woodsy pine scent.
Herbs thrive in potting soil and need good drainage, but usually don’t require as much attention as flowers or vegetables. Most cooking herbs are hardy perennials that come back every year; however, popular culinary herbs like dill, basil and cilantro are annuals. Most are available at local gardening centers, either as seeds or seedlings. Specialty herb farms may carry hard-to-find herbs, such as lemon verbena, fennel or scented geranium. Here’s a good list of herbs for a starter garden:
2. Plant close to your kitchen door. Herbs will thrive in a surprisingly small space. To make the best use of space near your kitchen door, measure an area of the ground with a measuring tool and prepare the soil. Place the plants of herbs you’re most likely to use closest to the door – say, about 20 paces away – so you can snip a few easily during a rainstorm, for instance. Add to your herb garden by planting more varieties in clay pots, which can be moved to sunny spots more easily.
3. Create an herb border. Include culinary herbs in your landscape design by planting the edge of a sidewalk with herbs instead of flowers. Hearty herbs like rosemary and thyme can have the same effect as small shrubs. Create a geometrical bedding design in your backyard, with pathways for walking by and smelling the sweet fragrances.
4. Build raised beds for growing herbs. Just like with vegetables, fresh herbs will grow well in raised beds, too. And if you just want a small spot for growing herbs, build yourself a planter to place on a patio, porch or deck. Buy a few two by fours and other wood for a bottom from the hardware store, cut to size, nail together and you’re set. Remember to drill holes in the bottom for drainage. Others have had luck with using plastic trowels inside as a planting form. Or, you can simply use a large bag of potting soil – build the planter the right size to hold the soil bag on its side, then cut a few drain holes in one side of the bag and cut the other side open neatly with a pair of scissors, discarding the excess plastic. Plant the herbs directly into the soil, water and you’ve got herbs in due time.
5. Reap your harvest. One of the best parts of growing culinary herbs is using them! Take care cutting herbs in a landscape border, but most re-grow quickly after harvesting, so your beautiful garden can stay beautiful.
Herbs are perfect for tossing in food during the summer, but you can also dry them for the winter. Cut and wash, rubber band the bunches together and let them dry upside down. This way each bundle retains its color. It takes them about a week to dry out, but once they are, remove the leaves from the stem and grind in a coffee grinder. Finally, put in plastic bags and write the herb name and date. I also put them in tins and give them to neighbors and friends! Write your great ideas for how to use and preserve herbs in the comment section below, or contact us for more details on how to make your garden this spring.
About the Author
Tempe Thompson is a sales and inventory expert at Runyon Equipment Rental. She has over 35 years of experience and has accumulated a tremendous amount of knowledge and expertise. She could talk for hours about how to use all of Runyon’s tools and equipment, in addition to suggesting which type corresponds to a certain application.