Why grow fresh herbs?
There is no substitute for fresh herbs! Herbs are usually a more dense source of nutrient than their vegetable cousins. They also tend to be way tastier than those from the grocery store that have been shipped and stored for who knows how long. Gardens are lovely, but they are also time consuming. A planter garden on your deck is less expensive than flowers and you are growing something that you can eat!
Here’s what I’ve learned:
Invest in self watering plant pots – decks can get very hot and planters can dry out fast especially in July and August. Self watering pots have reservoirs in the bottom that collect excess water from watering and reserve it for when the plants need it most. Leaving on a fun summer vacation for a week? No sweat (well, about the plants), you’ll return home to a bounty instead of a herby graveyard. It’s important to empty these before the cold weather hits as the freezing action of the water can break the pots and your asset in the process.
Nutrients+soil: get some potting soil from your local nursery that has nutrients for growing veggies and herbs, not flowers.
Do purchase transplants: it’s easy to get excited about your garden but remember to pace yourself. The learning curve can a be a bit steeper than you think. In the end, having a smaller more manageable and usable garden that brings you joy instead of another thing on the list to do is best. Purchasing smaller transplants in the early summer will give lots of time for them to grow. It’s easy to plant close together to get the instant gratification but please resist the urge! Check the guidelines for the herbs to find out how much space they need.
Herbs: pick the herbs that you think you’ll use the most often and a few you’ve been curious to add into your pallet. I experimented with chervil this year and feel in love fast. It’s in the parsley family but not as intense and the leaves are smaller so you don’t have to chop as much. Cilantro is notoriously hard to grow so be for warned.
Lettuces: I picked a few different types of lettuce transplants and intermingled them in a larger potter. Experiment with seeding in a small tray and as they grow replacing older used up leaf lettuce plants with new shoots. Leaf lettuce is what you get when you grow lettuce plants closer together. They won’t grow really large, but regular cutting of the biggest leaves will allow smaller leaves to grow in their place and so on until the plant runs out of steam.
Plant friends together and trouble makers alone: Most herbs are great neighbors to each other except for mint and oregano. They need their own pot. I learned this the hard way this year with my mint plant. It tunneled underground in the pot spanning the whole length of the tray and popping up with a vengeance. Oregano is similar this way. Parsley, basil and chervil will all grow to be quite large. Thyme is slower and needs light and space to mature.
Work them in with creativity: Anyone who’s been a dinner guest at my home as probably had a salad that is at least 1/3 herbs. The flavour, nutrients and curiousness of the herbs in a salad, drink/mocktail or other food can really boost the joy of a meal.
- Fruit and veggie salads
- Drink garnishes
- Vegetable juices